from DSSResources.com

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                          DSS News
                     D. J. Power, Editor
             November 24, 2002 -- Vol. 3, No. 24
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM

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          Check the EASE case by Pontz and Power
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Featured:

 * DSS Wisdom
 * Ask Dan! - What is "real-time" decision support?
 * What's New at DSSResources.COM
 * DSS News Releases

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DSS Wisdom

Prof. Robert Thierauf (1982) noted "one current trend in business 
information systems is the implementation of real-time management 
information systems, sometimes referred to as on-line real-time systems. 
Typical applications within such an environment include accounts 
receivable, airline reservation systems, bank deposit and withdrawal 
accounting, hotel accounting and reservation systems, law enforcement 
intelligence systems, patient hospital records, and stock market 
information. An essential characteristic of this type of system is the 
on-line real-time concept. All information is on-line; that is, all data 
are sent directly into a computer system as soon as they come into 
being. The whole operation is in real time, which means that data are 
processed and fed back to the appropriate source in sufficient time to 
change or control the operating environment. Basically, then, any system 
that processes and stores data or reports them as they are happening is 
considered to be an on-line real-time system (pp. 19-20)."

from Thierauf, R. J., "Decision Support Systems for Effective Planning 
and Control," Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982.

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Check Dan Power's book, Decision Support Systems: 
Concepts and Resources for Managers.  Get information at 
http://www.dssresources.com/dssbookstore/power02.html .

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Ask Dan!
by Daniel J. Power

What is "real-time" decision support?

The question of "real-time" decision support has been addressed in 
articles and books for almost 30 years, but as computing, sensor, and 
networking technology changes and provides new capabilities our 
expectations for "real-time" DSS are increased.  At a fundamental level, 
the hope has always been that our information and decision support 
systems will help decision makers monitor events, and evaluate, choose 
and act on alternatives as events actually unfold. 

An email from Neil Raden in late October prompted this Ask Dan! and my 
investigation of "real-time" decision support. Neil wrote "I read the 
article about Anderson Clayton, and I'm scratching my head a little. 
What is it about this application that you consider "real-time"? As far 
as I can tell, the implication is that if you request a report and/or 
analysis, and the system responds to you, it's real-time. I don't think 
this is a standard definition. What makes BI real-time is some form of 
straight-through processing, flowing data into the data warehouse from 
the source as it occurs, rather than in a periodic ETL and refresh 
cycle."

Neil was referring to a case study at DSSResources.COM by Eric Vollmer 
titled "Anderson Clayton Corp. Delivers Real-Time Business Intelligence 
to U.S. Cotton Growers" that was posted at DSSResources.COM July 12, 
2002. Eric Vollmer is the MIS Director at Anderson Clayton and he 
reports the implementation of a SQL Server data warehouse and arcplan's 
business intelligence platform dynaSight. The Web-based, data-driven DSS 
was developed to support Anderson Clayton managers and growers. This 
case was also published in DM Review in August 2002. 

My response to Neil was "I think arcplan and Eric Vollmer, MIS Director, 
Anderson Clayton Corp., mean by "real-time" just what you've concluded 
... 'if you request a report and/or analysis, and the system responds to 
you, it's real-time'.  I agree that's not saying much these days with 
the Web.  For many years, that was the best we could do. Real-time on 
the back-end makes a data warehouse more like a TPS."

It turned out that "real-time" decision support continued to be an 
issue. N. Stevenson asked about DSS for the timely detection of 
epidemics in a DSSResources.COM bulletin board posting of 11/13/2002. 
Stevenson noted "Because of the threat of bioterrorism, timely detection 
of epidemics in real time is of increasing importance." I agree. Weather 
forecasters, emergency response personnel, military commanders, 
production managers, air traffic controllers, and many others now use 
real-time information to make important decisions. The importance of 
such systems is increasing.

Twenty five years ago, Prof. Robert Thierauf wrote a number of books 
(1975, 1982) that dealt with on-line, real-time MIS and DSS.  He 
explained in 1982 that "any system that processes and stores data or 
reports them as they are happening is considered to be an on-line 
real-time system (p. 20)." His broad definition seems to be used in many 
current discussions. 

A search at Google.COM with the phrase "real-time" produced 6,120,000 
results. The search identified pages on getting real-time quotes and 
streaming charts from the NYSE, getting real-time news, and producing 
and generating real-time financial and stock reports. Vendor pages 
discuss sharing information in real-time on the Web and providing 
computer support for real time collaborative work. Companies are 
tracking expenditures against budgets in real-time. 

One vendor claims its software logs call details into a SQL database and 
displays real-time information for supervisors. Another site advertises 
that it provides real-time SEC filings and corporate reports and that it 
has an email alert service. One finds online real-time auction websites, 
the ATCSCC Real-time Airport Status page at 
http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyFAA/index.html, and the NCAR-RAP Real-Time 
Weather Data website. Trend Micro (http://www.trendmicro.com) uses a 
dynamic map to analyze worldwide computer virus trends in real time and 
to predict virus outbreaks and prevent them proactively. 

A number of companies market software for real-time decision support. 
Environmental Software and Srvices markets RTXPS (www.ess.co.at/RTXPS/), 
a real-time expert system environment for on-line decision support 
applications. CGE&Y (www.cgey.com) has a suite of DSS optimization 
services to provide real-time inputs to decision support systems. 
Intergraph (www.intergraph.com) software was used to build an Evacuation 
Decision Support Solution that assists South Carolina decision makers in 
managing evacuations during a hurricane.

Academic papers on the Web discuss artifical intelligence in real-time 
control, real-time dynamic telepathology through the Internet, real-time 
status displays, real-time speech translation, real-time freeway traffic 
routing and real-time traffic maps. In July 2002, AAAI/KDD/UAI held a 
Joint Workshop on Real-Time Decision Support and Diagnosis Systems in 
Edmonton, Canada. Stankovic, Son, and Hansson (1999) have a paper on the 
Web that provides a sophisticated discussion of real-time databases.  
They discuss time semantics, time consistency and misconceptions about 
real-time databases. They also summarize research issues related to 
real-time databases.

In the popular technical press, real-time issues are also being 
discussed. Erika Morphy (2002) in CRMDaily.com argues "Now that a lot of 
companies have gotten their arms around automating operational data, 
there is an increasing focus to develop more sophisticated analytics."  
She discusses a 2002 IDC report, titled "In the Nick of Real Time: CRM 
Analytics and the Decision Process". The IDC report concludes 
incorporating real-time into CRM analytics processes is a critical 
component for successful decision making. 

Last fall, Heather B. Hayes (2001) in an article on Decision Support 
Systems in Washington Technology wrote "More recently, the race to 
develop real-time decision support applications, as well as real-time 
data warehousing, has quickened significantly. Vendors such as i2 
Technologies and Oracle are pioneering new models for real-time decision 
support applications, infrastructures and solutions. And business 
intelligence vendors are seeking out partnerships with companies that 
provide message brokering systems."

Conclusions 

Are we seeing the "dawn of the real-time enterprise"? Margulius (2002) 
and others seem to think so.  WAP-enabled mobile phones will deliver 
data in real-time to managers, sales staff and emergency personnel, 
companies will have active datawarehouses, extensive event data will be 
recorded in real-time, and business analytics will be available in 
real-time or "near real-time".  In general, there will be a greater 
expenditure in the future of funds on real-time DSS for operational 
decision support. The possibilities for on-line, real-time decision 
support in 2002 are much broader than they were in 1982 and the systems 
will certainly be more powerful, but the concept hasn't changed.  

References

Hayes, Heather B., "Decision Support Systems," Washington Technology, 
Vol. 16 No. 13, 09/24/01 at http://www.washingtontechnology.com/.

Margulius, D. L., "Dawn of the real-time enterprise," Infoworld, January 
17, 2002, www.infoworld.com.

Morphy, E., "CRM Analytics: Real-Time Is Key," CRMDaily.com, June 27, 
2002. 

Stankovic, J. A., S. H. Son, and J. Hansson, "Misconceptions About 
Real-Time Databases," June 1999, Computer, pp. 29-36, at URL
http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~stankovic/psfiles/R6stan.lo.pdf .

Thierauf, R. J., "Systems Analysis and Design of Real-Time Management 
Information Systems," Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 
1975.

Thierauf, R. J., "Decision Support Systems for Effective Planning and 
Control," Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982.

Vollmer, E., "Anderson Clayton Corp. Delivers Real-Time Business 
Intelligence to U.S. Cotton Growers", arcplan, May 2002, posted at 
DSSResources.COM July 12, 2002.

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   Send your Ask Dan! questions to power@dssresources.com
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What's New at DSSResources.COM

11/14/2002 Posted case by Pontz, C. and D. J. Power, "Building an Expert 
Assistance System for Examiners (EASE) at the Pennsylvania Department of 
Labor and Industry", November 2002, URL http://dssresources.com/cases.

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DSS News Releases - November 9 to November 21, 2002

11/21/2002 U.S. corporate finance executives aided in improving future 
revenue visibility and steering enterprises to higher growth and 
profitability.

11/21/2002 Hyperion, Microsoft and SAS release new specification of XML 
for Analysis.

11/20/2002 SAS and ESRI link software; SAS(R) Bridge for ESRI to allow 
more efficient data analysis.

11/19/2002 Insignia announces integration of its java-enabling 
technology with latest Sharp Zaurus SL-5600 business PDA.

11/19/2002 MapInfo's powerful market analysis solution to enhance Polk's 
Customer Profiling System for the Automotive Industry.

11/19/2002 Webcast Alert - Insurance Risk Management: A location-based 
decision support approach for reducing exposure.

11/19/2002 DoctorQuality concurs with American Heart Association report 
`IT Use Could Curb Medical Errors'.

11/19/2002 National Brands improves budgeting and reporting quality with 
Comshare MPC(tm).

11/18/2002 Codec licenses Comshare corporate performance management 
technology to deliver enterprise-wide front end for SAP BW.

11/18/2002 SAS acquires technology to track customer behavior in 
real-time; Verbind Technology to augment SAS Interaction Management and 
other solutions.

11/18/2002 Newest release of cross-enterprise collaboration service 
launched at Fall Comdex.

11/18/2002 IDC reports latest supercomputer rankings based on the 
balanced rating test.

11/15/2002 New IBM supercomputer packs 128 POWER4 processors in a single 
frame; smaller, denser, faster eServer to transform supercomputing 
industry.

11/14/2002 Ellison: You have to be willing to spend less to get better 
information.

11/13/2002 Booz Allen Hamilton awarded contract for total information 
awareness support.

11/13/2002 SGI hosts Homeland Security and Defense Summit in Washington, 
D.C.

11/13/2002 University of Louisville's Medical and Dental schools among 
first to integrate Palm handhelds into four-year curriculum.

11/12/2002 Active Decisions signs up 3 leading retailers and 
manufacturers in the US and Canada; MicroWarehouse and The Wiz in the 
US, and Sony Canada become new customers.

11/12/2002 Merrill Lynch and Thomson Financial announce intention to 
develop wealth management workstation.

11/12/2002 Oracle gets to the bottom line of collaboration.

11/12/2002 Read-Rite Corporation deploys Ascential DataStage to 
accelerate data analysis and decision support in high volume 
manufacturing operations.

11/11/2002 Supercomputing enters a renaissance driven by a demand for 
high productivity, declares SGI.

11/11/2002 Cookie maker bakes up sweet productivity gains with new 
Intermec mobile computer system.

11/11/2002 Smart solutions for smarter decisions to be focus of keynote 
addresses at GeoSpatial World 2003.

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