DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
                July 4, 2004 -- Vol. 5, No. 14
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 


       Check the case by Anissa Stevens "Implementing
     the Redland Genstar Data Mart" at DSSResources.COM


* Ask Dan! - What is decision automation?
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases


What is decision automation?
by Dan Power 

Decision automation (DA) is a "hot" topic! Chapter 3 in my DSS book 
(Power, 2002) differentiates between decision systems, decision support 
systems (DSS) and special decision studies. A decision automation system 
is NOT a decision support system. In my book, I argue "routine decision 
situations should be analyzed and 'programmed' as much as is possible 
and they should be supported in most situations by technology. The 
potential rewards from improving routine, recurring decisions are 
usually very large (p. 39)." The concept of decision automation is 
deceptively simple and intriguingly complex. 

A narrow perspective suggests that a decision is a choice among defined 
alternative courses of action. Hence decision automation systems make 
choices among predefined alternatives.  From a broader perspective, a 
decision involves the complete process of gathering and evaluating 
information about a situation, identifying a need for a decision, 
identifying or in other ways defining relevant alternative courses of 
action, choosing the "best", the "most appropriate" or the "optimum" 
action, and then applying the solution and choice in the situation. 
Hence decision automation systems help automate all or part of a 
specific decision process. Automation refers to using technologies 
including computer processing to make decisions and implement programmed 
decision processes. Typically decision automation is considered most 
appropriate for well-structured, clearly defined, routine or programmed 
(cf., Simon, 1960) decision situations.

An automated decision process occurs without any "human" intervention. 
Decision making procedures are programmed and then the appropriate 
programs evaluate stored or "real time" data from sensors. Then using 
either algorithms based on quantitative models, logical or quantitative 
heuristics, statistical inference, or artificial intelligence 
technologies one or more actions are chosen to apply in the situation. 
The actions are taken by effectors including human or machine actors. An 
effector may change the value in a database, send a message or an alert, 
move an object or play a message.

Human decision makers determine the rules, models and methods used for 
making choices and completing decision tasks in programmed decision 
situations. Conceivably decision automation programs can "learn" from 
successes and failures and automatically improve and update the relevant 
stored procedures, rules or likelihoods.

Decision automation is a set of concepts, a related set of technologies, 
a set of methods and design tools, and an ambitious, general "goal". The 
range of decision tasks that can be automated has increased as 
technologies and design tools have improved. This technology evolution 
has also raised aspiration levels and created more challenging 
development goals. The overriding goal is to replace human decision 
makers in programmable decision situations where it can be demonstrated 
that the computer program's decision is at least as good as that of all 
or most human decision makers. The working assumption is that decision 
automation will be cost effective when compared to an equally skilled 
human decision maker in a programmed decision situation. The greatly 
expanded and evolving computing infrastructure makes it increasingly 
cost effective to apply decision automation in situations where that had 
been prohibitively costly.

Decision Automation Application Areas

The major improvements in computer processor speed, faster and larger 
capacity storage technologies, improved sensors, the ubiquity of the 
Internet and World-Wide Web and increased reliability of information 
technologies has greatly increased the number and diversity of decision 
automation applications and that trend is accelerating. Decision 
automation can assist in an air traffic control environment, in flexible 
manufacturing systems, in petroleum refining, in high-speed sorting 
systems, in tax decision automation, in intelligent monitoring and 
decision making in intensive care situations, in fruit grading, in 
real-time notification, in credit approval automation, in airborne 
collision avoidance systems, in building automation and facility 
management systems, in hardwood log breakdown, in laboratory management 
and automation systems, and in many other well understood decision 

The petrochemical and refining industry association (NPRA) is sponsoring 
a Plant Automation and Decision Support Conference September 20-21, 2004 
in San Antonio, Texas. In 2003, the NPRA Computer Conference was renamed 
the Plant Automation and Decision Support Conference. The automation 
people are also becoming more interested in decision support. 
AutomationWorld recently (June 2004) had a special issue titled 
"Decision Support: Getting a better view of your manufacturing data". 
Check .

On a related note, Rob Spiegel, Contributing Editor to 
AutomationWorld.COM, writes "Web technologies are proliferating through 
plant automation systems, letting managers review production and control 
data from anywhere they can access the Internet. So far, the bulk of 
Web-based plant monitoring is used to obtain production data (June 2004, 
page 34)." 

Decision Automation Topics

So what are the major research and content topics associated with 
decision automation? The fundamental topic is machine processing, the 
development of the "brain" of the decision automation system. 
Off-the-shelf central processing units are extremely powerful and 
parallel processing is affordable. Development technologies that are 
used for automating decision processing include AI systems, Bayesian 
networks, intelligent software agents, and neural networks. The storage 
or "memory" of the system is important, but major improvements have 
temporarily reduced the need for new breakthroughs. The goal for 
enhancing storage is always higher capacity in smaller devices with 
faster read/write capabilities. Sensors, the "input" devices of decision 
automation, are an important research area. We need better visual 
systems and more automated data collection. Radio frequency 
identification (RFID), global positioning systems (GPS), and environment 
monitoring technologies are all contributing to the expansion of sensing 
technologies. Finally, decision automation requires a means to 
communicate the machine's decision.  This task is the realm of 
"effectors", the "output" devices, that can modify a database, control a 
robot arm, or stop a production line. 

Bucklin, Lehmann, and Little (1998) predict that in the coming decades, 
a growing proportion of marketing decisions will be automated. In 2001, 
Henry Morris, IDC Vice President, wrote "Only when decision support 
moves to decision process automation, can we improve quality of 
decisions."  Randy Fields in a DSSResources.COM Thought Leader Interview 
expressed a similar, but more sophisticated view of the need for 
decision automation. Randy noted "What we have done is to take control 
away and let machines make the decisions. It is a fundamentally 
different view of the role of technology. We haven't built thermostatic 
systems that flash to people, little engineers running around, and tell 
them in better real time or audibly what the temperature in the room is. 
We have the sensors, coupled with processors make decisions and 
implement them. The humans just set the strategy." Decision automation 
is important and it has an expanding role in organizations, but there 
still remains a major role for human decision makers and hence for 
decision support systems.  Decision support can often improve decision 
quality in semi-structured situations where decision automation is not 
feasible or is undesirable.

To support the growth of this knowledge area, we initiated a new website 
Decision Automation Resources (DecisionAutomation.COM). This site 
focuses on using quantitative models, heuristics, statistical approaches 
and Artificial Intelligence technologies to make decisions in highly 
structured and routine decision situations. DSSResources.COM remains the 
"flagship" website for people interested in improving decision making 
and planning, but now Web users can also visit DecisionAutomation.COM 
and PlanningSkills.COM. Please tell your friends.

NOTE: DecisionAutomation.COM is still under construction.  If you have 
any suggestions with regards to types of content you would like to see 
there or know of related resources, please email us at .



Bucklin, R.E., D.R. Lehmann, and J.D.C. Little, "Decision Support to 
Decision Automation: A 2020 Vision", MSI working paper, 1998.

Morris, H., "Decision Support vs. Decision Process Automation," 
IDC Viewpoint, August 2001,

Power, D. J., Decision Support Systems: Concepts and Resources for 
Managers, Westport, CT: Greenwood/Quorum, 2002.

Power, D. J., "Randy Fields Interview: Automating 'Administrivia' 
Decisions", DSSResources.COM, 04/09/2004.

Simon, H.A. (1960). The New Science of Management Decision. New 
York, NY: Harper and Row.


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What's New at DSSResources.COM

07/02/2004 Posted case by Anissa Stevens, "Implementing the Redland 
Genstar Data Mart". Check the cases page.


DSS News - June 21 to July 2, 2004
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

07/02/2004 Nextel Partners delivers new mobile workforce management tool 
with ActSoft Comet Tracker.

07/01/2004 Cognos honors Niteo Partners again for outstanding 
achievement in solution and channel sales.

07/01/2004 Fair Isaac's Fraud Management tools and best practices help 
clamp down on UK payment card fraud. 

07/01/2004 Agile Software makes grant to University of Texas at Dallas 
School of Management.

07/01/2004 Business Objects announces BusinessObjects 6.5.

07/01/2004 Actuate to host Eighth Annual International User Conference.

06/30/2004 Harrah's wins national award for return on information 
technology investments.

06/30/2004 Hyperion Essbase 7.1 generally available.

06/30/2004 Darden Restaurants implements kitchen technology from QSR 

06/30/2004 DRS Technologies selected by the U.S. Army for production of 
Battlefield Digitization System.

06/30/2004 Evolution Robotics expands product line with ERSP 3.0 for 

06/30/2004 Airlines distinguish themselves with service, leveraging 
Sabre Airline Solutions' new technology for the Travel Industry.

06/30/2004 Teradata announces Basel II and risk-management enhancements 
in latest Teradata Financial Services logical data model.

06/29/2004 Boeing showcases net-centric operations capabilities at 
newest node.

06/29/2004 Lockheed Martin demonstrates improved human alerting 
capability for U.S. Navy.

06/29/2004 Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services powers unprecedented 
collaboration opportunities for and adoption by customers worldwide.

06/29/2004 Informatica continues to lead data integration market, says 
independent research firm. 

06/29/2004 SIG standardizes on the Documentum platform.

06/29/2004 Cognos Enterprise Planning series enhances and extends the 
accessibility, functionality, and usability of Excel into the planning 

06/29/2004 Jostens standardizes on Siebel Analytics for business 

06/29/2004 U.S. Army National Guard expands Polycom Voice and Video 
Network as part of communications modernization plan.

06/29/2004 Oracle(R) Database 10g sets performance World Record for 
Linux on non-clustered systems.

06/29/2004 Owens Corning delivers $1.8 Million in savings in just seven 
months using Emptoris' ExpenseMap.

06/29/2004 MAPICS and Cognos partner to deliver powerful business 
intelligence solution for world-class manufacturers.

06/29/2004 Verticalnet releases Supply Management 5.1 Suite; solution 
supports full supply management lifecycle; delivers value at all levels 
of organization.

06/28/2004 Sun contributes four Java breakthroughs to Open Source 
community including 'Project Looking Glass' and JAVA 3D.

06/28/2004 Best Software's Timberline(R) Office secures high ratings, 
increased use for accounting, estimating, and project management in 2004 
CFMA Industry survey.

06/28/2004 More than 150 Global Retailers rely on Ascential Software to 
improve productivity and streamline supply chains.

06/28/2004 Cognos establishes global innovation center to advance 'next' 
practices in planning and performance management.

06/28/2004 Hyperion helps optimize retail performance.

06/25/2004 ABQAURP Medical Officer calls for improved clincal IT 
systems; Physicians rally for patient safety at healthcare technology 

06/24/2004 Citrix GoToMeeting Corporate cuts unpredictable and expensive 
online meeting fees for businesses.

06/23/2004 COMDEX® Las Vegas 2004 postponed.

06/23/2004 WebSurveyor releases new invitation management system.

06/23/2004 Oracle's latest partner management application to help 
organizations connect more closely with partners and drive growth.

06/23/2004 Choice Hotels uses IBM Software and Business Objects to drive 
business intelligence deployment.

06/23/2004 WebEx Enterprise edition helps reduce costs and improve 
collaboration at Avaya.

06/23/2004 Experian-Scorex launches Connect+.

06/23/2004 Veridiem launches new marketing optimization platform; 
Veridiem 2 delivers datest open-standards technologies for 
enterprise-wide marketing performance management.

06/22/2004 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island expands its 
Interwoven implementation to include collaboration and document 

06/22/2004 SGI and IDELIX bring cutting edge visualization solutions for 

06/22/2004 Ascential Software delivers on-demand data integration for 

06/22/2004 New Viewlocity release signals future of supply chain 

06/22/2004 Quest Software simplifies database code optimization with 
version 8.0 of Toad for Oracle.

06/22/2004 Teradata positioned in leader quadrant in Data Warehouse 
Magic Quadrant.

06/21/2004 U.S. Army Deploys Autonomy for Army Knowledge Online Portal.

06/21/2004 DFAS Portal Named Among the World's 10 Best Government 

06/21/2004 Financial institution deploys MindBox's ARTOptimize 
technology for automated loan cross-selling.

06/21/2004 BPM Partners ships new Healthcare Industry-specific 

06/21/2004 University of New Mexico deploys ePocrates integrated 
Hospital Clinical Reference system-wide.

06/21/2004 MicroStrategy releases Unix-based, high performance business 
intelligence platform.

06/21/2004 U.S. Army deploys Autonomy for Army Knowledge Online Portal.

06/21/2004 DFAS portal named among the World's 10 Best Government 

06/21/2004 IDeaS Revenue Optimization helps Venetian Hotel set revenue 
records in 2003 and 2004.

06/21/2004 BPM Partners ships new healthcare industry-specific 

06/21/2004 Documentum delivers latest version of hosted 
collaboration environment.


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