What do the Green Bay Packers and the Army Installation Management Command have in common? They both use the same computer software to make critical decisions.

The Packers use decision-making software from Decision Lens Inc. to more systematically weigh a variety of criteria in evaluating potential draft picks. Depending on priorities, those decisions can often be too close to call.

So recruiting managers define the qualities in a player that are important to them and then assess each potential based on criteria such as size, speed, leadership and character. Similarly, the Oakland A’s baseball team and the Calgary Flames hockey team also use the Decision Lens to evaluate potential players.

While the stakes are much different, the need to weigh complex options quickly are what led the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management (OACSIM), to also turn to Decision Lens software. OACSIM uses the software primarily to improve spending decisions and prepare its proposed budgets for planned and ongoing programs.

Army officials say that, from the outset, the goal in deploying the software was to reduce the time it takes to make key decisions, create a systematic record of the decision-making process and enhance the quality of the final portfolio decisions.

Where crowd-sourcing often taps into huge numbers of people… group decision-making power involves a small, knowledgeable group making “nitty-gritty” decisions.”

The Army Installation Management Command, a single organization with six offices around the world, was formed in 2006 to apply a uniform business structure to manage all Army installations. Typically, the command must prioritize nearly 1,000 projects for its Program Objective Memoranda, a portfolio of programs and resources required to build and operate those programs over a five-year period.

Historically, the command has used an Excel spreadsheet document to capture data about its programs and support prioritization decisions. It is tedious and time-consuming process, with decision-making degenerating into “lengthy, circular discussions” among the participants, officials said.

What attracted OACSIM officials to try Decision Lens was its more systematic approach in automating the decision making process.

The software “has allowed us to approach portfolio decisions in an entirely different way than most organizations,” said an OACSIM official who asked not to be identified.

“As collaborative, decision-making software, it is nimble and flexible enough to use it for decisions in IT, finance, talent management, recreational facilities and other areas.”

In general, Decision Lens, which is delivered as software as a service, provides a framework for decision-making that places mission objectives at the center of the process. It prioritizes goals, quantifies intangible factors, defines decision criteria and evaluates courses of action. The tool uses a mathematical formula called the Analytic Hierarchy Process under which decision choices are given a numerical value and automatically prioritized against the overall goal of the decision-making group.

“It’s a fairly simple, step-by-step process,” John Saaty, chief executive officer of Decision Lens, told Breaking Gov. “It’s collaborative software so it’s designed for use either in the meeting room or for Web-based meetings. It’s a much more efficient way of eliciting information.”

In addition to the technology, Decision Lens provides each customer with a “client decision manager” whose job is to offer best-practice guidance and help the organization institutionalize the new decision-making process.

Decision Lens officials say the tool draws on “the power of groups” to make decisions. But Saaty was careful to distinguish between group power and crowd-sourcing, a technique that many agencies have deployed in recent years to generate innovation.

Where crowd-sourcing often taps into huge numbers of people–for example, DARPA’s recent “Shredder Challenge” attracted nearly 9,000 teams of contestants–group decision-making power involves a small, knowledgeable group making “nitty-gritty” decisions, according to Satty.

“Most of the groups we work with range from four or five people up to about 18 to 20 people who are subject-matter experts or at least involved enough the decision being made that they bring useful information to the table,” he said.

At the Army Installation Management Command, five prioritization projects are underway using Decision Lens in the areas of military construction, prioritization of global military recreational facilities, prioritization of information technology change-management requests, prioritization of war zones localities, and the establishment of selection criteria for hiring purposes in its newly formed Talent Management Center.

So far, the structure and transparency afforded by the decision-making software and the accompanying client decision management support have improved the prioritization process for each program, according to OACSIM officials.

Another Defense Department organization, the Marine Corps’ Program Executive Officer Land Systems (PLO LS) has just chosen to go the decision-making tool route and will use Decision Lens to support project prioritization and resource allocation decisions for its vast program management portfolio.

PEO LS manages eight federal defense initiatives with an estimated value of $9 billion. Among its programs are weapons systems, including the Expedition Fighting Vehicle, the Marine Personnel Carrier and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

Among other federal customers, the Agriculture Department uses Decision Lens to prioritize all of its IT investments.

For government agencies, the biggest plus in using a decision-making tool is that it helps them allocate resources in a much more effective way in a budget-constrained environment, Saaty said.

“Everyone’s budgets are getting cut,” he said. “How do you figure out where you’re going to put your dollars and where you’re not going to put your dollars? That’s where the rubber hits the road with” a decision-making tool.