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Expert Solutions Help Make Decisions Easy

By Jim Bray

If you're a marketer faced with a tough decision, there's a software-based resource that might save you some extra skull sweat.

It's called “Quick Insight,” and it's a digital doohickey that uses a question and answer format to give you a whole mess of “virtual analyses” designed to bail you out of your corporate conundrum, while giving you a computer-based scapegoat to blame if things don't work out according to plan.

The manufacturer, Business Resource Software, bills Quick Insight as an “expert system” and is targeting it at entrepreneurs, small to medium sized business executives and product managers. The idea behind the software is to give these people an arm's length perspective of their brain child's market potential.

Quick Insight is pretty easy to use. According to an on-line demo I saw on the company’s Web site, the software walks you through a one-hour interview process during which it gathers information about what the manufacturer decrees as the critical factors that can affect the potential for success of your creative burst.

The interview procedure begins with Quick Insight asking you to give it some basic information, like the name of your enterprise, your competitors’ names and topics like your pricing strategy, distribution techniques, and market positioning.

The interview reminds me of the information gathering that accounting software packages like Quickbooks put you through, which means it's pretty painless in the grand scheme of things.

Once you've submitted to this virtual grilling, the software gives you a 50-page report that rates its opinion of your concept’s potential for success and for making you or your company bags of money.

You also get a written summary that includes any perceived inconsistencies or areas that require extra attention. This summary goes so far as to touch on areas like actions you need to take to boost sales, and an analysis of market factors that could influence your product or service’s success.

The experts behind this expert system are supposedly some 40 strategy gurus whose brains the company has picked and stuck into the package.

It sounds like a rather disgusting procedure; I hope all these brains have been stored safely in a plastic bag inside the software’s box, or things could get quite messy when you first unpack it...

For people who really want to get graphic, the software also spits out some 35 charts that supposedly illustrate critical marketing and sales concepts.

If, much to your chagrin, you get a report that suggests you'd be well served if you start sending out resumes, you can second guess the software and your project. Quick Insight has provisions for examining the underlying reasoning the application used to reach each conclusion. You can also take a look at how your interview answers influenced the program's conclusions, and you can go back and change your answers to see how they change Quick Insight's deductions.

The company behind Quick Insight, Business Resource Software, has been developing this type of software for over a decade, and claims that over half of all Fortune 500 companies have used their stuff to help them screw up their courage and make decisions. It also offers a “Quick Insight on steroids” version of the expert system called “Business Insight.” At $795, it's a lot more expensive than the $130 Quick Insight, so entrepreneurs and small business people on a budget might want to try the more diminutive version to see how it works out before stampeding to its big brother.

Better still, there's an on-line demo available at, and it can give you a feel for how Quick Insight works. Some of the graphics in the demo are pretty hard to read, but on the whole it's a pretty good presentation.

Quick Insight runs on all Windows platforms from Window 95 on, and only requires 16 meg of Ram and 25 Meg of hard drive space. It's available on-line from the company, at

I don't know if a “one size fits all” digital counselor can be your ace in the hole, or if these expert systems are any substitute for some good old fashioned thinking or market research, but I suppose any tool with the potential of giving you a leg up on your competition can't be all bad.

Besides, it's cheaper than hiring those forty experts in real life.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006