In his 1996 book The Road Ahead, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates argued the Internet "will carry us into a new world of low-friction, low-overhead capitalism, in which market information will be plentiful and transaction costs low." To exploit the plentiful market information and generate profits, companies will need to create and use sophisticated Decision Support Systems. These DSS will need to be available to both internal and external stakeholders. For many reasons, the logical environment for building these new Decision Support Systems is the Internet or a Corporate Intranet built using Web technologies.
The dominant information technology platform in companies is changing from main frames and LAN-based, client-server systems to Web and Internet technologies. This technology change is expanding what Peter Keen (1991) called "information reach" and "information range". The reach of Information and Decision Support Systems has expanded significantly to serve a larger group of internal and external stakeholders. The range and variety of Decision Support Systems that can be developed, delivered, and shared is also becoming much larger. Today, innovative Web-Based examples of all five generic Decision Support Systems, including Communications-Driven, Data-Driven, Document-Driven, Knowledge-Driven and Model-Driven DSS, can be found and more innovative DSS of each type will surely be developed.
Data from DSS vendors, from PricewaterhouseCoopers and from The Conference Board indicate that a technological shift to Web technologies is occurring in many corporations. In 1999, 58% of large corporations had Intranets and 10% had Extranets for business partners. A large majority had Web sites (72%) and used email (92%). The growth of Web-Based DSS was just beginning in 1999; only 8% of firms had Web enabled company data warehouses. Most large firms were planning to create Intranets, establish Extranets, and make company-wide data warehouses accessible on their Intranets and Extranets.
Web technologies are being implemented rapidly so we all need to monitor and explore the possibilities of Web-Based DSS. We need to ask if Web technologies can reduce the cost of building and delivering Decision Support. Managers need to know how we build Web-Based and Inter-Organizational DSS. And managers need to know how we can create DSS that support customers and suppliers. We need to explore the advantages of changing the technology of DSS to Web technologies. From a practical standpoint we need to explore and debate how much knowledge of Web technologies managers need. Also, should managers be maintaining Web sites? Finally, managers and MIS personnel need to "surf" the Web and try a variety of examples of Web-Based and Inter-Organizational DSS.
This chapter focuses on Web technologies and Inter-Organizational DSS, especially topics like designing and managing Web-Based systems; examples of Web-Based DSS software; examples of Web-Based and Inter-Organizational DSS implementations; and advantages and disadvantages of Web-Based and Inter-Organizational DSS.