Introduction to DSS
A decision support system (DSS) is a computer-based information system that supports business or organizational decision-making activities. DSSs serve the management, operations, and planning levels of an organization and help to make decisions, which may be rapidly changing and not easily specified in advance.
Decision support systems can be either fully computerized, human or a combination of both. DSSs include knowledge-based systems. A properly designed DSS is an interactive software-based system intended to help decision makers compile useful information from a combination of raw data, documents, and personal knowledge, or business models to identify and solve problems and make decisions. World-Wide Web technologies have rapidly transformed the entire design, development and implementation process for all types of Decision Support Systems.
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In particular, Web technologies have provided a new media for sharing information about decision support and a new means of delivering decision support capabilities. For DSS developers, the big leap forward is to use the “Web as computer”. Modern decision support systems (DSS) provide managers a wide range of capabilities. Computerized systems support decision tasks like information gathering, model building, sensitivity analysis, collaboration, alternative evaluation and decision implementation. Also, decision support is increasingly integrated in business processes and DSS are used for ad hoc analyses.
This paper reviews the current status of Decision Support Systems in the context of developments in Web technologies. The article contains brief historical reviews, discussions on implementations of decision support system and the major part of this article is ‘’State of Practice of DSS in 2001’’ HISTORY: Information Systems researchers and technologists have built and investigated computerized Decision Support Systems (DSS) for approximately 40 years. This article chronicles and explores the developments related to building and deploying DSS.
The journey begins with building model-driven DSS in the late 1960s, theory developments in the 1970s, and implementation of financial planning systems, spreadsheet-based DSS and Group DSS in the early and mid 1980s. Data warehouses, Executive Information Systems, OLAP and Business Intelligence evolved in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Finally, the chronicle ends with knowledge-driven DSS and the implementation of Web-based DSS beginning in the mid-1990s. The field of computerized decision support is expanding to use new technologies and to create new applications.. Web-Based Decision Support Systems :
Power (1998b) defined a Web-Based Decision Support System as a computerized system that delivers decision support information or decision support tools to a manager or business analyst using a "thin-client" Web browser like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer. The computer server that is hosting the DSS application is linked to the user's computer by a network with the TCP/IP protocol. The idea of Web-enabled or Web-Based Decision Support Systems as services has been explored by various researchers and involves the concept of offering decision computation technologies as services on the Web.
The recent popularity and widespread use of the World Wide Web and the Internet has been accompanied by the development of a variety of computing technologies that enable the realization of the “decision technologies as services” vision. Bhargava and Krishnan (1998) discussed the role of a series of enabling technologies in the context of Model-Driven DSS, covering technologies that enable the use of the Web for communication of decision information and computation, technologies that enable the remote and platform-independent access of DSS, and technologies that allow DSS components to be distributed over the Web.
Web Technologies and DSS Tasks: Web technologies are making it possible to perform all of these tasks via a remote Web client. In thinking of such tasks, it is useful to recall the distinction made by Sprague (1980) about application-specific DSS that consist of software, data, and models for a specific decision problem and DSS generators that provide tools and algorithms for building a variety of specific DSS. Application-specific DSS are far easier to build, but rarely reusable; DSS generators are far more complex to build but can be adapted to build many specific systems.
Figure 1 summarizes the relationships among 10 major tasks involved in building and using Data and Model-Driven DSS. For example, using an application-specific Model-Driven DSS, a user would be given the relevant decision models and data, and would focus on tasks such as model execution, development of reports, or analysis. Using a corresponding DSS generator, on the other hand, would require the performance of additional tasks such as model definition and creation of a custom user interface.
IMPLEMENTATIONS OF DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM : STATE OF PRACTICE 2001:
In a number of prior papers, we have examined the extent to which current DSS products have “Web-enabled” the above decision support related tasks, and we have examined the evolution of DSS and especially Web-Based DSS. In this section, we provide an informal tour of our major findings. Web technologies provide both the communication of decision-related information and software and a means of providing remote access to distributed DSS components. We discuss the first function in terms of the Web as media and the second we call the Web as computer.
How these capabilities or functions can be used to support decision-making is still evolving. There is much scope for imagination here, but we have identified a few important beneficial uses of these capabilities and we will now review recent developments in each of these areas. WEB AS MEDIA: The Web has facilitated the creation of a number of industry-wide DSS Information Portals . For example, the OLAP Report and Data Ware housing Online Both are industry-wide decision support portals that offer information about software products, vendors, methodologies, and white papers in the context of OLAP and data warehousing technologies.
DSSResources. COM is a “knowledge repository” for a broadly defined set of Decision Support Systems. IBM’s COIN initiative (http://oss. software. ibm. com/developerworks/opensource/coin/) and e-optimization. com offer similar portals for optimization. Info Harvest and the Decision Analysis Society have created portals related to decision analysis. Individual firms have used Web technologies to communicate information about their decision support products and methods, or allow users to conduct various tasks like ordering, payment or Internet delivery related to purchasing DSS products.
In the context of using the Web for “providing company and product information” there is substantial activity across all categories of Decision Support Systems.
WEB AS COMPUTER
We generally discuss the use of the “Web as computer” capabilities in three categories: digital product demonstrations, preview using online interactive examples, and on-line, Web-based Decision Support Systems. The first category, product demonstrations, represents a baseline for the use of the Web’s capabilities for remote computation.
Online demonstrations can be delivered as animated multimedia documents (e. g. , QuickTime movies, or Shockwave animation) that require or allow little user interaction. As a next step, online interactive examples allow users to interact (e. g. , by setting parameter values, or choosing which command to execute next, or designing the format of a report) with the DSS tool in the context of a specific example. The next step in the use of the “Web as computer” capabilities is to offer application-specific DSS to users that have decision problems within the supported categories.
Recall our earlier example of OptAmaze. com which provides paper trim optimization and transportation optimization services to paper mills. Grazing Systems Limited offers decision support services in the agricultural sector. The value of such deployment of DSS may be appreciated by considering the difficulties that user firms would have in installing, maintaining and applying complex DSS tools on their own; Web-enabled DSS allow such firms to use decision support tools without encountering these difficulties.
The practice of building Decision Support Systems can benefit in many ways from the availability of Web technologies. These technologies provide platform-independent, remote, and distributed computation and the exchange of complex multimedia information. The state of practice has benefited considerably from these technologies but e need to resolve technological, economic and social and behavioral challenges to realize the benefits the Web can provide as a platform for building Decision Support Systems.
DSS developers must continuously find ways around these limitations, or make use of recent and anticipated developments such as the new version of Internet protocols. To offer decision support as a service, providers must experiment with new payment models. Decision support capabilities are of great interest to a broad range of stakeholders and enormous resources have been and will be committed to building systems that promise to improve the quality, speed and effectiveness of specific decisions. We need to do much more than implement our technologies to build effective Decision Support Systems.
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