Conclusions and Commentary
The rapid growth of the World-Wide Web has created enormous opportunities for making more organizational information available to decision-makers. Web architectures permit Information Systems professionals to centralize and control information and yet easily distribute it in a timely manner to managers who need it. Also, the internal Internet or Intranet is providing many opportunities for delivering information from data warehouses, models and other tools to the desktop. The Web DSS permit and encourage further analysis and collaboration. The technologies and software associated with Decision Support Systems continues to change rapidly and development tools are overlapping for some applications. In general, managers and IS staff need to recognize that the overall technological and social context of DSS and business management is changing.
The new managers who are and will be using company Intranets and the Internet are more technologically sophisticated than the managers of the past. They will have high expectations for DSS, but in many ways they will be much better customers of computerized decision support. The DSS design and development environment is changing as rapidly as the software tools and in as positive a direction. The Web technologies will facilitate improved DSS tools at manager's desktops.
General Managers need broad knowledge of the managerial and technical issues associated with the various categories of Decision Support Systems. MIS professionals need this same general knowledge and they need specific skills in analysis, design and development of DSS.
In 1974, Gordon Davis wrote "The application of computer technology and MIS concepts has produced some spectacular successes and also some rather expensive failures." Both successes and failures will still occur. Failures occur in leading edge application areas and for what turn out to be overly ambitious projects. A shortage of MIS professionals is also slowing development in some areas and increasing failures of innovative systems. All of us need to recognize that resistance to change and insufficient user involvement contributes to DSS project failure in some situations. Managers need to resolve political issues associated with building new Decision Support Systems and providing greater access to management information. For example, senior managers need to address questions like: How should data be shared and how much data should be shared? Should all managers be required to use a DSS and support systems like email?
Managers and MIS practitioners need to consider at least five major issues associated with building and using Decision Support Systems. First, we must determine what business and decision processes should be computerized? And in some situations we need to ask what part of the process should be supported? In many companies this issue needs to be re-examined for current Decision Support Systems. Chapters 2 and 3 address this issue. Second, we must ask what data should be captured in processes and how should it be stored and integrated? Continuing to rely on existing decision processes may limit the information that can be provided to decision-makers. Chapter 4 discusses DSS design and development issues.
Third, we need to ask how data should be processed and presented to support decision-making? Chapter 5 emphasizes user interface design issues. Fourth, and perhaps the major issue is whether current Decision Support Systems are creating results that are "decision-impelling"? (based on Davis, 1974, p. 6). Chapters 7 to 11 review the possibilities for building innovative DSS.
Finally, we need to ask what information technology should be used for building DSS? Chapter 6 reviews DSS architecture and networking issues. Managers need some technical familiarity and sophistication to evaluate the wide-ranging set of technologies that are available for DSS applications. Understanding the various categories of Decision Support Systems that can be built begins the task of rationally answering the above questions. Subsequent chapters provide more elaboration and some details.
Decision Support Systems are not a panacea for improving business decisions. Most people acknowledge that managers need "good" information to manage effectively, but a DSS is not always the solution for providing "good" information. A DSS is limited by the data that can be obtained, the cost of obtaining, processing, and storing the information, the cost of retrieval and distribution, the value of the information to the user, and the capability of managers to accept and act on the information. Our capabilities to support decision-making have increased, but we still have very real technical, social, interpersonal and political problems that must be overcome when we build DSS. Chapter 12 addresses these issues and the evaluation of proposed DSS projects.