DSS News is a free biweekly newsletter from DSSResources.COM about
Decision Support Systems.


                         DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
                January 2, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 1
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 


                Check Dan Power's new book
     Decision Support Systems: Frequently Asked Questions



* Ask Dan! - Is decision automation a hot topic? Does using a DSS 
   require statistical expertise?
* New book just released -- Dan Power's DSS FAQ
* DSS News Releases


Ask Dan!

Is decision automation a hot topic? Does using a DSS require statistical

by Dan Power 

YES and NO. Decision automation refers to using technologies including
computer processing to make decisions and implement programmed decision
processes. Decision Support Systems (DSS) are interactive computer-based systems
and subsystems intended to help decision makers use communications
technologies, data, documents, knowledge and/or models to complete decision process
tasks. Regular readers of DSS News knew the answers to these questions! So
why do I raise these issues now? Some people still don't understand the
decision support systems (DSS) concept and how it relates to decision
automation systems (DAS).

Recently, guru, pundit and Information Systems professor Tom Davenport
mentioned decision support systems in his column in CIO magazine. That's the
good news; the bad news is that he's "muddied the waters" about the DSS
concept. I'm writing this column to set the record straight, to possibly
attract Tom's attention and to demonstrate the ongoing problem we have with
managing DSS knowledge. Tom's October 1, 2004 CIO column was titled Decision
Evolution. I came across it while searching for materials about DSS/IS trends
and developments for the years ahead.
Davenport asserts "Automated systems are helping businesses make decisions
more productively and consistently. But they're also making a lot of
entry-level jobs obsolete. Executives had better be prepared to manage the
transition." OK,  this trend is occuring and decision automation deserves more
attention from those of us interested in DSS.  At DSSResources.COM we
published a Thought Leader Interview with Randy Fields titled "Automating
'Administrivia' Decisions" on April 9, 2004 and in May 2004 we started a new
website named DecisionAutomation.COM. Decision Automation is a hot IT-oriented
topic. Randy Fields argued the impact of automating decision making is going
to be on managers. He thinks decision automation systems will reduce the
number of managers that organizations need. So the impact of DAS will
probably extend well beyond entry-level jobs that involve computation tasks.

So what's my complaint with Tom Davenport's article? He notes correctly
that artificial intelligence (AI) and decision support systems (DSS) are the
"parents of automated decision making". He asserts DSS were "ultimately
disappointing despite lots of favorable hype" and he writes decision support
systems "never really flourished, despite being the darling of academics for
decades, perhaps because they required too much statistical expertise and
too much human analysis for these lean times." We have had disappointments
with implementing DSS, but DSS in general have been successful.  More
importantly, DSS don't require statistical expertise.  Perhaps Tom is thinking
of data mining or Bayesian analysis tools and calling them DSS. As far as
his criticism that DSS require "too much human analysis", that may sometimes
happen. Perhaps the problem is a design issue or a function of user
frustration, lack of training or impatience.  DSS are adjunct, support systems. 
The intent of DSS developers is to keep humans in the decision loop.  The
goal of decision automation systems is to replace human decision makers with
a technology solution. We need both types of computerized systems.

A decision automation system (DAS) serves a different purpose in a
different context than does a decision support system (DSS). Davenport notes "For
the most part, these systems are being used for decisions that must be made
frequently and very rapidly using information available online. The
decision domains are relatively highly structured, with well-understood decision
factors." DSS work best in semi-structured decision situations where some
human judgements or analyses are needed. Data-driven DSS exist because a
person wants or needs to analyze the results of a database query. A
model-driven DSS is built to help a decision maker examine the sensitivity of a model
or to conduct "what if" analysis and then perhaps finalize an estimate or
a forecast. Decision automation systems exist because information
technologies can make some decisions better, faster and at a lower cost than can a
human decision maker. 

Tom recites a litany of decision automation applications: yield management
systems in airlines, optimizing hotel room rates, insurance underwriting
and evaluating home equity loan applications. The applications are growing
because the cost of deploying technology is declining and because our
understanding of structured decision situations is increasing.  Building decision
automation systems remains a challenging task.  Tom correctly notes the
need for more people trained to build and maintain decision automation
systems. You can read more about decision automation in my July 4, 2004 column in
DSS News titled "What is decision automation?"

Davenport concludes "Businesses need to incorporate automated decision
making into their strategies and processes or they won't be successful for
long. There is simply too much data, and too many decisions to be made on it,
for organizations to pass on this technology. Some jobs may be lost, but
firms that improve their productivity in this manner will at least remain in

I agree with Tom about the importance of automated decision making, he
captured my attention. Now please Tom, get your facts about DSS correct.  If
we are to effectively manage our knowledge about computerized decision
support systems, it is important that we all protect the integrity of our
concepts. When you see Tom Davenport remind him of the heritage, definition and
scope of DSS.

Tom Davenport is a Fellow with the Accenture Institute for High
Performance Business and holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and
Management at Babson College. Contact him by email at
or contact


Davenport, T. "Decision Evolution". CIO Magazine, October 1, 2004, . 

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

Power, D. J., "What is decision automation?", DSS News, Vol. 5, No. 14,
July 4, 2004.


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     interested in DSS with information on your product
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New book just released -- Dan Power's DSS FAQ

Cedar Falls, IA, December 23, 2004 -- Dr. Dan Power's new DSS reference
book was released today by iUniverse ( Decision Support
Systems: Frequently Asked Questions is the authoritative guide to
computerized Decision Support Systems. The ISBN is 0-595-33971-9. The book is ready
for advance order at in paperback at USD $20.95 and hardcover
at USD$30.95. The eBook is available at USD $6.00. You can browse the Table
of Contents and Chapter 1 online at http://dssresources- . 

In this DSS FAQ, Dr. Power answers 83 frequently asked questions about
computerized decision support systems. The FAQ covers a broad range of
contemporary topics and the questions are organized into 8 chapters. DSS FAQ helps
readers understand questions like: What is a DSS? What kind of DSS does Mr.
X need? Does data modeling differ for a Data-Driven DSS? Is a Data
Warehouse a DSS? Is tax preparation software an example of a DSS? What do I need
to know about Data Warehousing/OLAP? What is a cost estimation DSS? What is
a Spreadsheet-based DSS? 

Decision Support Systems: Frequently Asked Questions is a useful resource
for IT specialists, students, professors and managers. It organizes
important Ask Dan! questions (with answers) published in DSS News from 2000
through 2004.

Author Dan Power has spent almost 30 years building, studying and teaching
others about computerized Decision Support Systems. Dr. Power is first and
foremost a Decision Support evangelist and generalist. From his vantage
point as editor of DSSResources.COM, he tracks a broad range of contemporary
DSS topics. 


          Have Questions? Post to the Web Forum at
            DSSResources.COM -- Free registration


DSS News - December 20 to December 31, 2004
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

12/31/2004 Help is on the way; American Red Cross sending initial $30
million in aid to help with immediate relief efforts.

12/30/2004 Aidmatrix offers to help individuals and businesses make
meaningful impact in Asian Tsunami relief efforts.

12/29/2004 Top 10 myths of disaster relief.

12/29/2004 Oracle launches 'Mastering J2EE Application Development

12/28/2004 In 2004, the FCC approved a new generation of wireless devices
promising to revolutionize communications - but not without a lawyer's
helping hand.

12/28/2004 InSys Consulting launches Web-based knowledge library.

12/28/2004 Bethpage Federal Credit Union commits to Experion Systems'
automated advice technology.

12/28/2004 State and local outsourcing spending flattened by election year
controversy in 2004; significant growth forecasted in 2007.

12/28/2004 Borland embeds Crystal Reports from Business Objects in new
Delphi 2005.

12/28/2004 Edward Hospital and Health Services standardizes on Business
Objects for improved enterprise performance.

12/27/2004 Seasonal Wrap-up: MasterCard sees 17.9% growth in transaction
volume over its network for 2004 Holiday Season.

12/27/2004 Comair welcomes DOT review of holiday flight cancellations as
airline continues to cooperate closely with regulatory agencies.

12/23/2004 New book just released -- Decision Support Systems: Frequently
Asked Questions by Dr. Dan Power.

12/23/2004 Red Herring names one of 2004's top 100
innovative companies.

12/22/2004 Enesco implements upgraded legacy software platform to replace
ERP system.

12/22/2004 Global ePoint provides next-generation digital video command
communication system for Peterson Air Force Base.

12/22/2004 Robotics, knowledge-based engineering information days
highlight upcoming OMG meeting.

12/22/2004 Business Intelligence doesn't have to be just a buzz phrase.

12/22/2004 Park City Group highlights its labor scheduling solution at
international conference.

12/21/2004 Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Time Inc. to headline ProClarity
Business Intelligence conference.

12/20/2004 AMR Research finds Wal-Mart suppliers spent only minimum
required to comply with RFID mandate.

12/20/2004 Forrester Research finds enterprise IT spending intentions show
modest growth for 2005; Majority of IT decision-makers optimistic.

12/20/2004 New Year's resolution to examine your career?.

12/20/2004 Group Health Cooperative maintains fiscal fitness with


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