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                          DSS News
                    D. J. Power, Editor
             July 3, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 15

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Ask Dan! 

What is the design concept for

by Dan Power

In the Ask Dan! in DSS News of May 22, 2005, I introduced and indicated that in a future column I might explain
the overall concept and/or how the system operates. This column
attempts to summarize the what, how and why of creating a
process-oriented, role-based planning decision support system.

The broad vision for building is to create a
comprehensive, general purpose system for structuring a collaborative
contingency planning process and for supporting analysis and choice of
competing courses of action associated with a contingency either when
the contingency occurs or when it is anticipated. is an extension of my prior software design research
projects.  Almost 30 years ago, I began my computerized decision aids
research program with three major objectives (Power, 1977) that I'm
still pursuing:

1) to develop a decision support system (DSS) for use in actual
   strategic decision situations in organizations;

2) to develop an experiential instructional system that will help
   people improve their decision making and inference behavior in
   strategic decision situations; and

3) to conduct research that may explain how individuals and groups
   make decisions and how decisions should be made.

My original project was very ambitious especially in the days of
mini-computers and then standalone PCs, but the Web and open source
development tools have created new possibilities and made it possible
to develop a more sophisticated system for either a single user with
many roles in the planning process or for multiple users assuming
different roles in the process. The process owner is the designated
Planner who organizes and structures the information, participants and
tasks in the planning process. The Planner is responsible for
monitoring every activity in the process and ideally the software
protocol helps the Planner manage the process. should
help evaluate "Best Practices" in strategic decision processes and
inform participants about their roles and tasks. The current focus is
on the flow, organization, use and transformation of text
descriptions, ratings, values and preferences. Five user roles are
implemented: 1) planner; 2) analyst; 3) observer; 4) decision maker;
and 5) administrator. As part of the development effort we developed
use cases for each specific role in the system. The current
implementation has 16 tables in the data model and the Web pages are
implemented in PHP. Some of the following material about is from the User Manual created by Paulson, Peitel,
Thompson and Wu. Screen shots are included in the online User Manual.


At, you will see a short welcome message, a place to
enter a Username and Password, a menu bar at the top, and a footer
with information on copyright, contacts, disclaimer and privacy
statement links. The drop down menus contain links for navigating
through Before logging on, however, only two links
work: Help and Credits. Help is the User Manual.

The Planner creates most of the user accounts, but the Administrator
can create accounts and must create Planner accounts. After logging
on, a user is directed towards a personal home
page. PlanningDSS users have the opportunity to create a User Profile
with First Name, Last Name, Email, a short biographical statement, and
a picture. The goal is to have a complete profile with picture for
each user to help personalize the system. The assumption is that most
users will interact with repeatedly. The tools menu also allows any user to view all of the
users of the system. This works in a dedicated single organization
setting, but is inappropriate in an application service
environment. Currently, users can change their password. When a user
is done using, and wishes to log out, they simply
place the mouse over "File" in the Header menu, and click the
Logout option.

A user's personal home page also lists all Planning Topics a user is
associated with and related status information. What is a Planning
Topic? It is the focus of the planning effort. It is the descriptor
for the planning situation called the Topic Title, for example
"Merger" might be the topic and then a Topic Description is
"evaluating possible companies to acquire". Topics are associated with
planning/decision-making tasks like "Selecting a new CEO" or with
contingencies like a "Hostile takeover bid".

After clicking the "view" link for a specific Planning Topic, a
user sees that Topic's description page. This page explains the
Topic, the Decision Question(s) that pertain to the Topic, the
Alternatives for each Decision Question, and the criteria for
evaluating Alternatives associated with a Decision Question. To the
right of each decision element is a link titled "Comments". This
link opens a window where a user can submit a comment on a particular
content element.


The Planner role creates and enters the planning content into the
system. For example, the Planner identifies contingencies that may
impact the organization.  For each contingency, a planner enters basic
planning information including potential courses of action and
relevant comparison criteria. A planner follows the prescribed
heuristic process and inputs situation specific information for
subsequent assessment and evaluation by users who have other roles to
play in the process. A planner can monitor task activity of analysts
and the designated decision maker.

When designated as a Planner by the administrator, the first task is
to enter a new topic. The first page outlines the requirements for
creating a new planning topic. A checklist details the information
needed for each topic. After checking the required checkbox, a Planner
proceeds to create a new planning topic. The first required element is
the Planning Topic label, then the Topic description. One or more
Decision Questions, with descriptions are then entered. The next step
is to create Alternatives Courses of action associated with a Decision
Question. Each Planning topic requires a Decision Question with at
least two Alternatives. Users can add additional information for each
alternative,for example "Add Image" or "Add Document".

A planner also specifies the Criteria or factors that will be used to
evaluate and score each Alternative. Each Criterion has an associated
Title, Description (optional), Importance Weight, and Anchors for the
best and worst outcomes and their associated descriptions.

Once the content of the Topic is entered, a Planner must specify the
users that are going to help you in the Decision Process. There are
two ways to do this. One is to add already existing users as analysts
or as the decision maker. These users are listed in a pull down
menu. The second way is to fill out the "Add User" form.

Each Topic requires at least one Analyst, only one Decision Maker, and
optionally Observers. Conceivably one person could have the roles of
Planner, Analyst and Decision maker for a topic.  In that situation is supporting an individual's planning decision
making. The general expectation is that the Planner will not be an
Analyst or the Decision maker and that most topic situations will
involve multiple analysts.

Clicking on the "Complete" button makes the Planning Topic
available to the selected Analysts, and then the Planner can not
change the content of the Planning Topic. If the situation changes
significantly, a new Topic needs to be created.


The analyst role can and should be assumed by multiple people
knowledgeable about the focal organization and its current and future
situation, and the Decision Question.  Analysts are designated by the
planner to complete tasks associated with assessing planning
elements. For example, analysts compare Alternatives on
Criteria. Logging in as an Analyst gives a user an extra option on the
personal home page. This option is to "Score" a Topic. To
"Score" a Topic is to assign ratings on each Alternative to a
Decision Question for a set of Criteria.

Decision Maker

The Decision Maker role has tools for "What-If Analysis" and
"Pro-Con Analysis".  The decision maker is assisted in
"seeing the big picture" and in evaluating intangible, hard to
quantify aspects of the specific decision situation that is evolving.

A Decision Maker has a "decide" link that allows the user to
begin the Decision Making part of the process. The first task is to
identify from 2-5 criteria that will be used to evaluate the
Alternatives. The "What-If Analysis" tool displays the summary of
analyst ratings for the selected Criteria and the decision maker can
change the weights of the Criteria to help make a decision. After
changing the weights, the Decision Maker clicks the "Calculate"
button to update the total scores for the Alternatives and the graph
of scores. The Decision Maker must select at least two alternatives to
continue with the "Pro-Con Analysis". The user is asked to
choose the number of Pro Arguments for an Alternative. After selecting
the number of arguments, that number of available spaces appear on a
form. The user enters Arguments, and the weights of each, and clicks
"Continue" to move onto the Con Arguments. The review page for
the Pro-Con Analysis lists all of the arguments for each
Alternative, followed by an option to edit or remove each. Editing a
score and reloading the page will change the graph shown at the
bottom. After reviewing the Pro-Con Analysis results, another graph is
shown giving the results of the final Analysis, followed by the option
to make a decision. Clicking on the "Save Final Decision" button
take the Decision Maker to a decision confirmation page.


The Observer role is a read-only view of the planning database with
the opportunity to comment upon and annotate information for the
Topic.  For example, an observer can suggest additional contingencies
or Alternatives.  An Observer can comment on aggregated assessments of

System Administrator

The administrator is tasked to maintain the planning database and
ensure its performance.  The administrator designates Planners and
maintains their basic user information including user name, password,
and privileges. Users must maintain their own current background and
contact information. The administrator can purge or archive branches
in the database. The administrator can give a Planner access to an
existing database or have the Planner start with an empty
database. The administrator can monitor the use of PlanningDSS by any
user. The system provides Web-based administration. helps define a network of ideas and
assessments/predictions associated with a specific Planning Topic for
a specific focal organization. Planners can be trained to structure
planning situations using PlanningDSS.COM and they can do that for
many diverse situations. Analysts should require little training and
many diverse users should potentially be able to participate as
Analysts. The Decision Maker role is more specialized and the user
interface needs to support a user who potentially has limited
familiarity with computerized decision support.

Currently, is best suited for use with important
selection decisions and course of actions evaluations. We may develop
a more specific process protocol for corporate strategic planning that
would involve 5 major tasks: define and evaluate the mission, conduct
a SWOT analysis by assessing strengths and weaknesses and identifying
opportunities and threats, set goals and objectives, develop tactical
and operational strategies, and evaluate the strategies.  In the
future, we may also create specialized versions of
with knowledge about a specific domain like Disaster Planning and
Recovery, Military contingency planning, Business Continuity Planning,
or Information Technology contingency planning. is in alpha testing.  I am currently checking the
code, making minor enhancements and preparing a list of additions,
improvements and new Use cases. I hope to find some synergies with the
DAS project (Decision Analysis and Support), an International
Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) project that ended in
1999. The Decision Analysis and Support (DAS) project attempted to
develop software to support complex decision-making, negotiation, and
planning processes (cf., The DAS
research program attempted to deal with the practical issues of
decision support. DAS laboratory experiments and field studies focused
on the following problems/questions:

1. What does the relative importance of criteria mean?

2. Can we find a general rule for explaining how people are evaluating

3. Can we make pairwise comparisons in AHP between an alternative
experienced as a loss and an alternative experienced as a gain?

4. How does Web technology affect decision-making and negotiations?

5. What are the relationships between the salient decision-maker's
characteristics and the decision process and outcome?

6. Is it possible to incorporate a notion of disappointment and regret
into a normative MCDM framework?

Potentially research using can help us answer these
and related problems/questions. PlanningDSS is an ambitious project
that requires a team approach. As always your comments, suggestions
and feedback are welcomed and encouraged.  My thanks to all who have
helped with this research during the past 30 years.


Power, D., Design and Development of DECAID: A CAL Decision
Formulation Program, unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Iowa,
Iowa City, Ia, 1977.

Power, D., "What is PlanningDSS.COM?", Ask Dan!, DSS News, Vol. 6,
No. 12, May 22, 2005.


        Purchase Dan Power's DSS FAQ book 
  83 frequently asked questions about computerized DSS 


DSS Conferences 

Upcoming Conferences  

1. Eighth International Conference on Decision Support
Systems (ISDSS'05),Trends in DSS Research and Practice, sponsored 
by AIS SIG DSS, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 
July 12-15, 2005. Check . 

2. AMCIS 2005 with SIG DSS mini-tracks in Omaha, Nebraska, 
USA, August 11 - 14, 2005. Check . 
SIGDSS meeting Thursday, August 11 from 5:30 - 7:30PM. 

3. 2005 NPRA Plant Automation and Decision Support 
Conference, October 18-21, 2005, Gaylord Texan Hotel, 
Grapevine, Texas. Check . 

4. Call for Papers: ACM Eighth International Workshop on Data 
Warehousing and OLAP (DOLAP 2005), November 4-5, 2005, 
Bremen, Germany. Submissions due July 19, 2005. 
Check .

5. Call for Papers: Fourth workshop on e-Business (WEB 2005), 
a pre-ICIS workshop sponsored by AIS SIGeBIZ, papers due 
August 31, 2005. Workshop URL:

6. Call for Papers: Third Annual Pre-ICIS Workshop on Decision 
Support Systems sponsored by AIS SIG DSS, December 11, 2005, 
Las Vegas, Nevada. Papers due September 1, 2005. Workshop 


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DSS News Releases - June 20 to July 1, 2005 
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

07/01/2005 Corporate blogging is living up to all the hype, says the
results of a recent study and a series of case studies.

06/30/2005 New health bills address community efforts to improve
healthcare through information technology.

06/30/2005 Appian Analytics to provide Gap Inc. with retail analytics
and reporting to monitor store performance, merchandising trends, and
supply chain status.

06/29/2005 Interactive brokers launches new interactive analytics.

06/29/2005 Microsoft Office Information Worker Board of the Future
offers its vision of technology, 10 years out.

06/28/2005 Navicom GPS signs two contracts for 300 GPS units per month. 

06/28/2005 Business 2.0 names Cognos leading business intelligence and
corporate performance management vendor on its annual 'B2 100'.

06/27/2005 SAP expands financial management offerings for small and
midsize enterprises.

06/27/2005 Cognos extends performance system with new plan-to-perform

06/27/2005 Cognos announces performance management system; sets new
standard for CPM.

06/24/2005 Information Technology Association of Wisconsin launches;
creating a single organization uniting state's IT industry to enable
growth, new company formation.

06/24/2005 Cognos enhances its Solutions Professional Certification
Program for business intelligence and performance management.

06/23/2005 Call for papers: Fourth workshop on e-Business (WEB 2005),
a pre-ICIS workshop sponsored by AIS SIGeBIZ, papers due August 31,

06/23/2005 AT&T Government Solutions expands contract to provide video
teleconferencing for U.S. DoD.

06/22/2005 SGI ranks third on list of World's Top 500 supercomputing

06/22/2005 Human Resource Executive magazine announces full and
expanded program for 8th Annual HR Technology Conference and
Exposition, October 19 - 21, 2005.

06/22/2005 TOP500 list of World's fastest supercomputers released.

06/21/2005 Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit, dies at 81. 

06/21/2005 SIA mourns passing of Jack Kilby, co-inventor of the
integrated circuit; Kilby's invention changed the World and launched
an industry.

06/21/2005 Sun's Solaris(TM) 10 sets pace for financial firms. 

06/21/2005 CreditXpert Detective(TM) now available through Advantage

06/21/2005 Call for Papers: Third Annual Pre-ICIS Workshop on Decision
Support Systems sponsored by AIS SIG DSS, December 11, 2005, Las
Vegas, Nevada.

06/20/2005 FileNet helps Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission
streamline processes to deliver workers' benefits faster.


DSS News is copyrighted (c) 2005 by D. J. Power. Please send your 
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