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Book Contents

Ch. 4
Designing and Developing Decision Support Systems

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End-User DSS Development

End-user development of DSS puts the responsibility for building and maintaining a DSS on the manager who builds it. Powerful end-user software is available to managers and many managers have the ability and feel the need to develop their own desktop DSS. Managers frequently use spreadsheets, like Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, as DSS development tools. Using a spreadsheet package, managers can analyze an issue like the impact of different budget options. Following the analysis, managers select the alternative that best meets their department's needs. Also, managers can develop tools to help them conduct market analyses and make projections and forecasts at their desktop.

The major advantage of encouraging end-user DSS development is that the person who wants computer support will be involved in creating it. The manager/builder controls the situation and the solution that is developed. End-user DSS development can also sometimes result in faster development and cost savings.

End-user DSS development of complex DSS is much less desirable. Managers are paid to manage, not to develop Decision Support Systems. At some point DSS specialists can do the work much better and much faster. Also, managers are not trained to test systems, create documentation, provide for back-up and data security and design sophisticated user interfaces. DSS analysts should help managers develop more complex end-user Decision Support projects. DSS analysts can help the manager build, document and test the application. Managers need to emphasize the content of the DSS and not become overly involved with extensive DSS development projects.

End-user DSS development is a controversial topic. Information systems staffs have many concerns including:

  1. End-users may select an inappropriate software product as a development environment.
  2. The end-user may have limited expertise in the use of the product and the IT group may have limited resources to support end-user development.
  3. Errors during end-user DSS development are frequent. Even experienced developers can make errors and end-users are likely to overlook the need for checking formulas and auditing the DSS they have developed.
  4. Unnecessary databases are sometimes developed by end-users for their DSS. Redundant databases can contain out-dated and inaccurate data.
  5. A major quality issue involves testing and limited documentation. End-users often perform only limited testing of DSS they develop; and they have limited experience-documenting applications.
  6. End-user databases may be poorly constructed and difficult to maintain.
  7. End-users rarely follow a systematic development process.

If an organization's MIS group gets actively involved in supporting end-user DSS development, many of the above problems can be minimized, reduced or eliminated. Packages used for end-user development can be standardized; end-users can be trained in the use of selected packages; support staff can act as consultants and reviewers; a central databases can be maintained for use with end-user applications; and documentation can be encouraged by MIS staff.

An Information Center can provide support for end-users and the Director of the Information Center may be able to manage end-user computing. Services that an Information Center might provide include: software training, user support including answering specific development questions, installation assistance and advice about new systems, and standard setting. SDLC and prototyping approaches require designation of a project manager. So letís now examine DSS project management issues.

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