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Book Contents

Ch. 7
Building Data-Driven Decision Support Systems

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Executive Information Systems

Executive Information Systems (EIS) are computerized systems intended to provide current and appropriate information to support executive decision-making for managers using a networked workstation. The emphasis is on graphical displays and an easy to use interface that present information from the corporate database. They are tools to provide canned reports or briefing books to top-level executives. They offer strong reporting and drill-down capabilities.

Executive Information Systems differ from traditional information systems in a number of ways (cf., Kelley, 1997):

  1. EIS are specifically tailored to an executive's information needs.
  2. EIS are able to access data about specific issues and problems as well as aggregate reports.
  3. EIS provide extensive on-line analysis tools including trend analysis, exception reporting and "drill-down" capability.
  4. EIS access a broad range of internal and external data.

The DSS, GDSS and EIS applications are merging in many ways. For example, the features, audience, and development technology are all common between the three applications. In addition, they have related and overlapping purposes. Differentiating EIS has historical value in that such systems were developed separately from DSS and GDSS, but it also helps analysts understand manager's decision support needs. EIS focus on the information needs for decision making of senior managers. EIS are intended to help senior executives find problems, identify opportunities, forecast trends and make "fact based" decisions. EIS usually let managers "drill down" for more information and they try to avoid data overload for the manager.

Executive Information Systems and data warehousing technologies are converging in the marketplace. EIS used proprietary databases that required many staff people to update, maintain and create. This was very expensive. In addition, the data became obsolete quickly. For EIS vendors like Comshare the market for new EIS was small. Data warehouses and OLAP have made Executive Information Systems more powerful and more practical.

EIS report key results to managers. The performance measures in the EIS must be easy to understand and collect. Wherever possible, data should be collected as part of routine work processes. An EIS should not add substantially to the workload of managers or staff. Balanced Scorecard measurement software can be used to create an EIS (check http://balancedscorecard.org/ or http://www.pilotsw.com/).

EIS are enterprise-wide DSS that help senior managers analyze, compare, and highlight trends in essential variables so that they can monitor performance and identify opportunities and problems. EIS increase the ability of senior executives to monitor many activities and may help in reengineering efforts and in reducing the number of management levels in an organization.

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