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 DSS News
 D. J. Power, Editor
 March 12, 2006 -- Vol. 7, No. 6

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 Featured:

 * Ask Dan! - What are the obstacles associated with building 
DSS for global enterprises?
* DSS Conferences
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 Ask Dan!

 Dan Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

 What are the obstacles associated with building DSS for global
enterprises?

 Decision support systems for global enterprises is a major focus of
my current thinking and academic activity. As I mentioned in my Ask
Dan! column of January 29, 2006, I am co-program chair for an
International Conference on Decision Support, Data and Knowledge
Management Systems (ICDSS2007) scheduled for Calcutta, India on
January 2-4, 2007. Our theme is "Decision Support for Global
Enterprises". Check ICDSS2007.org and please consider submitting a
relevant paper to info@icdss2007.org  .
The submission deadline for the conference book is May 10, 2006.
Extended abstracts and work-in-progress papers for presentation at
the conference can be submitted until September 18, 2006.

 So what are the obstacles and challenges faced in building DSS for
global enterprises? In multinational firms, computerized decision
support systems must support managers with diverse national and
cultural backgrounds who are working in many nations. This staffing
reality creates a major overarching challenge. Some of the more
focused obstacles to using technology to support decision-making in
global enterprises include: accounting and currency issues, cultural
differences, differing legal regulations, electronic communications
limitations, telecommunications and computing infrastructures, and
time zone differences (cf., Power, 2002). Let's look at these issues
in more detail.

 Accounting and Currency Issues. In data-driven DSS we seek one
consistent, meaningful version of the truth about an enterprise's
activities over a multi-year time span. Creating and maintaining a
version of the truth for decision making is much harder in a global
enterprise because of accounting and currency issues. Accounting and
other business practices differ from country to country and this
makes getting accurate financial reports and consolidating them
difficult. Also, currency conversion and fluctuations is another
ongoing source of challenge in designing data-driven and some
model-driven DSS. According to an analysis in Accounting Software
News, "Only a handful of accounting packages process multiple
currencies in compliance with FASB Statement no. 52" and other
internal standards (check
http://www.accountingsoftwarenews.com/charts/currency.htm) Also, we
need to keep in mind that accounting refers to a "formal system of
collecting, organizing and reporting financial data" primarily
intended to inform people interested in the financial status and
progress of a firm. Accounting systems are not sophisticated decision
support systems. Even when a global company follows generally accepted
accounting principles (GAAP), we need to add, disaggregate and
interpret data to provide data-driven decision support. Accounting
data in a DSS data store should reconcile with accounting systems,
but that is not enough to insure usefulness of the system. For
example, data on units sold may be much more important than sales
revenue when comparing sales operations in various countries. A good
data-driven DSS should help managers make meaningful comparisons
despite accounting and currency differences in local operations.

 Cultural differences. The purpose of a Decision Support System is to
inform decision-makers and ignoring cultural issues may create
mis-information or mis-interpretation. Culture consists of
"assumptions about 1. human nature, 2. causality, 3. the possible, 4.
the desirable, 5. the appropriate, 6. the nature of the physical
environment, and 7. the relationship of human beings to their
fellows" (Gaenslen p. 78, from Melberg). For example, not all
cultures have the same assumptions about group decision-making and
hence the use of a Group DSS may be resisted by some potential
participants. In some cultures, the norm is that all should have an
equal voice in decision-making. Some cultures encourage an open and
collaborative problem-solving atmosphere. Some cultural norms support
detailed meeting notes and a very structured decision-making process.
Other cultures have conflicting norms. People have multiple
overlapping group memberships and varied personal and cultural
histories that can impact their decision behavior. For example, those
of us from the United States and United Kingdom are "native" English
speakers and we benefit because English is the unofficial language of
business and technology. This cultural reality may create a language
arrogance and communication barrier between managers. Culture impacts
evaluations of DSS layout and design and use of a specific DSS. Word
choice can cause confusion in screen displays. Also, colors and icons
may have different emotional and political meanings based upon
cultural history. In building DSS, designers need to be sensitive to
cultural issues associated with decision makers and with stakeholders
like customers and suppliers. Also, because of cultural differences
promoting the use of DSS and evidence-based decision-making is a
challenge in many countries (cf., Yoder et al., 2001).

 Differing legal regulations. Complex government regulations create a
barrier to global expansion and increase the challenge of building
DSS. For example, in some countries regulations specify data
collection and security rules. Also, some countries have data
import/export restrictions. According to Pratt, "European laws
require much higher levels of data security and privacy, even as they
apply to accessing employees' information." Pratt identifies seven key
areas to watch out for: 1. Labor Relations, 2. Privacy, 3.
Procurement, 4. Documentation, 5. Taxes, 6. Legal Systems, and 7.
Variability of laws and regulations from country to country. This
legal complexity makes it harder to aggregate data assembled from
global operations. Also, knowledge-driven DSS become harder to
construct. The many small-scale, high-frequency risks that result
from the current global regulatory jungle make building all types of
DSS much more costly.

 Electronic communication limitations. In a global corporation, much
of the communication is electronic. "Electronic communication" means
that communication is by means of data messages and a digital medium.
There are a smaller proportion of "real" face-to-face meetings and
until recently few meeting used Interactive Video. Instead bulletin
boards and email have proliferated. This change tends to isolate
managers in different parts of a company. Also, this behavioral
change means that there will be less spontaneous and informal
communication in a company. To keep from getting "out of touch",
managers need to work harder to communicate feelings and develop
trust relationships. Communications-driven DSS should probably
include pictures of participants and background materials. The
changes in communications medium and associated limitations may
improve some group outcomes. For example, there may be more anonymous
brainstorming and better documentation of decision rationales. Lisa
Kimball argues "too many teams fail to consider key qualities of
different media in their choices about when and how to use the full
range of communications channels available to them." The benefits of
various media for decision-making meetings needs to be better
understood and must be considered by team leaders.

 Telecommunications and computing infrastructures. Telecommunications
access, reliability, and standards differ from country to country. In
many countries, the government owns or controls the communication
industry and it may be difficult to install communication lines.
Also, costs are a major factor. Costs for telecommunications vary
around the world. Throughout the Middle East, telecommunications
infrastructures are expanding, but Africa still has a weak
infrastructure. Many observers have noted that traditional
telecommunications, computing and media "haphazardly" intersect. Some
possible solutions to these infrastructure problems are Virtual
Private Networks and satellite systems. Technological infrastructure
constrains DSS choices and creates implementation problems. 

 Time Zone Differences. There are a complex array of time zones
throughout the world. Having global operations makes it harder for
companies to have "real-time meetings" and to have overlapping
working hours for collaborating employees. But operating in many time
zones can create decision support opportunities to reduce decision
cycle times and reduce decision "handling costs". In some situations
the time zone of origin for a transaction matters and in others it is
not relevant in decision making. Operating in multiple time zones
creates both an opportunity and a challenge for collaborative work
and communications.

 Can we overcome these obstacles? YES. Building web-based DSS is a
way to reduce telecommunications and computing infrastructure
obstacles. One solution to cultural obstacles is planning and
implementing DSS so that they can more easily be adapted to specific
local languages. Localizing a Decision Support System can include:
allowing space in user interfaces for translation of text into
languages that require more characters; developing DSS with products
like Web editors or authoring tools that can support international
character sets (Unicode); creating graphic images that are universal
in meaning; and using examples in help systems and software
documentation that have global meaning. 

 At a minimum the six major issues discussed above must be addressed
in the evaluation of a proposed DSS that will have a global reach.
Also, please involve accounting, legal and human resources experts in
building DSS for global enterprises. As always your comments and
suggestions are welcomed.

References

 Davis, A., D. Fu, "Culture Matters: Better Decision Making Through
Increased Awareness," Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and
Education Conference (I/ITSEC) 2004,
http://www.stottlerhenke.com/papers/IITSEC-04-culture.pdf

 Gaenslen, F., "Culture and Decision Making in China, Japan, Russia,
and the United States", World Politics 39 (1986), pp. 78-103). 

 Kimball, L., "Choosing Media Strategically for Team Communications,"
http://consortium.caucus.com/pw-choosemedia.html .

 Melberg, Hans O. (1996), Culture and decision making: A review of an
article by F. Gaenslen,
http://www.geocities.com/hmelberg/papers/960904.htm

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

 Power, D.J., "What is involved in providing decision support for
global enterprises?", DSS News, Vol. 7, No. 3, January 29, 2006.

 Pratt, M., "Global Legal Gotchas: How to avoid hidden traps in
international laws," COMPUTERWORLD, February 20, 2006,
http://www.computerworld.com/managementtopics/management/story/0,10801,108766,00.html
.

 Yoder, R., A. Arabaji, M. Al-Saob and C. Siam, "Building and
sustaining an evidence-based decision-making culture: Can it be done?
APHA meeting Oct 21-25, 2001,
http://apha.confex.com/apha/129am/techprogram/paper_27202.htm

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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. Crystal Ball User Conference, May 1-3, 2006 at the
Westin Tabor Center in Denver, Colorado. Check
http://crystalball.com/cbuc/index.html .

 2. 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 .

 3. 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/ .

 4. 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/ .

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

 6. 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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 DSS News Releases - February 25 to March 9, 2006
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

 03/09/2006 Oracle academic initiative brings applications technology
training to College and University Classrooms.

 03/09/2006 Microsoft unveils details for ultra-mobile personal
computers introduced at CeBIT.

 03/09/2006 CeBIT 2006: arcplan launches its new BI Platform, arcplan
Enterprise 5.0.

 03/08/2006 Garmin(R) helps you see and talk to the fleet
around-the-clock.

 03/08/2006 Visual Analytics' technologies form foundation of
information sharing and interoperability in the Delaware Information
Analysis Center (DIAC).

 03/08/2006 Applix unveils new features for greater interoperability
with SAP and SAP business information warehouse.

 03/07/2006 WebEx launches WebEx WebOffice in India: An on-demand
collaboration solution for distributed project management and
outsourced development.

 03/06/2006 Open Source Geospatial Foundation created to strengthen
collaborative development of open geospatial technologies.

 03/06/2006 Information Builders introduces WebFOCUS Intelligent
Search to address enterprise search requirements.

 03/02/2006 EDUCAUSE and Internet2 commend Senator Wyden's bill to
protect an open Internet and net neutrality.

 03/02/2006 INSIGHT's flagship software, SAILS 21(R), first to embed
supply chain vulnerability analysis.

 03/01/2006 Animal database launched to help ensure U.S. livestock
producers maintain competitive edge in the global marketplace.

 02/28/2006 Database Marketing forum: Data-oriented companies
integrate customer insight to drive business results, March 23-24.

 02/28/2006 Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management
(ISCRAM) meeting at NJIT, Newark, NJ, May 14-17, 2006.

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