Complete Optimised Business Simulation (COBS) platform

My business simulations utilise a platform that  consists of assemblies of standard routines that provide a basic framework that is used to encapsulate the simulation model and its database.

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Here I explore and describe my simulation architecture showing the software that is common to a range of business simulations (simulation platform elements - green), the software that is used by a specific business simulation (simulation specific elements - grey) and the interface components (input, display &  printout - purple).

Standard platform elements

Simulation Manager
Desk Top
Reporting Engine
Decision Entry Engine
Hypertext Help Engine
Display Engine
Constants File
Text File

Simulation specific elements

Simulation Model
Control File
Parameter Database
Reporting Database
Comments Database
Help Database

Pre-existing/standard components (85%-95%)

Simulation Manager

Each simulation type has a different simulation manager that manages the business simulation and provides the interface with the user. Each of these have different processing cycles but consist of the same components.

There are several simulation managers that address simulation design needs comprehensively.

  1. Tutor Mediated Manager is used where several teams of participants compete and where the tutor takes decisions from teams, enters these, simulates the period and returns the printed results to teams.
  2. Direct Use Manager is used where individual teams enter their own decisions directly into the simulator and where the model simulates competition.
  3. Planning Manager is used where the simulation is used as a planning exercise. Here the participants use the simulation model to prepare a series of plans, select the best and then justify this selection to the whole group.
  4. Decision Support Manager is used where the simulation is so complex that individual teams need a planning model to help them make decisions.
  5. Negotiation Manager is used where the simulation is used as part of a computer enhanced negotiation and where is used to support selling and buying groups during the role-play.
  6. Process Manager is used where team's explore and work their way through a business process or statistical or management science techniques.

For the Tutor Mediated shell, one computer and printer is needed for each group of between two and eight teams of four or five participants. The Direct Use, Planning, Decision Support, Negotiation and Analysis shells require one computer (and, depending on the simulation, a printer) for each team of three to five participants.

Desk Top

Although each simulation has a different simulation manager that manages the business simulation all simulation managers have the same user interface (Desk Top). This means that once a trainer is familiar with one business simulation he or she will find it easy to use another.

Reporting Engine

This controls the content, style and timing of reports. The report to be displayed and/or printed is selected by the Simulation Manager based of the Control File. The data for the reports are derived from the Parameter Database and the report structure is set by the Reporting Database, After creation, the report is transferred to the Display/Printing Engine for output.

Decision Entry Engine

The Decision Entry Engine is used by the Simulation Manager to enter decisions. The Control File and the Reporting Database define the timing, content and form of the data entry screens.

After entry is confirmed, the Decision Entry Engine uses routines in the Simulation Model to check the data for illegal, unusual and problematic values. Depending on the simulation, a copy of the decisions is passed to the Reporting Engine for display or printing.

Hypertext Help Engine

My platform has a context sensitive, hypertext help system to help with the program, advise on the current task, explain the current display and provide an online Manual. The Help Engine chooses and displays data from the Help Database when requested by the Simulation Manager.

Display Engine

This controls the way reports are output to the microcomputer's screen and to the printer. Specifically, it controls the font size of the display and the way rows and columns are displayed. (These options are set in the Control File.)

Constants File

This file provides data used by the Simulation Manager to define which hypertext help is to be used to support program use and what texts are to be used for the user interface. Depending on the type of simulation these are pre-set and must not be changed.

Text File

This file provides the text used by the Simulation Manager. A single text file serves all simulations that use the same Simulation Shell. By placing the text data in a file it is possible to provide the simulation in languages other than English.


Simulation specific components (5%-15%)

Simulation Model

The simulation model and the data that drive it are the only parts of the business simulation that need to be programmed. The simulation model consists of several sections that are used by the simulation manager.

Control File

This consists of the data that controls the operation of the business simulation. It defines the reports used, the decisions to be made, font sizes etc. By having several Control Files the designer can provide several versions of the simulation to address different training needs, trainer skills or market segments.

Parameters Database

This database stores the parameters and data used by the simulation model. The database structure is based on experience developing sixty-five simulations and is appropriate for over ninety-five percent of simulations. However, for very complex simulations, it is possible to incorporate additional databases.

Storing parameters and data in a file allows different terminology, languages and situations to be made available very quickly and inexpensively.

As simulation takes place, the data in the parameters database is fully journalised. So, it is always possible to return to an earlier period and rerun the business simulation from there (to correct entry mistake or to explore different strategies).

Reporting Database

This database stores the data defining the simulations reports and decision templates used by the Reporting Engine to produce output. A comprehensive range of report structures is available that cover all normal needs. However, for very complex business simulations custom reports can be used. Storing reports and decisions templates in a file means that no time is spent programming these and different versions of a simulation can be provided with a different set of decisions and results.

Comments Database

This database stores qualitative comments and their associated parameters. These are used to comment on decisions, results, leak information to other teams and list strengths and weaknesses.

Help Database

This database serves two purposes. It stores the basic help with the use of the Simulation Platform and, optionally, an online manual and explanations of reports and terms. The database has full hypertext capabilities and is used by the Hypertext Help Engine to provide context sensitive help about how to use the software, the current task, explanations of report content and comments to stimulate thought. Besides text, the help database can play sounds and display pictures.


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1999 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

Most recent update:11/05/12
Hall Marketing, Studio 11, Colman's Wharf, 45 Morris Road, London E14 6PA, ENGLAND
Phone +44 (0)20 7537 2982 E-mail
jeremyhall@simulations.co.uk