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                          DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
             February 27, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 6
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* Ask Dan! - How can DSS help in crisis planning, response and management?
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Ask Dan!

How can DSS help in crisis planning, response and management?

by Dan Power

This Ask Dan! is a follow-up to a column written in August 2003.  My
goal is to discuss "some of the more creative and practical things we
can use from the DSS area to improve the capability for all phases of
emergency preparedness and management".  My colleague Prof. Murray
Turoff initiated my thinking about the broad possibilities for
Decision Support Systems in crisis situations when he invited me to
participate in the Second International Conference on Information
Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2005).

For a number of years, I have been investigating the current state of
crisis management practice. But for more than two months I have been
pondering what might be possible in terms of building innovative DSS
for crisis situations.  I used Google to identify articles and case
studies, but more importantly I have searched for definitions and
explanations of the term "crisis" and "crisis management". From my
perspective it is important to identify some shared characteristics of
"crisis" situations where it may he helpful to introduce additional
decision support and information technologies. Also, conceivably some
categorization of the various situations and of the process of crisis
planning, response and management can help sort and organize our
thinking about the various DSS possibilities.

According to the Munich Research Group website, most definitions of
the term "crisis" include ten characteristics: 1) an unusual volume
and intensity of events, 2) 'change of state' in the flow of
international political actions, 3) disruptive interactions between
two or more adversaries, 4) abrupt or sudden change in one or more
basic system variables, 5) change in the external or internal
environment, 6) threat to basic values, 7) high probability of
involvement in military hostilities, 8) awareness of finite time for
response, 9) surprise and 10) uncertainty.

At the Carnelian International Risks website the focus is on risk
management. The site notes "The term Crisis is a complex proposition;
since the word crisis will truly have different implications for
different individuals and organisations. In reality the definition of
crisis will vary depending on the constructs, limitations and
perceptions of the crisis situation. What is important to recognise is
that crisis events are not limited to, or defined by executive
kidnappings, hijackings or product tampering, but by salient
environmental variables that shape the situation into a crisis event
for an organisation."

Further Carnelian consultants state, "The definition of crisis is
dependent on the: Perceived value of possible losses; Perceived
probability of loss; Perceived time pressure involved." This is a
business and private sector view of crises. On a more general note,
Carnelian consultants argue "What must be made clear when discussing
crisis events is that the organisation's perception of the crisis is
equally important when managing crisis, since these factors have a
dramatic effect on problem solving and decision making. Furthermore,
an organisation's perception of crisis is littered with a number of
additional problems that range from the intrinsic cognitive biases of
its executives, negative emotional affect and rigid organisational
systems such as contingency planning. These factors if mismanaged will
have a detrimental effect on the outcome during crisis management."

Al Tortorella of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide identified eight
characteristics of corporate crises. The eight characteristics are:
"1) surprise that is always driven by media exposure; 2) insufficient
information about the relevant facts and the emerging public
perception of the issue; 3) escalating flow of events that hampers the
ability of management to understand quickly that, like it or not, they
'own' the problem and must quickly articulate a persuasive response;
4) loss of control over the way the growing crisis is perceived and
the impact it is beginning to have on the company; 5) intense Scrutiny
from outsiders/insiders including media, government, regulatory
agencies, activist groups, key stakeholders, and most importantly, the
management team itself; 6) the beginning of the siege mentality that
causes company leadership to attempt to 'hide' behind the legal
aspects of the crisis, rather than confront the central issues, and
thereby allows the crisis to inflict more damage on the organization;
7) panic that perverts and/or paralyzes the decision-making process;
and 8) the issue is solved by the public arena in a manner designed to
satisfy the interests of outsiders—including the media, government,
regulatory agencies and activist groups—but never the interests of
the company itself."

John Reh differentiates a crisis from a disaster. He argues "A crisis
and a disaster are both bad for your business, but they are very
different. A disaster is an event that results in great damage,
difficulty, or death. A crisis is a situation that has reached an
extremely difficult or dangerous point. A flood is a disaster. You
should have prepared for that potential. Then you can deal with it
according to your plan. A major product recall, such as Firestone has
recently encountered with its SUV tires, is a crisis. Sometimes it is
hard to know whether you are really in a crisis, but failure to handle
a disaster properly can lead to a crisis."

The Institute for Crisis Management ( website notes
"The most effective crisis management occurs when potential crises are
detected and dealt with quickly--before they can impact the
organization's business. In those instances they never come to the
attention of the organization's key stakeholders or the general public
via the news media."

Finally, the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph
( has a Crisis Response and
Communication Planning Manual online prepared by Sarah Grant and
Douglas Powell. They identify 3 stages of crisis management:
prevention, preparedness, and recovery. They note that crisis
prevention involves monitoring, anticipation and taking preemptive
actions to avert a crisis. Prevention is most problematic, difficult
and expensive for low probability events. Crisis prevention activities
can reduce threats. Crisis preparation involves taking actions to
reduce the impact and harm from a crisis when and if it should
occur. It is important to identifying vulnerabilities and crisis
scenarios.  Planners need to identify what might go wrong and what the
consequences would be if the worst case situation occurred. Finally,
crisis recovery involves "assessing the damage and rebuilding the
company reputation after the crisis".

So what help can DSS provide in a crisis situation?

If we know what data to collect, data-driven DSS can help monitor the
"volume and intensity of events", "abrupt or sudden change",
"insufficient information" and changes in the "external or internal
environment" of an organization. If we have built appropriate planning
models for model-driven DSS, those computerized systems can help
reduce or manage uncertainty. Both model-driven and data-driven DSS
can support crisis prevention activities. Also, model-driven DSS can
help identify vulnerabilities and evaluate crisis
scenarios. Potentially, communications-driven DSS can reduce the
negative effects of time pressure in a crisis situation. Web-based,
document-driven, group decision process structuring applications can
improve contingency planning and action decisions during crisis

Web portals and web-based DSS can help monitor news and events and
help organizations share information with the media, stakeholders and
the general public.

Knowledge-driven DSS can potentially assist in understanding the
"constructs, limitations and perceptions of the crisis
situation". Also, computerized DSS may help reduce cognitive biases
during crisis management tasks. How values and preferences are
elicited can impact their accuracy and how information is displayed in
a DSS alters a decision maker's perception in a situation.

Improved communications technologies and handheld and portable
computing technologies make it possible for first responders to bring
decision support technologies into a crisis management setting whether
that is in a nearby hotel room, a tent or at the scene of an
incident. A commander at the scene of an incident or crisis can
conceivably have access to the entire range of DSS.

Can computerized decision support help deal with "surprise", "loss of
control" and "panic" in crisis situations?

Perhaps. A robust decision support infrastructure and appropriate
training for response teams in the use of computerized decision
support technologies should reduce the psychological stress associated
with crisis situations.  Crisis responders need to practice using
decision support technologies in realistic scenario situations.

We will continue to encounter surprises that are both positive and
negative. It is not possible and won't be possible to anticipate every
crisis situation that an organization or government might encounter.
That should not keep us from trying to anticipate crisis
situations. Potentially document-driven DSS can store scenarios,
plans, and situation analyses. Knowing that a starting point may exist
for rapid response can and should reduce the sense of surprise. Even
low likelihood events can be explored. We can also ask the hard,
troubling questions of crisis management. What if the computer systems
fail?  What if the data collected was inaccurate? What if the crisis
is very serious and it was not anticipated? What if communications
systems are not working? Are current plans too dependent upon
information technologies for crisis management and response?

My general guidance for building computerized decision support systems
is anchored in Murphy's Laws and Corollaries: "Anything that can go
wrong will go wrong"; "Everything takes longer than you think"; and
"Nothing is as easy as it looks". I think the same wisdom holds true
for crisis situations. Nevertheless, we must persist in building and
using decision support and information systems to help people in
crisis planning, response and management. As always your comments and
suggestions will be much appreciated.


Carnelian International Risks, URL .

Grant, S. E. and D. Powell, Crisis Response and Communication Planning
Manual, URL .

Munich Research Group, URL

Murphy's Laws, .

Power, D., "How can computerized decision support help in crisis situations?
DSS News, Vol. 4, No. 18, 08/31/2003. 

Reh, F. John, "Survive the Unthinkable Through Crisis Planning",

Tortorella, Al, "What is a corporate crisis?" Ogilvy Public Relations 
Worldwide, URL .


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DSS Conferences

Call for Papers

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

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

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

4. 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, check

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

6. 8th International DSS Conference (ISDSS2005) of AIS SIG DSS, 
July 12-15, 2005,Porto Alegre, Brazil, check ,

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

02/26/2005 Posted article by Neil Raden, "Shedding Light on 
Shadow IT: Is Excel Running Your Business?" 

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


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DSS News - February 11 to February 25, 2005
Read articles at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

02/25/2005 ABC companies enters into agreement with Fleet Management 
Solutions to deliver all-satellite bus and coach tracking solution. 

02/24/2005 Gartner says more than 50 Percent of data warehouse 
projects will have limited acceptance or will be failures through 2007. 

02/24/2005 Lockheed Martin to develop advanced cognitive computing 

02/24/2005 U.S. companies not keeping pace with new competitive 
world order in technology and telecom, study finds.

02/22/2005 MicroStrategy rated number one in customer loyalty 
according to The OLAP Survey 4.

02/21/2005 RealtyTrac launches asset management software. 

02/21/2005 Intel desktop processors get 64-Bit support. 

02/18/2005 Quality Analysis added to the MM4XL software toolbox. 

02/17/2005 RightNow on Demand CRM empowers NZ Postal Division to 
streamline and optimize core sales processes. 

02/17/2005 Pennsylvania's breakthrough Disease Surveillance System 
(PA-NEDSS) wins Davies Award of Excellence. 

02/17/2005 Experian launches Addressable BehaviorGraphics.

02/17/2005 The most dangerous risk in a hospital - bad information. 

02/17/2005 IBM accelerates network-delivered client computing on Linux. 

02/16/2005 eOptimize(R) unveils new enterprise-wide patient 
scheduling enhancements.

02/16/2005 New release of LoanPerformance(TM) RiskModel(TM) 3.1 
features new Alt-A, prime models. 

02/16/2005 U.S. Corporations misuse or underuse competitive 
intelligence, Outward Insights survey shows; naive `Ostriches' 
misjudge importance, necessity of CI in global marketplace. 

02/15/2005 Bill Gates highlights progress on security, outlines 
next steps for continued innovation. 

02/15/2005 Intergraph Mobile Solutions enlisted for security 
operations at 2005 U.S. Presidential Inauguration and 2004 
U.S. Republican National Convention.

02/15/2005 XFormity to support Domino's business intelligence. 

02/15/2005 WeatherBug(R) and the Maryland Emergency Management 
Agency(MEMA) enhance public safety throughout the state. 

02/15/2005 MLT Vacations Inc. tackles busy travel season 
with Oracle(r) on Linux. 

02/14/2005 Motorola technology can provide European drivers 
with a lifeline to help during an emergency. 

02/14/2005 Second Annual World Congress on The Future of Work 
to focus on "Making It Real"; will provide real-world 
toolkit to delegates.

02/14/2005 Release of ProClarity 6 spurs growth in global 
partner network; approximately 650 partners worldwide aid in 
distribution of ProClarity-based business intelligence 

02/14/2005 SAS showcases performance management in 
healthcare at HIMSS 2005.


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