DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
                June 6, 2004 -- Vol. 5, No. 12
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 


   Check the article by Dunnigan "The Operations Research
    Revolution Rolls On, To Where?" at DSSResources.COM


* Ask Dan! - What is a Planning Support System?
* What's New? at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases


  2004 Crystal Ball User Conference, June 17-18, Denver, CO


What is a Planning Support System?
by Dan Power 

Reading the trade press, academic articles and web sites forces those of 
us interested in computerized support for decision making to make some 
sense of a wide array of buzzwords. Henry Morris is now arguing for 
"decision-centric BI" with the acronym DCBI; Julie Hall is pushing BI 
for CRM; and Richard Hackathorn is promoting eXtreme Data Warehousing or 
X-DW (see DM Review, June 2004). Much of the challenge to us comes from 
consultants and vendors trying to find a new product niche and create 
interest in a technology development.  Some of the challenge comes from 
drawing ever narrower distinctions and creating narrow categories 
related to the purpose of computerized support.  This Ask Dan! moves up 
to a broad category of computerized systems -- Planning Support Systems. 
The acronym PSS is sometimes used for these systems, but I have also 
seen the acronym PDSS used for Planning and Decision Support System. 
Working on the new PlanningSkills.COM website has forced me to 
investigate the PSS and PDSS for an evolving content channel on planning 
technologies. So what is a PSS? Is a PSS different than a DSS?

Computerized planning support systems are a sub-class of decision 
support systems (DSS) that serve a special purpose, assisting a person 
in completing planning analyses and tasks. Some general planning tasks 
that can be supported using software and computerized systems include 
gathering planning relevant information, evaluating courses of actions, 
preparing plans and monitoring results and evaluating contingencies.

For many years, Planning Support Systems were primarily model-driven 
DSS, but some data-driven DSS were also used for situation monitoring 
and control and for processing ad hoc database queries to obtain 
information needed during a planning process. In some situations 
communications-driven DSS are useful in supporting distributed planning 
activities. Also, a number of software vendors have attempted over the 
years to develop knowledge-driven DSS to support specific planning 
domains like strategic business planning. So far, knowledge-driven DSS 
for planning support have been unsuccessful. Finally, building 
document-driven DSS for supporting planning tasks is a major opportunity 
that has not been adequately explored and exploited.

Specialized planning support systems and software have been developed 
for project management, budget planning and management, operations and 
supply chain optimization, resource allocation and scheduling.

The targeted user for a planning support system of whatever type DSS is 
a planner. A person in filling a planning role may be a line manager and 
decision maker or a staff specialist. Staff specialists in finance or 
marketing who have a planning role may use a planning support system and 
they may develop more customized computer support as part of a special 

>From my perspective the classic book about planning support and 
computerized planning special studies was written by Professor Tom 
Naylor and published in 1979. Naylor's book Corporate Planning Models 
developed a theory of corporate planning modeling, reviewed the state of 
practice up to 1978, and "outlined a systematic approach to the design, 
development, and implementation of corporate planning models (p. iv)."

Naylor reviewed financial planning models, marketing forcasting models, 
econometric marketing models, production planning models, and an 
integrated corporate planning model. His book also included 4 case 
studies and a discussion of SIMPLAN, a planning and modeling system. 
Naylor's case studies describe model-driven, computerized planning 
support at Hammermill Paper Company, Dresser Industries, CIBA-GEIGY, and 
Tennesse Valley Authority (TVA). Often planning situations involve 
development of computer support for a special study rather than 
development of a planning support system for ongoing analysis and use.

Currently, the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), an 
initiative within University College London, focuses on emerging 
computer technologies in several disciplines that deal with geography, 
space, location, and the urban environment. The Director of CASA is 
Michael Batty, Professor of Spatial Analysis and Planning at University 
College London. The CASA website ( notes 
"Planning support systems (PSS) was popularised by Britton Harris in the 
late 1980s as he sought to link GIs to the constellation of techniques 
of modelling and optimisation which had emerged to support the planning 
process since the 1960s. One of our best examples of PSS and SDSS is in 
our PROPOLIS project where we are building GIS interfaces to land use 
transport models."

A Netherlands natural resources research group, The International 
Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation called ITC 
encourages the use of planning support systems. The ITC website 
( notes "Development, evaluation and selection of 
proper policy, plans, scenario, project or interventions are among the 
very important decisions in the natural resource and environmental 
management. Planning in such an environment, which includes a variety of 
complex social, ecological, economical, and cultural processes, requires 
proper tools/method/procedures integrated in a system called a 'Planning 
Support System' (PSS). PSS's, are aiming at rationalizing planning and 
its related decision making processes. It aims at providing necessary 
support to systematically analyze the information, finding and 
formulating the problems, structuring and formulating the alternative 
options, policies, scenarios, and plans, assessing and evaluating their 
impacts (considering objectives of the relevant stakeholders), and 
finally selecting and recommending a proper solution."

On the commercial side, Skymark ( sells a 
software package called PathMaker. They claim it should be your 
Strategic Planning Software. The website claims "PathMaker is designed 
to provide the infrastructure for systematic planning, review, and the 
movement of ideas through hierarchies. The tools for evaluating a 
purpose, or for reaching consensus, are built in. The project pathway 
provides a facility for reference, sharing, and documenting. There is 
also a pathway template for Strategic Planning, which is a fairly 
generic synthesis of the various steps recommended by different 

Another PSS package is GroupMind Express 
( GroupMind Express helps a user 
structure a set of steps into a planning process. "Move from divergent 
to convergent thinking, develop a result from diverse input, yet with 
solid buy-in." GroupMind according to the website, "lets you hold online 
meetings, build project workspaces, and create quick intranets, all with 
built in interaction between people." GroupMind Express seems very 
similar to GroupSystems ( and other 
model-driven group DSS, but it is specifically target for planning 
support. Vendors should send me information about other commercial 
off-the-shelf Planning Support Systems.

Computers have gotten faster, the user interfaces have improved 
tremendously, planning support is more accessible to managers and 
planners, and the development software is more powerful and easier to 
use, but the basic theory, the database technologies and the range of 
possible planning models has remained largely unchanged. Planning 
support systems help managers and planners in anticipatory decision 
making situations --> planning situations.


Naylor, T. H., Corporate Planning Models, Readings, MA: Addison-Wesley, 


              Check http://PlanningSkills.COM


What's New? at DSSResources.COM

05/28/2004 Posted article by James F. Dunnigan, "The Operations Research 
Revolution Rolls On, To Where?".


         Put your ad here!  Reach hundreds of people
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DSS News - May 24 to June 4, 2004
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