Academy Serves As Collaborative Hub for World’s Leading Researchers in Advanced Decision Support

Omaha, NE, Sept. 20, 2002 -- Executives the world over are responsible for making decisions that affect the future of their organizations. The road to these decisions, no matter how different in content, follows the same pattern of thought.

Jerry Wagner has this pattern down cold. A successful software technology entrepreneur, Dr. Wagner has brought his innovation and expertise to UNO to launch the International Academy for Advanced Decision Support (IAADS).

The academy, housed in the UNO College of Information Science and Technology at The Peter Kiewit Institute, is a collaboration of the world’s best minds in the field of Decision Support Systems (DSS). Their collective goal: to define the next generation of decision support technology and its use.

“Simply put, DSS is the provision of software tools to help managers make decisions between alternatives,” said Dr. Wagner, founder/director of IAADS and one of the leaders of the DSS movement. As a field of teaching and research, DSS had its beginnings more than two decades ago. Dr. Wagner was there at the start, along with Peter Keen, the field’s leading spokesperson, author and visionary.

In 1978, Dr. Wagner left a faculty research position at the University of Texas at Austin to start his first software company, Execucom. It quickly became a leading force in the DSS field, including sponsoring its first conference. The company was acquired by GTE in 1984 after becoming one of the 10 largest software companies in the world.

Dr. Wagner went on to found and subsequently sell three additional companies in Austin, all of which revolved around his simple yet creative commercial software interfaces. He’s also the originator of the “war room” concept and created the first operational prototype of such a facility.

“Information technology has become a routine part of standard operating procedures in organizations,” Dr. Wagner said. “The use of decision support technology, however, still remains peripheral to supporting the most important responsibilities of today’s executive – leadership in making the decisions that make a significant difference to an organization’s future, and response to the waves of change that mark today’s business environment and what the future holds.”

Enter IAADS.

Dr. Wagner got his first whiff of Omaha’s entrepreneurial high tech environment while visiting his mother in Norfolk. “I started hearing things about The Peter Kiewit Institute and did some checking,” the Nebraska native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate said. “Omaha felt like Austin did 15 years ago.”

The Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI), which opened in 1999, was developed to train and prepare students for careers in the rapidly growing technology industry. With special emphasis on its partnerships with business and industry, PKI supports the UNO College of Information Science and Technology, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering and Technology.

Dr. Wagner arrived at UNO in October of 2001 and began assembling IAADS – a team of the world’s leading experts in DSS. To date, the academy has 35 affiliates throughout the United States and in the Netherlands, Germany, France, New Zealand, Portugal, Mexico, China and Denmark. His goal is to top out at 50.

“In these times of complexity, stress and uncertainty, we are here to help executives get the highest value from decision technologies targeted to decisions that really matter for the success of their firm,” Dr. Wagner said.

Their collective work centers on five main principles:

- To focus decision support on decisions that truly matter;

- To help managers visualize the future, rather than just providing them with numbers;

- To help mobilize knowledge on demand and provide personal portals for people;

- To provide measurable payoffs in terms of direct impact on the financial structures of the firm and the productivity of its people;

- To help people be creative by leveraging their best thinking and judgment.

The focus of the brain trust is on applied research – work that will have an immediate value in the business marketplace. “As we identify projects with corporations and organizations, we go to our pool of resources and pull in the best available minds,” Dr. Wagner said.

For example, the academy is poised to launch a new multi media initiative, which could dramatically change the way people use the Web. “Of those who shop online, only 27 percent of items placed into shopping carts go to check out and purchase,” Dr. Wagner said. “We are developing software applications that combine design principles, sound, motion, animation and other emerging technologies that will make the Web more engaging, more entertaining and more effective at what it sets out to do. This is truly new frontier stuff.”

UNO students will be involved in the development and marketing of these software applications.

On another front, a team of IAADS experts is building a model for the process of selecting patients for liver transplants at the Lied Transplant Center, an entity of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Health System. This model has the potential to become a national standard for transplant centers, Dr. Wagner noted.

The academy is also equipped to facilitate the acquisition of seed capital funding for projects that have the potential for significant commercial value. “The freedom and entrepreneurial spirit that exist here are powerful incentives for success,” Dr. Wagner said. “If someone has an idea that sells, he or she can run with it.”

Future plans for the academy include the hosting of an annual IAADS Thought Leaders Summit, the first of which is scheduled for Oct. 20-22; the development of an Internet curriculum for the next generation of decision support technology developers; the creation of a quarterly online journal; and the creation of a one-day executive retreat on decision support technology.

For more information about IAADS, contact Dr. Wagner at x4-2562 or