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


                          DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
             February 13, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 5
        A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 

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* Ask Dan! - How can and should students collect field information about
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    83 frequently asked questions about computerized DSS

Ask Dan!

How can and should students collect field information about DSS?

by Dan Power

At least half of the Ask Dan! email questions come from students studying
Decision Support Systems in an undergraduate or graduate academic program.
Recently, Soma asked "I have a project in DSS ... for the project I must go
to any company and ask them about DSS and ask how they make decisions. But
I don't know what questions I should ask and what person in the company
will help me. Could you help me plz."

Soma's question raises a number of issues for me, some troubling and some
reasonably trivial. Among the issues include: Is this a worthwhile
assignment? What guidance or direction should be given to students in completing
this assignment?  Should a protocol or question list be provided the student
or is the inquiry best left unstructured?  How will managers in a company
react to such a request and assignment?  Let's examine each issue one at a

Is this a worthwhile assignment? 

MAYBE. I have used a similar assignment. Having students in a DSS class
meet with and interview a manager or Information Systems staff member is
often enlightening, stimulating and useful. Note I used the word "often"
because such an assignment can be especially difficult for students located in small
college communities and in some countries. Also, the more knowledge a
student has about DSS when they conduct a field interview the better. The worst
situation occurs when a student is uncertain about what is meant by a
decision support system and when the helpful manager has little knowledge of
DSS. Soma's assignment is two pronged in that s/he needs to "ask them about
DSS and ask how they make decisions".  My guess is that most managers would
have trouble explaining "how they make decisions". Also, depending upon the
job of a manager, s/he may only participate in part of a decision process.
In general, my sense is that focusing on either the DSS or decision making
question is best for advanced undergraduates.  For graduate students, both
questions can be used, but the student needs to start the interview by
asking about the "job" of the manager.  Information Systems staff can discuss
DSS in an organization, especially enterprise-wide systems, but they won't
usually have many details about specific decision making activities and

What guidance or direction should be given to students in completing this
assignment? If a student is faced with this assignment, how should they

In general, this type of assignment assumes a knowledgeable person will
cooperate with the student. Students should check with parents, relatives and
their friends for recommendations of people to contact. If the student
feels they must make "a cold call", then they need to be prepared to do much
more work to gain access to a "key informant". The first step is to find
some background information on the company.  Try to determine that the company
is likely using computerized decision support.  But today even some small
companies are using DSS.  A local pharmacist may use a knowledge-driven DSS
to help check for drug interactions while filling a prescription.  A local
bank lending officer may use a decision support system to help evaluate
loan applications.  An estimator at a construction company may use a cost
estimation DSS.

As in any situation where a student wants help from community members, it
is important to be polite and explain the assignment and explain why the
specific company or manager is the best source of information. A student may
need to persuade a few people that the interview is necessary, useful or
even a reasonable request.  My Strategic Management Skills (Power et al.,
1986) book provides some suggestions for conducting interviews that I'll
paraphrase and summarize:

1. Become familiar with as much background information as is possible
before conducting an interview.

2. Ask friends, relatives, professors, and contacts if they would be
willing to refer you to people they know.

3. When setting up an interview, explain who you are and what you are
doing. Do not misrepresent yourself.

4. If no one in a company can be identified beforehand, ask to speak with
someone in public relations or personnel. They may be able to refer you and
help set up an interview.

5. When arranging an interview, choose a time convenient for your
interviewee. Also realize, especially in the case of a busy executive, that
interview time will be limited. Clarify exactly how much time you will need and
how much time the interviewee has available. 

6. If more than one interviewer will be present at an interview or if you
want to tape record the conversation to ensure complete notes, mention
these requests with the interviewee in advance. Never begin an interview with
unexpected requests.

7. When preparing for an interview, develop a few key questions to ask.
Specific questions ensure that you get desired information. Remember, time
will be short so it is usually possible to ask only seven or eight questions.
Several minutes before the end of the scheduled time, ask the interviewee
an open-ended question like "Is there anything else about DSS at your
company that we have not discussed that I should know?"  This type of question
may give you additional insights.

8. During the interview, spend most of your time listening. Also take
detailed notes that can be used later. Look at the person you are interviewing
occasionally, don’t focus only on taking notes.

9. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewee and ask if he or she
has any questions or requests. You should also write a thank-you note. 

10. After the interview, review your notes and summarize them as soon as
possible. This step will reduce the amount of information lost due to gaps
in your memory or notes.

Should a protocol or question list be provided the student or is the
inquiry best left unstructured? 

In general, students can benefit from constructing their own question
list.  Also, the list should be targeted to who will be interviewed and to what
can be discovered in advance about the person’s job, role and position
in the company. The Decision Support Readiness Audit questions in the DSS
Concepts book (2002) may provide a starting point for some types of
interviews. In general, one might ask "Has your firm implemented any computerized
systems to support decision making? If so, are you using any of the systems?
What are the most important decisions that you make? Does your company have
an Executive Information System? If so, when was it implemented? Who uses
it?" If possible, the course instructor/professor should review the
interview questions prior to the actual interview.

How will managers in a company react to such a request and assignment?

Generally, my experience is that the reaction of managers and Information
Systems staff is supportive and in some cases one of curiosity.  Decision
support systems and decision making are interesting topics for managers.  If
a student interviewer is well prepared, a manager can learn from
reflecting upon the questions the student asks and hence will benefit.  Contributing
to the preparation of the next generation of DSS developers is also
perceived as a worthwhile reason to participate. Professors, managers, IS staff
and students can benefit from this type of assignment. My trepidation comes
from the fact that some students are poorly prepared to undertake such an
assignment and hence create ill-will rather than goodwill in the community. 
So Soma make sure you understand the definition of DSS and know something
about what types of DSS exist currently in organizations; learn something
about DSS and decision making in class before you venture out to do an
interview.  Recognize that someone is helping you so be prepared to conduct a
professional interview, be courteous and say thanks.


Huber, G. P. and Power D.J. Retrospective Reports of Strategic-Level
Managers: Guidelines for Increasing Their Accuracy. Strategic Management
Journal, April-June 1985, 6(2), pp. 171-180.

Power, D. J., Gannon, M., McGinnis, M. and Schweiger, D., Strategic
Management Skills, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1986.

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


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           DSSResources.COM -- Free registration


DSS Conferences

Call for Papers

1. 16th International Conference on Database and Expert Systems
Applications (DEXA 2005), August 22 - August 26, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark, abstracts
due February 19, 2005. Check

2. 8th International DSS Conference of AIS SIG DSS, 12-15th July 2005,
Porto Alegre, Brazil, papers due February 27, 2005.

3. AMCIS 2005 will be held in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, August 11th - 14th,
2005. Deadline for paper submission is March 1, 2005.

4. First International Workshop on Business Process Intelligence (BPI 05)
in Nancy, France, September 5, 2005, papers due March 18, 2005.

5. International workshop on Context Modeling and Decision Support in
Paris, July 5th, 2005, submission deadline is March 25, 2005.

6. 2005 DSI Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 19-22, 2005, paper
deadline April 1, 2005. Check

Upcoming Conferences

1. The 2005 Semantic Technology Conference will be held March 7-10, 2005,
Stanford Court Hotel, San Francisco, CA, Check

2. Second International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis
Response and Management (ISCRAM 2005), Brussels, April 18-20, 2005, Check 

PLEASE NOTE: Dr. Dan Power will be discussing DSS for Crisis Response and
Management at ISCRAM 2005.

3. DAMA+Metadata -- 9TH Annual Wilshire Meta-Data Conference and the 17TH
Annual DAMA International Symposium, May 22-26, 2005, Orlando, Florida USA.

PLEASE NOTE: DSSResources.COM and DSS News are Media Sponsors of

4. 2005 Crystal Ball User Conference will be held June 13-15, 2005 at the
Marriott Denver City Center, Denver, Colorado.

5. 2005 DSI International Meeting, Barcelona, Spain, July 3-6, 2005. 

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

02/11/2005 Posted interview with Clyde Holsapple "Big Picture about DSS".


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

DSS News - January 29 to February 11, 2005
Read articles at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

02/11/2005 Baseline ROI Leadership awards to be held at Pebble Beach;
Deadline extended.

02/11/2005 Information sharing: Best Practices research report on
optimizing resources through effective knowledge management.

02/11/2005 TCI unveils new demand forecasting and replenishment solution;
reduces out-of-stocks and improves margins and customer service for
02/10/2005 New study shows computerized Decision Support System reduces
medical errors and cuts healthcare costs.

02/10/2005 BPM Partners assembles one of the largest performance
management consulting teams in North America; unique network now includes more than
200 performance management experts.

02/10/2005 Gateway Notebook PC breaks battery life barrier to provide all
day computing.

02/10/2005 Petrofac refines performance management with Cognos Controller.

02/09/2005 Citrix GoToMeeting wins more than 2,000 business customers in
first six months of availability.

02/08/2005 Microsoft outlines developer benefits for building connected

02/08/2005 Lucent Technologies wires Army base for state-of-the-art
videoconferencing capability.

02/07/2005 Knowledge Computing Corporation wins integrated law and justice
contract to deploy COPLINK(R) across Orange County, California.

02/07/2005 PubSub to provide real-time earthquake notification via email,
Instant Messaging and RSS.

02/04/2005 Call for Papers: AAAI Fall Symposium on Explanation-Aware
Computing (ExaCt 2005), November 3-6, 2005, Washington DC (USA).

02/04/2005 Teradata ships data warehouse solution with breakthrough
business-intelligence capability.

02/04/2005 welcomes President Bush's renewed call for
improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs.

02/03/2005 Catholic Health East continues leadership in innovation; CHE
selects Surgical Information Systems as solution partner for automated
intelligence in surgery.

02/03/2005 SAIC's VACIS(R) cargo, vehicle and contraband inspection
systems to be installed at Honduran Customs facilities.

02/03/2005 MicroStrategy hosts online event to launch next generation
business intelligence technology.

02/02/2005 Competitive Intelligence Society announces award recipients.

02/02/2005 Autotask named finalist in Codie Award's "Best Business
Productivity Product or Service" category.

02/02/2005 ClickSoftware announces the availability of version 7.5 of its
leading ServiceOptimization suite.

02/02/2005 MicroStrategy honors five organizations for excellence in
enterprise-class business intelligence.

02/02/2005 Harrah's adds new technology to its recipe for success; Avero
Inc.'s Slingshot business intelligence software helps improve customer
service and the bottom line.

02/02/2005 Worldwide handheld market experiences third straight year of
decline, according to IDC.

02/01/2005 Academia, science, government and enterprise grids come
together at GlobusWORLD 2005, Feb. 7-11, 2005 in Boston.

02/01/2005 Sun unveils next steps in its vision of 'The Network is the
Computer' through radical simplification and a call to 'Share in the Power of
the Grid'.

02/01/2005 CorVu announces latest ADX technology that streamlines data
collection for performance management initiatives.

02/01/2005 Hungarian Border Guard deploys incident management and tracking
system based on Intergraph's Geospatial Data Management solution.

02/01/2005 Stellent releases Universal Content Management 7.5.

02/01/2005 The OLAP Report empowers technology purchasing decisions.

02/01/2005 See FileMaker Pro 7 in person during Apple Store business days
in February.

02/01/2005 Safeway selects DemandTec for consumer demand management.

01/31/2005 SugarCRM adds point-and-click customization to open source CRM
platform, enabling non-technical users to adapt and portalize suite without

01/31/2005 Intergraph 2005 Geospatial Achievement and Cartographic
Excellence awards programs now accepting entries.

01/31/2005 ClearForest sees growing adoption of text analytics solutions
in business intelligence market.

01/31/2005 Netezza inks deal with Ahold USA.

01/31/2005 Mindjet MindManager X5 Pro named 2005 Codie finalist for best
business productivity product.

01/31/2005 DataCert announces legal business intelligence tool; DataCert
delivers AIMS analytics for ad-hoc reporting and data analysis.

01/31/2005 NetReflector announces VantagePoint; Powerful online analytics
provide enterprise users with actionable customer intelligence for
better-informed business decisions.

01/31/2005 MicroStrategy unveils new, next-generation business
intelligence technology.

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