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Decision Analysis


The Decision Analysis process transforms a broadly stated decision opportunity into a traceable, defendable and actionable plan. It encompasses one or more discrete analyses at one or more lower (e.g., system element) levels and aggregates them into a higher-level view (e.g., system "scorecard" presentation) relevant to the decision maker and other stakeholders. Decision Analysis can be the central process for formulating, managing and executing an effective and efficient program at any point in the life cycle.

Solution Evaluation Method Cost Performance Schedule Total Score
Solution 1 Simulation 4 2 1 29
Solution 2 Discussion 2 3 3 25
Solution 3 Prototype 3 1 4 23
Solution 4 Discussion 1 4 2 23

Sample Evaluation Table

Decision Analysis and associated trade studies should be integrated with, and mutually supportive of, aspects of several SE processes in the early stages of the program, in particular:


A well-executed decision analysis or trade-off analysis helps the Program Manager (PM) and the Systems Engineer understand the impact of various uncertainties, identify one or more course(s) of action that balance competing objectives and objectively communicate the results to decision makers. As such, it provides the basis for selecting a viable and effective alternative from among many under consideration.

Decision Analysis applies to technical decisions at all levels, from evaluating top-level architectural concepts to sizing major system elements to selecting small design details. The breadth and depth of the analysis should be scaled to both the scope of the decision and the needs and expectations of the decision maker(s).

Activities and Products

Decision Analysis teams generally include a lead analyst with a suite of reasoning tools, subject matter experts with access to appropriate models and analytical tools and a representative set of end users and other stakeholders. A robust Decision Analysis process acknowledges that the decision maker has full responsibility, authority and accountability for the decision at hand.


Decision Analysis typically includes the following steps:

  • Identifying the problem or issue
  • Reviewing requirements and assumptions to establish the overall decision context
  • Framing/structuring the decision in terms of supporting program/project objectives
  • Identifying methods and tools to be used in the analyses (see DAG CH 3–2.4. Tools, Techniques and Lessons Learned)
  • Developing decision criteria (objectives and measures), criteria weight and associated rationale
  • Identifying, recording and tracking assumptions
  • Identifying and defining alternatives to be evaluated (for high-level analyses, these are generally directed, although additional ones may arise during the course of the analysis)
  • Analyzing and assessing alternatives against criteria
  • Synthesizing results
  • Analyzing sensitivities
  • Developing decision briefing with action/implementation plan(s)
  • Making appropriate recommendation(s) to decision maker as expected/requested


Sound recommendations and action plans are the principal output of a well-framed and well-executed Decision Analysis process. The ability to drill down quickly from overall trade-space visualizations to detailed analyses that support the synthesized views is particularly useful to decision makers in understanding the basis of observations and conclusions.


Statutes, Regulations, Guidance

ACQuipedia Articles

DAU Training Courses

DAU Tools

Products and Tasks

Product Tasks
12-1-1: Prepare decision analysis
  1. Identify stakeholder and technical requirements, as well as assumptions to establish the overall decision context.
  2. Frame the decision in terms of supporting program / project objectives.
  3. Identify methods and tools to be used in the decision analysis.
  4. For major defense acquisition programs (MDAPS) and major automated information system (MAIS) programs, describe how the tools support the program’s SE approach in the program’s systems engineering plan and incorporate in the documentation of the decision analysis recommendation.
  5. Develop decision criteria.
  6. Identify and define alternatives to be evaluated.
  7. Analyze and assess alternatives against decision criteria.
  8. Synthesize results.
  9. Document analysis and recommend action/implementation to decision maker.

Source: AWQI eWorkbook