Bespoke Simulations

This page is explores the issues, time and costs associated with developing a new bespoke simulation for you.

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What if there is no suitable simulation and you need to have a bespoke one designed for you. Here I explain my Design Capability, major Development Issues and Metrics (time and costs). Comparing my development times with industry research development metrics [1 & 2] indicates that typically I develop a new simulation in less than 20% of the time of my competitors. Finally, this page explores two detailed design case-studies.

Design Capability

Almost certainly I have the design capability to produce a business simulation for you that is better and costs less than my competition because of.
Design Experience
Training Experience
Subject Matter Expertise
Design Research
Shell Programs
Pre-Existing Models
Tutor Support

Development Issues

This section summarises the practical issues associated with my designs and provides links to more detailed explanations.
Design Approach
Design Methodology
Industry Issues
Systems Dynamics
Simulation Types
Versions Structure
Manner of Use
Decision-Making Process
Reporting Capability
Future Proofing

Design Metrics

The development cost for your new simulation is difficult to forecast as it depends on the complexity of the simulation, the number of decisions made and reports produced. But as all of these correlate with simulation duration I are able to provide indicative design times and costs here. Times that are 80% to 90% faster than my competitors!

Simulation Design Case Studies
- Banking Challenge
- Training Challenge

Design Capability

Design Experience
Over the last forty-two years I have probably developed more business simulations for management development and business training than any other individual or organisation. Over that time I have developed some seventy different simulations addressing a comprehensive range of training needs and issues. Simulations for all levels of management from specialists and trainees to senior management. Across a wide range of industries - manufacturing, service, retail, high technology, pharmaceutical, not-for-profit, FMCG etc. And a comprehensive range of training needs - strategy, business appreciation, financial awareness, marketing, sales, operations etc.
Learn More about my development history
Training Experience
Besides developing new simulations I have extensive experience using simulations to deliver learning. Over the last forty-three years I have run simulations on company training programmes around the world well over two thousand times. This practical experience includes teaching at one of the world's major management schools (Ashridge Management College) and having a training unit reporting to me while working for Honeywell Information Systems. This practical experience is embedded in my designs - I understand your needs in the classroom.
Subject Matter Expertise
Unusually, before and in parallel to my early days with business simulations my background includes engineering, manufacturing, marketing, finance and training. This is a major plus when designing business simulations that deliver appropriate and relevant business learning as it means that I can relate to your business training needs and advise on your them. Experience that shortens new simulation design time and ensures better learning.
Design Research
I believe that continuous improvement is vital and so backing my design and training experience is award winning research into simulation design and use. Awards include a Churchill Fellowship (1995), a British National Training Award (2003), best paper awards by the Association of Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (1994 and 2005) and, the World of Learning "Outstanding Contribution to the Training Industry". Besides these awards are numerous papers and presentations at international training and simulation-game conferences including several keynote presentations.
More information about recent conference presentations
Shell Programs
I develop my simulations using predefined software shells (or platform). An approach that won a major British Innovation Award in 2002 and that not only reduces development time by some eighty percent but also ensures that leading-edge features and facilities are incorporated in my simulations. The shell approach means that I only need to develop and calibrate the simulation model and incorporate into the appropriate shell. Further, this design approach simplifies updating and modifying simulations and means that I can use several utility programs to speed development and ensure quality.
Pre-existing Models
In addition to the software shells I have a library of models that can be used during the creation of a new simulation. Not only does this save time but as these models have been used in other simulations they are tried and tested.
Tutor Support
In order to ensure that learning is delivered effectively, efficiently and consistently I build into my simulations a tutor support system. This helps with administration, facilitation and the management of the learning process and is derived from my training experience.

Development Issues

Beyond Reality Design Approach
There are two approaches to developing a new simulation. One starts from an analysis of needs and involves creating a simplified and stylised replica of the real world where the purpose is learning. The second starts from the development of a model that attempts to totally replicate the world realistically (and where, typically, the learning purpose is only discovered after designing the simulation). I believe that the first approach is the only one that delivers learning effectively, efficiently and consistently as it takes the design beyond reality.
Design Methodology
When developing a new simulation I employ a methodology that I call the Rock Pool Method! This combines at a macro level a structured and rigorous systems analysis approach and at a micro level an Agile Programming approach. Thus it combines and integrates structure with creativity and ensures that I deliver a simulation to time and to budget. My Rock Pool Method won an award from the world leading Association for Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL).
Industry Issues
The Industry modelled has implications in terms of structure (financial, material flows, markets etc.) and issues (factors affecting performance). For example a few years ago I was asked to develop a simulation by a Central Bank to replicate the operation of a Commercial Bank for junior to middle managers. Although, I have not worked for a bank, I have used banks as a customer and so had an understanding of the customer focusing issues. What I had to research and explore the factors that led to financial success. Research that was enlightening as it became obvious that unlike industrial companies where success derives from managing the Profit and Loss Account (Income Statement), for a bank, success came from managing the Balance Sheet.
Over the years, I have developed simulations for all types of manufacturing businesses (from high tech to low tech, FMCG to OEMs, etc,), retail, service, banking, not-for-profit and even a casino (note the banking simulation was not an amalgam of the not-for-profit and casino simulations).
Systems Dynamics
Designing a simulation is more than developing a good model. The design must take into account how learning progresses over time and this has led us to a design approach that incorporates Systems Dynamics principles. I developed this unique model based on very extensive experience using business simulations to train business people.
Learn more about systems dynamics learning process.
Simulation Types
Over the years not only have I perhaps designed more simulations than any other individual but also have developed an extremely wide simulation types; Types that range from the pervasive Total Enterprise simulation, through functional, concepts, process and planning simulations to computer enhanced role-plays. Because Total Enterprise simulations are so pervasive I provide them in three categories focusing on different learning needs and learners this strategic leadership, business acumen and efficient tactical management.
Learn more about simulation types
Versions Structure
All my simulations are driven from a series of databases that allow the simulation to be configured in to several versions. Not only does this allow you to tailor the simulation to different groups and different learning needs but as your learning needs change the simulation can be reconfigured to meet these. For example, a year after developing a simulation for a client, the client's business focus changed. By changing the sequence of decisions and reports I was able to realign the simulation to the new situation - a realignment that took less than half a day.
Find out more about versions
Manner of Use
Simulations can be used in a variety of ways and the way that you are going to use the simulation will affect what must be designed in and its complexity. So a business simulation used as a course theme will be different from a simulation used as a course finale and different from one used on an assessment centre. But, often, the same core simulation can be used and just differ in the sequence of decisions and reports and report content. Not only do I have experience designing simulations for different usages but have in depth practical experience actually using them in these ways.
Learn more about ways you can use business simulations
Decision-Making Process
There are two ways in which a simulation can be used. One (Direct Use) involves each team entering it's own decisions into a microcomputer and the other (Tutor Mediated) involves the trainer taking decisions from teams and entering and processing them - then the trainer returns printed results to the teams. Additionally, there are two further processes - the computer enhanced role-play. For very complex simulations there is a form of business simulation that combines direct use by learners and decision-entry by the trainer - these are simulations where each team is provided with a decision support system.
Reporting Capability
Complementing Decision-Making process is the way the simulation produces reports showing how the simulated companies results, business research, providing business analysis, to help answer questions and help the tutor manage learning.
Learn more about my Tutor Support System
Future Proofing
What if your training needs change? Or you need to train a different group? Here my data driven programming approach means that changes can be made easily, quickly and inexpensively.

Development Metrics

The development cost for a new simulation is difficult to forecast as it depends on the complexity of the simulation, the number of decisions made and reports produced. But as all of these correlate with simulation duration I are able to provide indicative development times.

The table below provides an indication of the amount of time that I take to develop simulations. Benchmarked against competitors [1 & 2], these times represent an 80% to 90% saving in time (and cost).

Simulation Complexity Simple Intermediate Complex
Duration 2 - 4 hours 1 day 1.5 - 2.5 days
Model Proportion 4 - 5% 6 % - 9 % 9 % - 16 %
Shell Proportion 96 % 94 % - 91 % 91 % - 84 %
Development Time 20 - 40 days 40 - 80 days 100 - 250 days
The table illustrates the benefit of using software shells. Even for the most complex simulations, 84% of the software already exists and only 16 percent of the software must be developed. For simple simulations the saving even greater with 96% of the software existing and only 4% needing to be developed. It is not surprising that simulation designers that do not use this approach can take five times or more time to develop a new simulation. Also, where a simulation is developed from scratch not only are there greater chances of bugs and also best practice may not be included and the simulation may not be as flexible as needed.

Indicative Development Costs

As shown in the table above design time is strongly correlated with simulation duration. But design time is also impacted by novelty - of the situation modelled, the simulator type and learning situation.

To read the full paper here

Situation Modelled impacts design time and cost depending on the experience the designers have of the industry being modelled and the issues that will be explored by the simulation. As illustrated by my business acumen simulations, I have experience designing simulations for virtually all industries.

Simulator Type impacts the need to develop special software to process decisions, manage data and produce reports. My platform supports most types of business simulation eliminating or minimising the need to create this software.

Learn more about types of business simulation.

Learning Situation impacts the design constraints - duration, audiences (learners and trainers), manner of use. Again, my extensive experience actually using simulations in the class room means that I have an in depth knowledge of different ways simulation are used and what this means in terms of design.

Learn more about ways of using business simulations.

The table below shows indicative development costs taking into account design time, piloting, train the trainer courses (if necessary) and typical expenses (accommodation and travel costs (for piloting and train the trainer courses)). (Travel and accommodation will be charged back at cost).

Simulation Complexity Simple Intermediate Complex
Duration 2 - 4 hours 1 day 1.5 - 2.5 days
Development Cost () 15,000 - 30,000 30,000 - $65,000 65,000 - 200,000
Development Cost ($) $25,000 - $50,000 $50,000 - $110,000 $110,000 - $330,000

Development Cost ()

20,000 - 40,000

40,000 - 85,000

85,000 - 260,000

Business Simulation Design Case Studies

Banking Challenge
As part of my design of the Banking Challenge simulation I had to produce a report that detailed the design. This report details the development schedule, design process and materials created and available as part of my platform and library of models.

To read report

Training Challenge
When I designed the Training Challenge simulation
I decided to document in detail my design rational and presented this as a paper at the 2012 ABSEL Conference. (It was nominated for the best paper award.)

The Training Challenge is a simulation that presented particular design challenges because of its industry setting, short duration, ambiguity, uncertainty and dynamic behaviour. Unusually, perhaps uniquely, the Training Challenge replicates a training company addressing the issues facing a small service-based knowledge transfer business. Unlike other total enterprise simulations with similar learning purposes that last a day or longer, this simulation needed to be run in half a day as it was to be used as part of a one-day workshop and this very short duration would be a problem. Reflecting the decisions facing such a company, many are ambiguous and so it would be difficult for learners to predict the impact of their decisions. Because of nature of client demand the simulation needed to be stochastic and this could cloud the analysis of results. The need for learners to position their company in terms of portfolios of customers and services, manage the short-term, tactical development and the long-term, strategic development of the business would mean that dynamic calibration would be crucial. Finally, as the simulation was to be part of a Business Acumen Workshop, the simulation needed to link with and support the rest of the workshop.

To read the full paper

1: Average development time per hour of simulation duration 490 hours - How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? A Chapman Alliance, Research Study, September 2010 (http://www.chapmanalliance.com/howlong/ )

2: Development Time per Hour Range Simulation - 320-731 (Meyer Learning) - Time to Develop One Hour of Training: More Accurate Data?

3. Time to Develop One Hour of Training Karl M. Kapp & Robyn A. Defelice (2009) ASTD - development time per hour of simulation duration 320 to 731

4, Another useful resource -- http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

Bespoke was originally applied to the tailoring of a suit to your exact requirements. But now it is employed in a variety of applications to mean an item custom made to the buyer's specification (personalized or tailored).

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2004 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall
Most recent update: 21/09/15
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