Once upon a time, when the world was younger, PCs and Windows were fun, and hair covered more of my scalp, I was going to make my fortune with a decision-support system far superior and more cost-effective than any available from that era’s industry leaders.

Sadly, my plans to market a digital coin tosser, Magic 8 Ball, and dart board fell victim to my deep-seated personal laziness and lack of initiative, so it’s only now that, thanks to others willing to leap across the digital chasm, you can find smartphone apps with some of the capabilities my younger self had imagined.

Which adds another dimension to the issue last week’s KJR raised: In addition to choosing whether to trust your gut or to depend on evidence and logic, you have a third alternative. You can rely on randomness to get you through the day.

This isn’t as preposterous as it sounds.

Start where evidence and logic work best. It’s when you can articulate the decision criteria that matter, identify reliable sources of information regarding the criteria, and … and this matters a lot … you’re confident your circumstances are stable enough that the criteria and evidence you use making the decision will continue to be valid when the present has fled and the future arrives.

Also, for evidence and logic to be useful, the time available for making the decision in question has to be long enough that the decision, once finally made, hasn’t been superseded by events.

Often, evidence and logic only take you so far — to narrowing down the alternatives to two or three that are close enough to a tie as makes no difference.

Evidence and logic often reach a point of diminishing returns. Once they do, you might as well toss a coin or throw a dart as invest in any further information-gathering and analysis.

Or, you might trust your instincts — your ever-popular-but-over-rated gut, which is more accurately labeled the voice of your experience.

How’s that work? It comes down to pattern-matching. You accumulate you experience into a sort of personal database. It contains situations you’ve faced, divided into categories. For each category it records how you or someone nearby handled the situation and how it came out.

When a new situation comes up, you find the situation category that matches best, and apply its context and lessons to what you’re facing now.

I am, of course, oversimplifying, but you get the idea. Instinct works well when new situations closely resemble past ones. It misfires, and misfires badly, when the new situations superficially appear to resemble past ones but are actually quite different beasts entirely.

Blindly trusting your gut will often cause you to hit the bulls-eye, but it will be a bulls-eye drawn on the wrong target.

If your experience isn’t truly relevant to what you’re deciding about right now, trusting a Magic 8 Ball is probably wiser than trusting your gut.

Then there are time-bound decisions — situations where being right enough now is superior to being spot-on too late. Imagine, for example, you’re playing tennis and need to decide whether to hit a lob, a ground stroke, or a drop shot. Figuring out the perfect tactic might call for as much as 30 seconds of analysis. Sadly, while you were scratching your head the ball went right on by.

In business you rarely have as much time as you’d like to make a decision, but usually have enough to avoid being reckless. So to leave you with something more than a platitude but less than a recipe, here are the steps you should take when making any important decision:

> Know your deadline. If you don’t, you’ll miss it.

> Define your decision-process. How do you plan to you apply evidence and logic to the decision? If you don’t define your decision process you’ll drown in disorganized factoids.

> Listen to the voice of your experience. Listen to it, don’t obey it. Especially, figure out how to articulate it so you understand why it’s telling you what it’s telling you.

> Narrow your alternatives. As mentioned earlier, more often than not all the evidence and logic in the world won’t get you to the answer. It will, however, get you to a short list of good answers.

> Throw the dice. You have to get from your short list to a choice, and you’ve already exhausted the other possibilities.

Depressing? Nah. You’ll never be certain anyway, because in the end, all your evidence and all your experience are about the past.

But your decisions are all about the future.

We consultants live and die on methodologies. Just as double-blind therapeutic trials are what make modern doctors are more reliable than shamans for preventing and curing diseases, the methodologies we consultants use are what make our analyses and recommendations more reliable than an executive’s gut feel.

Take, for example, the methodology I use for application, application portfolio, and application integration rationalization (AR/APR/AIR).

It starts with collecting data about more than twenty indicators of application health, redundancy, and integration for each application in the portfolio. It’s by analyzing this health data that my colleagues and I are in a position to reliably and provably recommend programs and strategies for improving the enterprise technical architecture’s application layer, along with the information and platform layers the applications rely on.

For large application portfolios the process is intimidating, not to mention invasive and expensive. Fortunately for you and unfortunately for me when I’m trying to persuade clients to engage our services, there is a more frugal alternative. In most situations it’s amply reliable for guiding AR/APR/AIR priorities as our sophisticated methodology, while costing quite a lot less.

Call it the TYE methodology, TYE standing for “Trust Your Experts.”

But first, before we get to TYE, take the time to clean up your integration architecture.

Maybe the techniques you use to keep redundant data synchronized and present it for business use through systematic APIs are clean and elegant. If so, you can skip this step on the grounds that you’ve already taken it. Also, congratulate everyone involved. As near as I can tell you’re in the minority, and good for you.

Otherwise, you need to do this first for two big reasons: (1) it’s probably the single biggest architecture-related opportunity you have for immediate business and IT benefit; and (2) it creates a “transition architecture” that will let you bring new application replacements in without hugely disrupting the business areas that currently rely on the old ones.

And now … here’s how TYE works: Ask your experts which applications are the biggest messes. Who are your experts? Everyone — your IT staff who maintain and enhance the applications used by the rest of the business, and the business users who know what using the applications is like.

And a bit often missed, no matter the methodology: Make sure to include the applications used by IT to support the work it does. IT is just as much a business department as any other part of the enterprise. Its supporting applications deserve just as much attention.

What do you ask your experts? Ask them two questions. #1: List the five worst applications you use personally or know about, in descending order of awfulness. #2: What’s the worst characteristic of each application on your list?

Question #1 is for tabulation. Whichever applications rank worst get the earliest attention.

Question #2 is for qualification. Not all question #1 votes are created equal, and you’re allowed to toss out ballots cast by those who can produce no good reason for their opinions.

Once you’ve tabulated the results, pick the three worst applications and figure out what you want to do about them — the term of art is to determine their “dispositions.”

Charter projects to implement their dispositions and you’re off and running. Once you’ve disposed of one of the bottom three, determine the disposition of what had been the fourth worst application; repeat for the fifth.

After five it will probably be a good idea to re-survey your experts, as enough of the world will have changed that the old survey’s results might no longer apply.

You can use the basic TYE framework for much more than improving the company’s technical architecture. In fact, you can use it just about any time you need to figure out where the organization is less effective than it ought to be, and what to do about it.

It’s been the foundation of most of my consulting work, not to mention being a key ingredient in Undercover Boss.

TYE does rely on an assumption that’s of overwhelming importance: That you’ve hired people worth listening to. If you have, they’re closer to the action than anyone else, and know what needs fixing better than anyone else.

And if the assumption is false … if you haven’t hired people worth listening to, what on earth were you thinking?