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Book Contents

Ch. 7
Building Data-Driven Decision Support Systems

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Developing an EIS

Information needs of executives change rapidly so many Executive Information Systems (EIS) are developed using Rapid Prototyping tools. Usually a staff group creates screens and information displays for use in the EIS. The group needs to experiment with how data is presented and receive feedback from users. Determining executive information requirements can be an especially challenging task. Some of the systematic methods like structured interviews may need to be used to supplement reviews of prototype screens.

Although DSS using query and reporting tools are some times developed by end-users, EIS are traditionally more elaborate networked systems developed by Information Systems professionals in cooperation with financial and staff professionals. Determining the Critical Success Factors (CSF) for an organization can help analysts determine what information should be presented in the EIS. Critical success factors are variables like earnings per share, market share, productivity, or units delivered that influence performance and success for a firm (see Rockart, 1979).

If a company wants to update its Executive Information System or create a new capability, a small project team should be organized. According to Kelley (1997), a Project Leader should organize and direct the project. An Executive Sponsor is needed to promote the project in the organization and review project progress regularly. A Technical Leader participates in gathering requirements, reviewing plans, and ensuring technical feasibility of all proposals during EIS requirements definition. As the focus of the project becomes more technical, the EIS project team should be expanded to include additional technical staff who will be directly involved in extracting data from legacy systems and constructing the EIS data repository and user interface. An EIS project is similar to data warehouse projects with additional emphasis placed on the design of the user interface.

A well-known example of an EIS is the Lockheed-Georgia Management Information and Decision Support (MIDS) System (cf., Watson, Rainer and Houdeshel, 1992). MIDS was upgraded to a commercial system from Comshare in the early 1990s. A more recent example is an EIS at Pizzeria Uno, a $175 million restaurant chain.

In 1995, in an attempt to boost its competitiveness and profitability, Pizza Uno's management deployed a Data-Driven DSS that would give executives and field management access to timely information on sales and labor costs. The company installed the Pilot Analysis OLAP server software on an HP-9000 Unix server. Marketing, operations, and finance executives at Uno headquarters access the server's database from their PCs. Regional managers dial into the server each day to download up-to-date data onto their laptop computers. Executives can drill through data hierarchies, manipulate data, view data from different dimensions such as deep dish pizza take-home sales versus retail sales, and create reports tailored to their specific informational needs. For more information on this example, visit Pilot Software at http://www.pilotsw.com.

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