A Santa Clara, Calif., company called Lightyear Inc., with a software product of the same name, is convinced that managers need help making decisions that involve choosing among several different options.

Take the case of hiring. First, Lightyear asks you to enter each job candidate's name into the program, then to list criteria that are important to you, such as education, salary, work experience, and creativity. Next, you prioritize these criteria by assigning them different scores. Then, you rank each candidate against the above criteria, using numeric rankings, sets of words, or cursor movements. Rules can be added to express trade-offs among criteria. For example, if education receives a low ranking, work experience must be substantial. Lightyear then ranks each candidate in a bar-graph format from the best to the worst, and it can even explain why someone scored best overall.

Is all this really worth it? Some software industry analysts say Lightyear provides a solution to a problem no one really has. Others say it helps people to quantify, and justify, their gut feelings. In any case, you are on your own when it comes to a simple yes or no decision -- like whether to fork out $495 for the product.