Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Term Paper on Decision Support Systems

Term Paper on Decision Support Systems

As you are aware for the last 15 weeks I have been taking a class in Information Systems Management with a focus on Decision Support Systems (DSS). Per your request I am preparing this paper to help explain what it is that I have learned. I will begin with the basics as to what is a DSS, how does it work and what are the business and user benefits. Next I will discuss a particular type of DSS the Executive Information System (EIS) and explain how it differs from a traditional DSS and what function it serves within an organization. This will lead into a discussion of some of the software tools that are available to support DSS/EIS with existing IT infrastructure. Once I have explained the benefits of DSS/EIS I will walk through the success factors for implementing this type of a system, such as what needs to be done up front and address who needs to be involved. In closing I will discuss the purpose for developing or adopting such a system and how it can lead to a competitive advantage.


Decision Support Systems
The decision making process is extremely complex due to the unpredictability of a decision makers environment and the unavailability of historical or real-time data. This makes it difficult for managers to develop or establish any type of decision-making procedures or rules. A Decision Support System helps combine computerized analytical tools with human intuition to increase management insight into solving problems and can provide structure for this process. Managers regularly use intuition and any available data to make decisions. There are several ways that a DSS can facilitate the decision making task by providing library models, guidance and preparing information into understandable results. The aid of a DSS helps ensure that the decision maker does not rely only on intuition and invalid assumptions but has data which it turns into knowledge to aid in the decision making process. DSSs can assist with all or most problem solving phases, decision frequencies and different degrees of problem structure.

As you know managers or employees need accurate data in a timely manner to help make every day business decisions. This is where a DSS can benefit the organization; a DSS can be set up or structured in many different ways and tailored to specific business needs providing employees with the right information at the right time to make educated business decisions. A DSS can walk someone through a decision or can just provide the information needed to make a decision. For example, when ordering inventory for the warehouse an employee would receive a report showing what items are at the reorder point, a DSS could support the reordering process by suggesting a reorder quantity that would meet demand based on recent or historical sales, determine the proper quantity based on carton size, quantity discounts and available warehouse shelf space. With the DSS having all of this information and being able to compute the optimal order quantity the employee can place the order quickly and accurately. As shown in this example a DSS can be programmed to assist in very specific decisions but the benefits of a DSS can be numerous depending on what is needed from them.

Executive Information Systems
As I have discussed, people and organizations need accurate reliable information that is readily available and easily understood in order to support decision-making. This being said, not all levels of the organization need the same information to make decisions and run the business, as I showed earlier a buyer may need inventory information and ordering data to buy materials but an upper level executive has little use for that level of detail and needs a higher level look at the state of the entire business operation. An Executive Information System is a special type of DSS designed to support higher-level decision-making in the organization. An EIS is a specialized system that captures the expertise of highly trained, experienced professionals in specific problem domains. The objective of an EIS is to support upper management to ask the right questions and to have the data needed to make strategic business decisions. An EIS is generally designed for a specific individual or a small group of users. This is the main difference between an EIS and a DSS, where DSS is designed for the entire organization and the output is designed to help the users solve problems and answer questions. As you know executives have very little time to spend on a computer digging into data, they need information quickly that is presented in a way they understand and can use effectively. An EIS is used for this very purpose to help executives monitor performance, do what if analysis, identify problems and trends so that they can react quickly and make decisions that move the corporation in the appropriate direction.

Software Tools
There are many software tools on the market today that perform some functions of a DSS by taking a companies data and helping to organize, analyze and prepare data so decisions can be made. Most of these software packages are web-based applications that are compatible with traditional business systems and can be customized to provide powerful reporting and analysis tools to help run the business. This software known as Business Intelligence software such as Comshare, Brio and Cognos offer a variety of Business Intelligence solutions that provide employees, customers and managers with real-time data to make decisions. These software packages allow organizations to look at information and data differently than traditional reporting methods. Some of the strengths of these software packages are their ease of use, visual presentation of data, adaptability and customization to many user groups. Some of the weaknesses of this type of software is that most are fairly expensive, require a lot of up front work for implementation and are only as good as the data that is fed to them. As part of determining a companies needs regarding a DSS a decision needs to be made as to whether you purchase off the shelf software or develop the system from scratch. These tools mentioned are very good and powerful but may not have everything we need and we may be paying for some functionality that we do not need.

Successful Implementation
There are a few critical success factors involved in developing and implementing a successful DSS/EIS system or one of the available software tools. One of the most important factors in the implementation of a DSS is top level or senior executive support and involvement in the development and launch process. The top-level executives must understand the benefit of the system and communicate its importance to the organization. Another factor that leads to success is for the system to have one person that is responsible for making it work. This person should be designated by executive management and have the overall responsibility for designing, building and launching the system. This owner will be responsible for assembling the proper team to do the work and reporting out to management the status of the project. One key to building a successful system lies in the work that is done up front. In order to build the right system you must define the users, determine their information needs, and determine their computer capabilities and time constraints. This will ensure that the development team is building a tool that users need and can use effectively to run the business. The more communication that takes place between the users and developers and the research done up front determining business needs will benefit greatly in the long run. The goal of the development team should be to create a system that is an invaluable tool to the users.

The purpose of developing and implementing a DSS/EIS system is to gain a competitive advantage by giving executives and employees the data and decision tools they need to the job. A DSS supports information generation and the ability to use that information through visualization, statistical analysis and presents the data in a format that is easy to use and make decisions with. Computer models within a DSS can focus the priorities of the business in those areas that are providing the most revenue or need the most attention. A DSS/EIS helps executives ask the right questions and gives managers and employees the right data to answer those questions effectively by turning data and intuition into knowledge. Empowering executives, managers and employees with accurate and timely information and giving them the authority to act on the data will make them more powerful. If designed and implemented properly with adequate executive support a DSS can make an organization more efficient and effective at running the business, which will lead to a competitive advantage. My recommendation would be to implement a DSS or EIS system so that we have the information needed to operate the business. We as a company spend to much time today developing the data needed to make decisions, if this data were readily available in a format in which we could use we would make quicker more accurate decisions on the everyday activities and be able to focus our attention on strategic issues such as growing and improving the business.

Warning!!! All free sample term papers and college term paper examples on DSS topics are plagiarized and cannot be fully used in your high school, college or university education.

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