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Book Contents

Ch. 2
Gaining Competitive Advantage with DSS

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Conclusions and Commentary

Companies must continuously improve their information technology to gain and maintain competitive advantage. Companies that invest significant time and money to achieve an advantage want a system that has sustainability. When competitors can quickly respond with similar or better systems the result is a higher cost of doing business for everyone involved. To create sustainability, an organization can preempt its competitors by being first to market. This creates surprise, respect, and time advantages. Alternatively, sustainability may be achieved through intimidation. Creating a system that is large, complex, or risky can ward off duplicators. True sustainability can only be achieved through continual development and enhancement of a strategic system.

If managers are trying to develop a Strategic Decision Support System, they should ask how it affects company costs, customer and supplier relations and managerial effectiveness. Managers should also attempt to assess how the Strategic DSS will impact the structure of the industry and its competitors. Organizations should identify their goals, the potential reactions of competitors, and evaluate if the impact of the DSS is good for the industry as a whole or has adverse effects such as, more price sensitivity and lower margins. Ultimately, DSS must be used to gain competitive advantage.

DSS often have positive benefits, so why do some managers resist using Decision Support Systems? Let’s examine seven explanations for managerial resistance to using DSS that are cited in the literature. First, managers may have insufficient computer training. Managers are receiving more computer training and new managers are quite sophisticated in their use of computer software. The magnitude of this problem should be decreasing. Second, some managers argue using a DSS will diminish their status and force them to do secretary's work. Using a DSS is not a secretary’s work. Companies can not afford to pay two people to do one job. This attitude is counter productive.

Third, using a DSS may not fit a manager's problem solving style, which is sometimes intuitive rather than analytical. While this may be true, managers should use both analysis and intuition in solving problems. Fourth, using a DSS does not fit with the manager's work habits of verbal and non-verbal problem solving in face-to-face meetings. DSS should not and can not replace all face-to-face meetings. Communications-Driven DSS are an adjunct to traditional meetings. Other DSS can often be used in a face-to-face meeting. Fifth, DSS models, interfaces, and systems are usually poorly designed. Poor design is a problem, but not an inherent problem. Managers need to be involved in building DSS and more resources need to be focused on DSS design and development. Sixth, some managers argue building and using a DSS is expensive and time consuming. Building a DSS is expensive and time consuming. Using a DSS does not need to be time consuming or tedious or difficult. DSS can actually save managers time and speed-up decision processes.

Seventh, information overload is a major problem for people, managers already receive too much information and many DSS increase the overload. Although this can be a problem, DSS can help managers organize and use information. DSS can actually reduce and manage the information load of a user.

Many of the seven reasons cited above for not using DSS are excuses and rationalizations rather than meaningful objections. To gain competitive advantage, project champions and DSS developers need to overcome the problems caused by managers who resist the use of Decision Support Systems.

Finally, companies must determine who they want a proposed DSS to support and what result they want from the new DSS. An Inter-Organizational DSS should offer customers value. Value can be improved service, new products, lower product or service costs, or customization. Often these benefits come from an increase in short-term costs of the DSS provider, but this is better than allowing a competitor to lead in technology innovation and jeopardize an organization's market share in the long term.

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