from DSSResources.com

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                     DSS News
                D. J. Power, Editor
       December 18, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 27

   A Free Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 
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 Happy Holidays from the DSS News and DSSResources.com team
          Dan, Carol, Alex, Ben and Greg Power
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Featured:

* Ask Dan! - What should be taught in a Business 
  Intelligence/Data-Driven DSS course?
* DSS Conferences 
* DSS News Releases 

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Ask Dan!

What should be taught in a Business Intelligence/Data-Driven DSS
course?

by Dan Power

On Tuesday, December 13, 2005, Michael Lane, Lecturer Information
Systems Department, Faculty of Business, University of Southern
Queensland, asked for information about a "Business Intelligence
course and textbook" on the ISWORLD listserv. ISWORLD is an academic
mailing list with about 3,000 subscribers from around the World.

The email responses to the listserv show the confusion about the
term business intelligence. One colleague suggested some Artificial
Intelligence books for the course and identified business
intelligence as a part of a broader course on Intelligent Systems.
This is similar to the perspective suggested by Vasant Dhar and Roger
Stein in their 1997 book "Intelligent Decision Support Methods: The
Science of Knowledge Work". The trade version of their book is titled
"Seven Methods for Transforming Corporate Data Into Business
Intelligence". Chapter 4 of Dhar and Stein is titled Data-Driven
Decision Support and it covers data warehousing and OLAP. This
chapter certainly influenced my thinking about types of DSS. Other
chapters focus on neural networks, rule-based systems, case-based
reasoning and machine learning. The book is dated, but still a good
historical and conceptual reference.

Another colleague, Ghazi Alkhatib, replied and noted "We have to
distinguish between AI and BI. Having a full course on BI may look
infeasible, since the topic is still evolving at the conceptual
level." Another colleague wrote "I guess the best place to find
information about BI is the web site of Microstrategy ..." 

In my opinion the best response came from Rob Meredith at Monash
University in Australia. He wrote "Although a common misconception, I
agree with Ghazi's differentiation of BI from intelligent systems -
the term has quite a specific meaning in industry, encompassing
technologies such as OLAP, EIS, Data Warehouses, DSS (with an
emphasis on data-driven, rather than model-driven DSS, however),
Analytic CRM and so on. In other words, reporting systems designed to
support the everyday activities of managers." Rob continues "At Monash
University, we have an undergraduate unit entitled Business
Intelligence Systems (IMS3001), and a specialisation within a Masters
degree with units on DSS (IMS5005), OLAP & Business Intelligence
(IMS5004), Data Warehousing (IMS5026) and Customer Relationship
Management (IMS5028)." He concludes "For the units I teach, I don't
specify a required textbook, since most don't really have the
coverage I want - instead I draw heavily on the DSS, management
science and Judgement & Decision Making literature, data warehousing
books such as those by Ralph Kimball, and various other resources."

The interest in Data-Driven DSS for performance monitoring and for
finding business intelligence information is increasing. Perhaps it
is time for a specialized elective on this topic in Information
Technology/Systems programs. In general, I advocate a broad survey
course in Decision Support Systems as an anchor for all managers and
Information Systems specialists. In recent years, we have relied upon
vendor training and on-the-job training to educate managers and IS
folks about DSS and especially Data-Driven DSS. Such an informal
approach leads to vendor "hype" and misconceptions about the what,
how, and why of technology solutions. So what should be included in a
more specialized course about "Building Data-Driven Decision Support
Systems"?

Rather than start with a blank slate, we can look back to Hugh
Watson, George Houdeshel and Rex Rainer's book from 1997 titled
"Building Executive Information Systems and other Decision Support
Applications". The book was published after the Executive Information
Systems (EIS) "buzz" had given way to new "buzz words" like business
intelligence. So what topics did Watson, Houdeshel and Rainer cover
in their book?

Chapter 1 is "An Introduction to EIS". EIS is "a computerized system
that provides executives easy access to internal and external
information that is relevant to their critical success factors. (p.
3)" If we define executives broadly as all managers and senior staff,
then EIS is intended to provide performance monitoring. The business
intelligence people added "simple to use" report and query tools to
the mix to let executives develop their own queries. The OLAP folks
added drill-down and pivot tables. So we need to start with an
overview of Data-Driven DSS/BI, what it is and what it is not. 

Chapter 2 describes "An EIS Development Framework". The first
section is a structural perspective that describes what motivates
managers to develop EIS. This is still an important issue. Then the
process of developing a computerized support system is explored: the
proposal, the prototype, etc. The last section briefly focuses on the
interface of a system.

Chapter 3 examines the targeted users -- "Understanding Executives,
Their Work, and Information Needs". Given the nature of Data-Driven
DSS this topic is still important. Chapter 4 discusses "Gaining
Executive Commitment". A study by Watson and Glover (1989) found that
52 percent of EIS failures were "due in part to a lack of executive
commitment". That finding probably still holds for current BI systems
and Data-Driven DSS as well.

In the next chapter, Chapter 5, the focus is on "Assembling the EIS
Staff". The staff for development and maintenance should differ. A
project manager or DSS manager is still the key player in a
successful project. Consultants, vendors and contract staff also play
an important role in the development process that needs to be
understood. Chapter 6 is "Determining the Need" and Chapter 7 follows
with "Determining the Information Requirements". Once the need is
established and the information requirements have been determined,
then Watson, Houdeshel and Rainer move on to Hardware and Software
requirements. This development process perspective can help students
understand the major issues in building a Data-Driven DSS.

Chapter 9 briefly addresses "Structuring the Information". This
topic is very important and would need to be expanded to deal with
data modeling topics. Chapter 10 focuses on screen design. The
graphical user interface is much easier to build with modern
development tools, but it remains the most important single
component. Even with "good" data, a Data-Driven DSS with a "poorly
designed" interface will not be used. Chapter 11 returns to "Managing
the Data". The chapter addresses data management, data sources and
data integration, data ownership and security, and data warehouses.
This chapter probably deserves two separate chapters today. Starting
with Chapter 12 other important topics are included as chapters: soft
information, overcoming political resistance, assessing benefits, keys
to success, public sector issues, and future directions. The book ends
with two case studies and a guide to software selection.

So what would I teach in a course on "Building Data-Driven DSS"? In
a perfect world, I would teach an updated Watson, Houdeshel and
Rainer! As always your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

References

Dhar, V. and R. Stein, "Intelligent Decision Support Methods: The
Science of Knowledge Work," Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall,
1997.

Power, D.J., "Decision Support Systems: Concepts and Resources for
Managers," Greenwood, 2002.

Watson H. and H. Glover, "Common and Avoidable Causes of EIS
Failure," Computerworld, December 4, 1989, pp. 90-91.

Watson, H., G. Houdeshel and R. Rainer, "Building Executive
Information Systems and other Decision Support Applications," New
York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Please note: Dr. Daniel Power is visiting in the Information Systems
group at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from
December 19-January 6, 2006. Professor T.P. Liang is hosting
Professor Power's visit and they plan to work on joint research.

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           Purchase Dan Power's DSS FAQ book 
   83 frequently asked questions about computerized DSS 
    http://dssresources.com/dssbookstore/power2005.html 

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DSS Conferences 

1. ISCRAM2006, the Third International Conference on Information 
Systems for Crisis Response and Management, Newark, New Jersey, USA, 
at the New Jersey Institute of Technology from May 14-17, 2006.
Check http://www.iscram.org .

2. ICKEDS 2006, the Second International Conference on Knowledge
Engineering and Decision Support, Lisbon, Portugal, May 9-12, 2006.
Check http://www.gecad.isep.ipp.pt/ICKEDS06/ .

3. CIDMDS 2006, International Conference on Creativity and
Innovation in Decision Making and Decision Support 
sponsored by IFIP WG 8.3, June 28th - July 1st 2006, London,
UK. Check http://www.ifip-dss.org/ .

4. DEXA 2006, 17th International Conference on Database 
and Expert Systems Applications, September 4-8, 
2006, Krakow, Poland. Check http://www.dexa.org .

5. ICDSS 2007, 9th International Conference on DSS, Jan. 2-4, 2007, 
Calcutta, India. Theme: Decision Support for Global Enterprises.
Check http://www.ICDSS2007.org . Papers due May 10, 2006.

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   Call for Nominations: AIS SIG DSS Award for Best Journal 
         Article 2005, nominations due March 15, 2006. 
         Check http://dssresources.com/news/1063.php .

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DSS News Releases - December 5 to December 16, 2005
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

12/16/2005 Information Builders continues to be a hot item for the
retail industry.

12/15/2005 SAP's newest CRM release makes industry gains.

12/15/2005 SAS ranks as No. 1 business intelligence vendor in Asia
Pacific.

12/14/2005 Webinar survey shows increase in reporting accuracy is
primary expected benefit of master data management initiatives.

12/14/2005 SAS and HHS renew enterprisewide contract to support
mission-critical programs.

12/13/2005 Leading life-like videoconferencing vendor, Teliris,
questions value of HP's entrance into virtual collaboration
marketplace.

12/13/2005 Pure Fishing orders new pick-to-light systems from CAPE
Systems.

12/13/2005 StratBridge launches instant analytics software for easy,
yet comprehensive, data analysis.

12/13/2005 Epocrates to make Medicare Part D Formulary data
available at the point of care.

12/12/2005 PROS Revenue Management opens registration for its annual
Revenue Management Conference.

12/12/2005 SAIC to provide systems development services to the
National Electronic Disease Surveillance System.

12/08/2005 FINEOS delivers Principal Financial Group with claims
management and payments system.

12/08/2005 IDC reveals radical changes in spatial information
management that will impact most IT companies. 

12/06/2005 Nucleus Research releases business intelligence
scorecard.

12/06/2005 Insightful Corporation releases Insightful Miner(TM) 7.

12/06/2005 Schwab's new Options Strategy Finder tool helps investors
identify optimal trading strategies.

12/06/2005 MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform to be used
by Limited Brands.

12/06/2005 Microsoft announces general availability of Microsoft
Dynamics CRM 3.0.

12/05/2005 BI leader SAS helps Quaker Chemical win CIO Insight
business-technology alignment award.

12/05/2005 Federal Government begins pandemic planning with states.

12/05/2005 MIS Magazine names Attensity a "Rising Star" of 2005;
text analytics technology company one of only 10 vendors chosen.

12/05/2005 Global Crossing network supports world record in
transatlantic real-time data stream for visualization.

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DSS News is copyrighted (c) 2005 by D. J. Power. Please send your 
questions to daniel.power@dssresources.com


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