This technique has two defining characteristics:
- Decision are organized into a hierarchy of criteria and a hierarchy of alternatives to be evaluated by those criteria.
- The analysis is performed as a series of relative preferences ("this criteria is more important than that criteria", "that option does better at this criteria than this other option").
In my experience, the logical-comparison basis of the technique (versus some point system) makes this technique particularly suitable for supporting executive-level decision making. It can also be easily tailored to support executive decision making in the form of "this person's input counts more than that person's on this topic".
There are a number of published references available on AHP. In most of the books by Saaty, the math gets fairly complicated in the latter chapters but the introductory material introduces the logic, is easily readable by a general public, and is enough to use the approach.
There are a variety of tools to support using AHP. I've personally used ExpertChoice and it appears to be the dominant product in this market. DecisionLens is based upon the Analytical Network Process (ANP) which builds upon AHP but includes a stronger feedback model on the decision-making process.