DSS News
              D. J. Power, Editor
       August 13, 2006 -- Vol. 7, No. 17

   A Free Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 
        approximately 1,750 Subscribers 


   "Decision Support for Global Enterprises" Conference



* Ask Dan! - What is the process for designing decision 
             support software?
* Dan Power Travel Plans
* DSS Conferences
* DSS News Releases 


       Check the interview with Rob Armstrong 
 "Driving usage versus gaining value from a data warehouse" 


Ask Dan!

What is the process for designing decision support software?

by Dan Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

Recently, I received an email from Michael Brito asking if I "could
explain the process for designing decision support software". I have
also been following an email thread started by David Trevvett, Senior
Director NSIT/Administrative Systems, University of Chicago, on the
EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list. David is exploring how to
organize for BI. He is "taking advantage of some recent turnover ...
to rethink, and maybe redefine and reorganize our data
warehouse/business intelligence development and support, and would
like to know what others have found to be 'best practices'."

My email answer to Michael was "Actual Decision Support applications
are often developed using a development software product using rapid
prototyping or 'incremental' design. Large scale data-driven DSS may
be developed more systematically using a SDLC approach". 

As far as organizing for BI in a University setting, how a DSS task
group is organized depends upon the maturity of current data-driven
DSS applications and upon how much maintenance they require and the
aspirations for developing novel DSS applications in performance
monitoring, budgeting or enrollment forecasting. Also, it is
important to ask "What is the purpose/mission of the DSS group?"
David had some specific questions like "Should the head of this group
be at the director or the associate director level?" IMHO if you want
DSS/BI to be taken seriously, then the manager/leader should be at
the director level. The person needs visibility and control of
"significant" resources. "What functions should comprise a DSS/BI
unit?" My advice is to unify the DSS/BI design, development and
maintenance tasks under one leader including new systems/applications
design, data modeling, data warehouse administration, ETL definition
and support, metadata development and maintenance, report/query
development, Web-based DSS and Web server administration, end user
training and end user consulting. 

For those interested in DSS/BI in University settings, I recommend
reading the case study at by Peter Barton, Manager,
Data Administration, The George Washington University. Barton's case
study documents his experience leading a data-driven decision support
project in a University environment.

In general, the organization of the DSS/BI group impacts the DSS
design process, but the purpose of the proposed DSS has an equally
large impact. My DSS book (2002) has a chapter on Designing and
Developing Decision Support Systems. The Web-based DSS Hyperbook
(2000) at also addresses this topic.

A good way to learn about DSS design is to work through mini-cases or
exercises alone or in a small group. For example, imagine that you
have been asked to design a decision support system to assist middle
managers and especially senior administrators at a public University
in their decision making. They want you to "deliver key performance
metrics to targeted end users on-demand and at their desktops".

The task description reads something like: University administrators
are increasingly being held accountable for how funds are spent and
the results or outcomes for students and other stakeholders. Ideally
senior adminstrators should have one or more DSS to help in
performance monitoring of key results areas, to generate ad hoc
reports, to help in enrollment planning and forecasting, and to
assist in budgeting and budget monitoring.

Following the work of Stabell (1983), I recommend using a
decision-oriented design approach for building DSS and for analyzing
mini-case exercises like this one. Stabell argues that pre-design
description and diagnosis of decision-making is the key to securing a
decision-oriented approach to DSS development. 

So what questions should we ask in designing a DSS? Based upon a
number of sources, including Kathryn Laskey's course page at George
Mason University, I would recommend the following question list:

1. What decision processes, if any, need to be supported? How is the
decision made currently? What information and analyses do decision
makers use?

2. Who are the stakeholders of this proposed DSS?

3. How and when will the DSS(s) be used? Who are the targeted users?
What is the projected frequency of use? Is a computerized analysis in
a special study more appropriate than building a DSS?

4. How would you obtain user requirements and what approach would you
use to obtain feedback from targeted users to ensure that the system
meets their needs?

5. What is the operational concept or vision for the proposed system
(in general terms)? According to a number of sources, the shared
vision documents how the proposed system's stakeholders think the
system will be "developed, produced, deployed, trained, operated and
maintained, and refined to overcome some operational problem and
achieve the stakeholders' operational needs and objectives". The
operational concept should include a collection of scenarios. 

6. What are 2-3 usage scenarios for the DSS? A usage scenario is a
brief description (1-2 paragraphs) of a user interacting with the
system to perform some task. 

7. What are 4-5 major requirements for the proposed system?

8. What functionality should be the first priority to implement? Why?

9. What are the key initial development objectives? Why?

10. Do the current problem definition and operational concept capture
the desires, needs and requirements of the targeted users?

11.a. If a data-driven DSS is needed, what data elements are
important? What entities need to be represented? What relationships
between entities need to be represented? Why? What are the sources
for the data you identified? 

11.b. If a model-driven DSS is needed, what are the quantitative
models that need to be built? What data will be required? Why? What
are the sources for the data you identified? 

11.c. If a document-driven DSS is needed, what documents are
important? Why? What are the sources for the documents you

12. What are the pros and cons of different development environments?

13. How would you evaluate a DSS prototype developed in this
situation? What criteria would you use for formative and summative

14. What usage scenario would you implement in the first round of an
iterative design or spiral design process? Why?

We all know that an organization does not receive any advantage from
a great idea for a Decision Support System until the new system is
built and successfully implemented and ultimately used by the
intended users. Systems development involves three major steps: (1)
initiation and diagnosis, (2) acquisition (build or buy), and (3)
introduction of the new system. At the end of step 1, a feasibility
study should be completed before the project proceeds. The above
questions should help in diagnosis and in preparation of a
feasibility study.

The development of a Decision Support System is often an undertaking
of great complexity. Organizational decision processes are complex
and computerizing decision processes sometimes increases that
complexity. Using a structured methodology improves the chances that
large-scale DSS will be successfully built and deployed. Ask
questions and debate and discuss the answers with others before you
build a DSS. A "good" DSS/BI/IT group should provide a sophisticated
forum for analyzing proposed DSS. Also, a diverse project team that
includes some targeted users can also improve the chances that a
novel DSS will actually benefit an organization.

As always your comments and suggestions are welcomed.


Barton, P., "The George Washington University Data-Driven Decision
Support Project", at DSSResources.COM (2003).

Laskey, Kathryn Blackmond, SYST 442/SYST 542/PUBP 550 Decision
Support Systems Engineering course materials, Department of Systems
Engineering, George Mason University at

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

Stabell, C. B., "A Decision-Oriented Approach to Building DSS," in J.
L. Bennett, Building Decision Support Systems, Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1983.


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


Dan Power Travel Plans

Dan Power will be in Hong Kong August 12-24 teaching an MBA 
course about MIS and DSS for the University of Northern Iowa 
College of Business Administration Hong Kong degree program 
( Email him,, if
you're in Hong Kong and want to meet to discuss DSS.

Dan Power will be attending Teradata Partners 2006 conference 
September 17-19 in Orlando, Florida (check


DSS Conferences 

1. Pre-ICIS 2006: SIG DSS Research workshop, Sunday, 
December 10, 2006, Milwaukee, WI. 
Check .

2. ICDSS 2007, 9th International Conference on DSS, Jan. 2-4, 2007, 
Calcutta, India. Theme: Decision Support for Global Enterprises.
Check . 


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DSS News Releases - July 31, 2006 to August 12, 2006
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

08/12/2006 25 years ago: IBM Corporation announced its smallest,
lowest-priced computer system -- the IBM Personal Computer.

08/11/2006 IBM supercharges computing grid through University
partnership to enhance research.

08/10/2006 New "Search Suggestions" feature enables
community to help customers find what they're looking for.

08/10/2006 Call for Special Sessions: ISCRAM2007, May 13-16, 2007,
Delft, the Netherlands.

08/09/2006 Polycom RPX Telepresence solutions named best new
conferencing product at Infocomm.

08/09/2006 SurfControl chooses Citrix Software-as-a-Service for
best-in-class web conferencing and remote support.

08/08/2006 Call for Participation: I-Know'06, 6-8 September 2006,
Graz, Austria.

08/08/2006 Small and medium businesses continue to invest in
Oracle(R) applications over Microsoft.

08/08/2006 Hyperion customer BNSF Railway wins Industry awards for
outstanding business intelligence and performance management

08/08/2006 Extended deadline: Australian Conference on Knowledge
Management and Intelligent Decision Support (ACKMIDS 2006).

08/07/2006 Pre-ICIS 2006: SIG-DSS research workshop: Sunday, December
10, 2006, Milwaukee, WI.

08/07/2006 Apple unveils new Mac Pro featuring Quad 64-bit Xeon

08/07/2006 Microsoft researchers inventing new techniques to improve
search engine accuracy and relevance.

08/04/2006 New Book: Dyché and Levy "Customer Data
Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth".

08/04/2006 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia joins Blue Plans
nationwide to launch largest private database of health care

08/03/2006 Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) takes center stage at
Computer Measurement Group (CMG) 2006 International Conference, Reno,
Dec. 3-8.

08/03/2006 Leading analyst firm reports EMC as #1 content management
software leader.

08/02/2006 SAS scores high marks from Manufacturing Business
Technology magazine.

08/02/2006 ProcessMAP selects MicroStrategy for reporting and
analysis of environmental, health, and safety data.

08/02/2006 Business Objects helps pave the way for performance
management at Georgia Department of Transportation.

08/01/2006 U.S. Air Force selects Click Commerce Parts solution;
Click joins Oracle team chosen to update global logistics systems.

08/01/2006 Teradata customer BNSF Railway recognized for leadership
in finance and performance management.

08/01/2006 Yale School of Management study explains why - and when -
people rely on intuitions to make choices.

08/01/2006 Applix announces continued support for Hyperion customers
requiring self-service analytics.

08/01/2006 NASA Ames purchases EnSight Gold licenses to enhance
visualization quality, collaboration.

08/01/2006 The United States 9th Circuit Court selects ColumbiaSoft's
Document Locator for affordable electronic document management.

07/31/2006 Technology firms release new specification to simplify IT

07/31/2006 EMC introduces storage technology curriculum and
certification through partnerships with Universities and leading
training organizations.

07/31/2006 BPM Partners names Applix one of the top performance
management vendors.

07/31/2006 SAS performance management product strategy earns industry
backing; Butler Group and IDC validate SAS as a leading player.

07/31/2006 Wind River targets mobile handhelds and telecommunications
equipment with the latest release of its commercial grade Linux


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