from DSSResources.com

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                        DSS News 
                   D. J. Power, Editor 
              January 18, 2004 -- Vol. 5, No. 2 
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 

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         Check the MeritCare case by ProModel Staff 
                       at DSSResources.COM

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Featured: 
* Ask Dan! - What vendors dominate the DSS product space?
* What's New? at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases 

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       Contact Ramesh Sharda (sharda@okstate.edu) to 
        nominate candidates for SIG DSS by 01/30/04

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Ask Dan!

What vendors dominate the DSS product space?
by Dan Power

In terms of Ask Dan! email, questions about DSS software and DSS vendors 
ranks near the top.  What DSS product is best? What is the largest DSS 
software company? What vendors should I look at for my DSS project? 
These questions can't be answered in any general way.  The answers 
depend upon your situation, criteria, needs, and so forth. I think 
however that I can discuss what software vendors "dominate the DSS 
product space".  

Ultimately an evaluation of a DSS vendor's product comes down to the 
company or department level -- can we use the product to develop the 
specific decision support capabilities our managers need and want. Once 
we answer that question in the affirmative, then we can examine cost, 
scalability, maintenance and other important issues. For readers wanting 
help in evaluating vendors for a specific DSS project check my 1997 
article on "choosing enterprise-wide DSS software tips". 

Near the beginning of each year industry analysts are tempted to look 
ahead, to look backwards and/or to bestow awards. This Ask Dan! serves a 
little bit of each of these purposes. I've consulted the trade press (DM 
Review, Intelligent Enterprise), the awards lists and nominees 
(InfoWorld, SIIA) and read the industry analyst's commentaries.  I 
regularly visit vendor web sites and attend vendor conferences when I'm 
invited. I read many press releases and receive emails from some vendor 
PR people. Some PR people pay more attention to DSS News and 
DSSResources.COM than do others. I know I'm heavily influenced by "mind 
share" issues, i.e., some vendors keep me better informed than do others 
and I'm more familiar with some products than with others. Mine is not 
an "objective" answer.

In the discussion that follows keep in mind that Decision Support 
Systems development software is a broad, heterogeneous category of 
products. Second, products serve different purposes associated with 
building different types of DSS. Third, there is ambiguity in the term 
"dominate". "Dominate" can refer to market share, product quality, 
product leadership especially product innovation and even DSS "thought 
leadership". My analysis subjectively rolls all of these issues 
together. I'm not going to make detailed comparisons of feature lists or 
report reader surveys or benchmark results. I've organized the following 
discussion in terms of the five broad DSS categories in my expanded DSS 
framework (Power, 2002).

Communications-Driven DSS Development Products

The software product that provides the most capabilities for building a 
customized communications-driven DSS is IBM Lotus Notes/Exchange. The 
recent case study at DSSResources.COM by Matt Walton "Rebuilding an 
Emergency Operations Center for NYC following 9/11" showcases what is 
possible. Notes can be used as a generic communications-driven DSS 
environment or it can be customized to create a more specific 
communications-driven DSS.  Microsoft is discontinuing NetMeeting. 
Groove Networks (http://www.groove.net) is aggressively pursuing some 
innovative solutions.

Data-Driven DSS Development Products

The most common data-driven DSS is built using a data warehouse product 
and a report and query product (OLAP/business intelligence software). 
This category involves billions of U.S. dollars in product sales each 
year. Recently, I bought a used copy of Bill Inmon's 1991 DSS book at 
Amazon.Com. Inmon's book provided the conceptual foundation for what I 
call data-driven DSS. Inmon and Ralph Kimball ("Dr. DSS") have had the 
major impact on what IS practioners think of when the term DSS is used. 
DM Review and Intelligent Enterprise broadly cover this part of the DSS 
product space with some overlapping coverage into other DSS product 
categories.

On October 24, 2003, DM Review announced it's top 100 companies serving 
the business intelligence community as identified by its readers. The 
top 5 were: #1 IBM, #2 Oracle, #3 Microsoft, #4 Hewlett-Packard, and #5 
Business Objects. 

From my perspective, IBM has lost its direction in terms of DSS and 
especially data-driven DSS.  Researchers at IBM were clearly involved in 
the 1980s and 90s in DSS thought leadership, but that is no longer the 
case. Oracle database products are used to build data warehouses and 
marts, but Oracle has always been more oriented to transaction 
processing than DSS. Microsoft could dominate this space with SQL server 
and Excel, but there is no overarching DSS vision at Microsoft that I 
can identify. A Microsoft partner Proclarity is much more attuned to 
decision support needs and the folks at Proclarity have certainly made 
their product more visible to me. I'm not certain why Hewlett-Packard 
made the list. Business Objects sells a business intelligence product 
and the company was an early innovator in developing technologies for 
building data-driven DSS; Business Objects does not however dominate the 
product space, but it is an important vendor of software for building a 
reasonably sophisticated data-driven DSS. Bill Inmon noted recently 
(12/18/03) that Business Objects is "the workhorse of the data mart 
crowd, BO sets the pace for what is meant by end user business 
intelligence".

My pick for the company that dominates the data-driven DSS product space 
is NCR Teradata, especially in terms of building a data warehouse. I 
have had the most contact with Teradata staff of any DSS vendor and if 
they treat their customers as well as they have treated me (and I've 
heard they do) that is a big plus.  Teradata leads in innovation, it's 
parallel DB technology is superior and it's product delivers outstanding 
query performance. Inmon noted "when it comes to innovation and 
understanding the value proposition of data warehouse on a vertical 
basis, nobody can touch NCR Teradata". Teradata software is not the best 
for building a web-based user interface for a data-driven DSS, but that 
is probably intentional so they don't undercut Business Objects, Cognos, 
Hyperion and Microstrategy. In terms of the front-end for a data-driven 
DSS (business intelligence software) my pick is MicroStrategy. Inmon 
says "MicroStrategy has a whole houseful of happy campers". The BI 
software vendors have targeted various vertical markets and 
MicroStrategy seems especially strong in retailing.

The BAM (TIBCO) and BPM merchants are changing the dynamics in this 
product space. Mergers and consolidations are also having an impact. For 
example, Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions, Hyperion acquired 
Brio, and Geac acquired Comshare. Vendors of GIS software (Intergraph) 
are also moving into this product space as did the vendors of 
statistical software (SAS, SPSS) in the mid-1990s.

Document-Driven DSS Development Products

I am not an expert on the knowledge management and document management 
software.  So feel free to comment. The company in this product space 
that I have followed most closely is Documentum.  In 2002, Documentum 
acquired eRoom which was an innovative environment for collaboration and 
communications-driven decision support.  Recently EMC acquired 
Documentum.  I think EMC/Documentum does and will dominate this DSS 
product space. The Documentum case at DSSResources.COM titled 
"Optimizing Aircraft Maintenance Operations using a Document-driven DSS" 
showcases some of the possibilities.

Knowledge-Driven DSS Development Products

In this product space the company that dominates is EXSYS 
(http://www.exsys.com/). The website proclaims that EXSYS is "the World 
Leader in Knowledge Automation Expert System Software and Services". It 
is in my opinion. Exsys CORVID version 3.0 was recently released.  EXSYS 
has been around for almost 20 years, but the Web has really changed the 
dynamics of this type of DSS.  Sophisticated distributed 
Knowledge-Driven DSS are now really feasible.  The case I wrote with 
Craig Pontz of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry used 
EXSYS technology. You can find it in the subscriber zone at 
DSSResources.COM.

Model-Driven DSS Development Products

This product space is the most fragmented and it has some large vertical 
market vendors. Frontline Systems (http://www.solver.com/) dominates in 
terms of optimization-based DSS development software. In terms of Excel 
simulation add-ins, I have had the most contact with 
Decisioneering/Crystal Ball. The product gets used however more for risk 
analysis in special decision support studies than for building DSS. 
Recently, I published a case study from ProModel Healthcare Solutions on 
a visual simulation-based decision support solution for MeritCare. There 
is no broad development environment for building model-driven DSS.  This 
product market is not effectively dominated by any single vendor even 
though Microsoft Excel is the most commonly used development 
environment for Model-Driven DSS. 

Vendors and developers always need to monitor product innovations and 
that is especially true in the five DSS product space categories 
discussed above. Please note that Iteration real-time suite 
(http://www.iteration.com) was named the 2004 technology of the year by 
InfoWorld. Software and Information Industry Association 
(http://www.siia.net) 2004 Codie Awards nominees for best business 
intelligence or knowledge management solution include: Celequest 2.0, 
Celequest, Inc.; Cymfony Brand Dashboard V2, Cymfony Inc.; Khalix, 
Longview Solutions; Noetix Enterprise Technology Suite (NETS), Noetix 
Corp.; and SageAnalyst IMDR, SageMetrics. In the best business software 
product or service is Ascential Enterprise Integration Suite 7.0 from 
Ascential Software. 

As always your comments are welcomed and DSS software vendors are 
invited to send me email, press releases, and so forth. If I neglected a 
vendor, let me know.

I should mention the Google Adsense advertisers at DSSResources.COM that 
have Data-Driven DSS development products including Avega Health 
Systems, MicroStrategy, Peak Analytics, and UniFact. Avega is a niche 
player in this product space that provides data-driven financial 
decision support for the health care industry. Peak Analytics and 
UniFact are newcomers in the BI product space. Also, as a matter of 
disclosure I have received financial support from Teradata the past 2 
years to attend the Teradata Partners fall conference. I do own a very 
small amount of stock in EMC, Microsoft and Oracle.

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References

Inmon, W. H., Database Machines and Decision Support Systems: Third Wave 
Processing, Boston: QED Information Sciences, Inc., 1991.

Inmon, W. H., "Inmon Thought Leadership and Innovative Product list,"
News from Inmon Associates, Inc. Volume 3, Issue 9, December 18, 2003.

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

Power, D. J. "Tips for Choosing Enterprise-wide DSS Software". DSstar, 
The On-Line Executive Journal for Data-Intensive Decision Support, 
November 18, 1997: Vol. 1, No. 7, URL 
http://dssresources.com/papers/dsssoftwareeval/index.html

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What's New? at DSSResources.COM

01/09/2004 Posted case by ProModel Staff, "MeritCare Health System uses 
simulation to optimize integration of service areas into new day unit". 

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DSS News - January 5, 2004 to January 16, 2004
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DSS News is copyrighted (c) 2004 by D. J. Power. Please send your questions to
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minor corrections were made to the emailed version.

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