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Data Collection

The planning assistant will guide you through the data collection process by presenting questions to you in a logical order. Questions that are not currently relevant (due to the values of other data already entered) will be skipped automatically. The questions have been kept as simple as possible to make the process easier. However, all of the questions are important and many will require some thought, so be sure of your answers before you hit the “ok” button.

Most questions have a dropdown list to select an answer from and three buttons:

  • clear: remove the current answer
  • skip: jump to the next question without answering this one.
  • ok: accept the answer and move to the next question. The “ok” button only works if you have selected an answer, if you haven’t given an answer yet pressing the “ok” button will NOT move you to the next question.

If you cannot answer a question press the “skip” button. You can return to the question later. Remember, it is always preferable to skip a question rather than to enter bad data, the software knows what to do when there is missing data. If you want to come back to the question later you can click on it in the progress monitor (see below) or choose “Unskip All” from the Home menu.

There is a progress monitor at the bottom of the data collection pages. Each dot represents a question in the current section. Moving your mouse cursor over the dot will pop up a hint telling you the name of the question. If you click the dot it will take you to that question.

Progress monitor legend:

  • solid dots represent questions that have been answered
  • hollow dots are unanswered questions
  • hollow dots with a line through them have been skipped
  • the big yellow dot is the current question

The example above says that you have answered 5 questions, skipped two, 4 questions so far do not need to be answered (the hollow dots to the left of the big yellow dot), and you are on the 12th of 27 questions.

Reading the graphical results bars

The results bars use a “stoplight” approach: Green is good, Red is bad, and yellow is cautionary. A sliding marker indicates the value of the result. The results bars also indicate how much of the required data is missing. If no data is missing then results bar has bright, sharp, un-faded colors. If all the data is missing then the bar will be faded to completely white. Some sample results bars and what they mean:

  • Very good. Has all the data it needs.
  • Very bad. Has all the data it needs.
  • Mostly bad. Has roughly half of its needed data
  • No information at all: no result and no data

Each results bar is clickable, opening the dependency network it is based upon. Dependency networks use the same stop-light coloring scheme as the results bars.

The Language Menu

If extra languages are installed (English is the default) then this menu will list all available languages, allowing you to select a different language.

The Home Menu

The home menu has many useful utility functions:

  • Home: Moves to the first page.
  • Open Question List: Opens all current questions in a list format where their values can be easily reviewed and edited.
  • Clear All: Clears all the data previously entered and starts over.
  • Unskip All: Resets all skipped questions so they can be considered again.
  • Increase font size: Makes the text bigger. Shortcut: [CTRL][ + ]
  • Decrease font size: Makes the text smaller. Shortcut: [CTRL][ - ]
  • Save Session: Saves the current session’s data and other settings to disk.
  • Load Session: Loads a saved session from disk.
  • Export Current Values: Exports the current values of all topics into a tab-delimited text file suitable for use in a spreadsheet.
  • Print: Prints the current page.
  • PDF Export: Exports the current page to a PDF file (Adobe “portable document format”).
  • RTF Export: Exports the current page to an RTF file (“rich text format”, MS Word compatible).