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Book Contents

Ch. 11
Building Web-Based and Inter-Organizational Decision Support Systems

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Key Terms

The World-Wide Web is where the action is in developing Enterprise-Wide and Inter-Organizational Decision Support Systems. When vendors propose a Web-Based DSS they are referring to a computerized system that delivers decision support information or decision support tools to a manager, business analyst, or customer using a "thin-client" Web browser like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer. The computer server that is hosting the DSS application is linked to the user's computer by a network using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). In many companies, a Web-Based DSS is synonymous with an Intranet and an Enterprise-Wide DSS that is supporting large groups of managers in a networked environment with a specialized data warehouse as part of the DSS architecture. This view is too narrow; Web technologies can be used to implement any type of Decision Support System.

Some companies have created Extranets for decision support as well as Intranets. Inter-Organizational DSS serve a company's stockholders, bankers, customers or suppliers. An Inter-Organizational DSS may provide stakeholders with access to a company’s Extranet and/or authority or privileges to use specific DSS Intranet capabilities. For example, companies are creating Web-Based, Inter-Organizational DSS that customers can use to evaluate products, control costs or reduce inventories. These Decision Support Systems may be Data-Driven or Document-Driven DSS, Communications-Driven, Model-Driven DSS, or Knowledge-Driven DSS. The target users are managers and knowledge workers in a customer, supplier or partner organization and retail customers. Some people would say this type of DSS is part of a company’s external Intranet or Extranet.

As noted, only 8% of firms had Web enabled company data warehouses in 1999. A company Intranet based on Web technologies can provide even more extensive management information and Decision Support than a data warehouse. Also, an Intranet can provide decision support to a wide variety of internal users. An Intranet is a secure, internal organizational network that uses TCP/IP with at least one Web server. It is important that an Intranet is secure and accessible by only an organization's members or others who have specific authorization. A firewall and password protection should limit access to the network. An Intranet is an internal information system based on Internet technology, Web services, and HTML and PDF publishing.

An Intranet is used to share corporate information, including DSS capabilities. Most Intranets have a main page called a portal. A portal is a simple, personalized Web front-end that provides access to information from the Global Internet as well as a wide variety of corporate systems, including document servers, business intelligence systems, Groupware databases, and enterprise resource planning systems.

The above terms are evolving as quickly as the Web itself and they are not used consistently by authors. We need to accept that conceptual ambiguity for the foreseeable future.

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