1993 - Decision Support in Public Administration

Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands, 19-21 July

Proceedings edited by P.W.G. Bots, H.G. Sol & R. Traunmüller.


Title Pages
Berztiss, A. T.

This paper addresses two issues. First, increased decentralization in some public sector organizations and large private enterprises puts emphasis on effective sharing of expertise within organizations. Second, even in decentralized organizations some macro-level decisions still need to be made, which means that information must be made available at the points of decision. Similarly, with European integration, the decision-making role of central EC agencies can be expected to increase, necessitating the transfer of information from individual countries to the EC agencies. The objective is to transfer information without moving large amounts of data. We present a model of information transfer based on the movement of filters, and of extensional and intensional representations of functions. Extensional representations are data, and the other information captures expertise. Such expertise leads to a reduction of the volume of data to be moved.

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3-15
Andersson, B. E. W. and Nilsson, P.

The current trend is towards the use of information systems involving a number of actors/organizations; so-called inter-organizational information systems (IOIS). This has created a higher degree of complexity, which must be controlled if we are to have effective and functional information systems. The Swedish National Audit Bureau (RRV) has come across this kind of system in a number of its audits. The RRV’s conclusions are that there are substantial difficulties related to lOIS and that the government agencies have failed to deal satisfactorily with these difficulties. It is essential that the boundaries of the systems are defined correctly, the definition being based on the purpose of the system. The basic EDP philosophy will then be that one information system should be linked to one operation carried out by one of the parties involved, and have one specific purpose in that operation (1:1:1:1). This philosophy may then form the basis for a discussion on changes. Since lOIS boundaries are in no way related to organizational boundaries it is essential that the interfaces and responsibilities of the parties concerned are clearly defined. Further, common cooperation principles, strategies and contracts must be developed. The parties should also develop research and collaboration processes for the evolution and administration of IOIS.

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17-28
Vriens, D.

Recent literature on decision-support shows a tendency to shift attention away from the choice-phase towards the definition (the setting) of the decision-problem. Moreover, the need for this shift is more strongly felt when the decision-problem gets less structured. When focusing on the choice-phase, the goal of the decision-process is to lay down several comparable alternatives and to choose one that is satisfactory. A different setting of the problem may, however, yield different alternatives which may have been unnoticed in the original setting. The important question is therefore how different problem-settings may emerge. Recent attempts to answer this question include “idea-generation” and the search for “generative metaphors”. This paper will address an alternative answer, in which the goals of the decision-maker are taken as a means to seek alternatives beyond the original problem-setting. It is assumed that a problem-definition is connected to one or more goals a decision-maker seeks to realize. A thorough analysis of these goals may yield connected goals of a higher order for which realizations might be found that also (dis-)solve the problem. Looking at different levels may result in alternatives that were not considered at a lower level of (goal-) abstraction. If, moreover, several (hierarchically) independent goals are considered, one has to find a combination of realizations for the different goals that can be performed together. This may be done by means of a goal-matrix, which is the result of considering several goal-hierarchies at the same time. A central theme is, that when more alternatives with respect to one goal are found, the chance increases that a suitable combination for all the independent goals can be found. The goal-matrix is the vehicle to arrive at different problem-settings in which alternatives may be stipulated. In this approach, the traditional distinction between fixing goals, generating alternatives and choosing among them blurs and the whole process will be termed “problem-setting”. Supporting this “setting of the problem” (and hence also the search for alternatives within these different settings) by means of the proposed method, is different from traditional decision support. Therefore, it must be outlined what this support amounts to. In the first part of this paper the need for the possibility of setting a problem in several distinct ways is given. Then, it is discussed how problems might be set differently by means of goal-matrices, and how alternatives courses of action are related to different problem-settings. Finally, attention will be paid to supporting problem-setting.

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29-41
Ackermann, F., Cropper, S. and Edin, C.

This paper reports on the use of a Qualitative Decision Support System used within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. The system has been used to enable the Individual Performance Review (IPR) process to become more effective. One aim of IPR is to motivate managers. However the vision of the Unit General Manager was that the IPR DSS would help him a) understand how individually negotiated IPR objectives fitted together as a whole and related to corporate goals, b) monitor and control progress through the IPR year and c) build teams. Managers would be able to understand the impact each of their IPR objectives had upon one another and be able to identify what contribution their objectives made to the aims of the organization as a whole. The decision support system was based upon cognitive mapping as the modelling technique and COPE as the DSS software. The system was used by the General Manager for taking a composite view of the role of IPR in meeting the Strategy of the organization, and also as a method for monitoring progress of individual managers in relation to their personal IPR objectives. This paper reports on the development and implementation of the system within a specific NHS Hospitals Unit.

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43-55
Baugh, P. J. and Walters, D. M.

In a previous paper we examined the impact of Decision Support Systems in the context of organisational change, looking at a Socio-Technical Systems approach to the NHS. As part of the study we examined briefly the role of Case Mix Management Systems (CMMS) in the control of hospital costs. This paper represents the first stage of a longitudinal study examining the development of CMMS in the UK context over a period of three years and sets the agenda for the issues to be investigated and monitored. In analysing the interfaces between management and clinicians we have adopted a Socio- Technical approach.

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57-68
Dickson, G. W.

The State of Minnesota (USA) is a very active user of decision support systems (DSS) and group decision support systems (GDSS) technology. This paper reviews several applications of DSS and GDSS within the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Finance (DoF) within the government of the State of Minnesota. In particular, the following systems are illustrated and evaluated: (1) An automated JAD application for the design of a Social Services Information System [GDSS/DHS], (2) A Children's Social Services Information System [DSS/DHS], (3) A Budget Information System [DSS/DoF], and (4) a Revenue Forecasting System [DSS/DoF]. In addition to describing the purpose and nature of each system, the paper discusses the benefits of each application and focuses on lesson that have been learned in developing and using these applications.

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69-81
Klein, M. R.

After recalling some earlier results on the use of the financial analysis and planning DSS “Siad – Mairie” used in french towns this paper describes the user-interface and main functions of the four integrated DSSs which constitutes “SIAD Mairie”. These DSSs support the tasks of financial analysis and planning, project financial management, debt management and monthly cash management. The use of the DSS by the town financial manager and outside analysts is described. The paper then outlines future research directions on impact of the system on planning practice and the difficulties faced when trying to increase the use of the system.

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85-97
Schramm, A.

The methods and techniques reported in this paper for the construction of KB Legal DSS go far beyond the immediate use made of them for the development of the specific system BAUX. Indeed, BAUX is but an example for a more general approach towards supporting public administrations at “inferring” correct legal decisions. After a general statement of the problem of how to support officials at their duty to administer the law, especially to make legal decisions, the practical needs of such support are confronted with some theoretical problems encountering them. In order to overcome these problems, the strategy is proposed not to try to make computers think but to make them look like thinking. Next, some details of the project BAUX are presented as well as some features of its design. Outlines of an example session should help to realize how BAUX presents itself in real use.

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99-110
Nguyen, B. Q.

Trying to understand the current work process in detail was the prelude to change for improvement. Since April 1990, AIRMICS has been using an internally developed work-time measurement system (WTMS Tool) to increase efficiency and to utilize the work force more effectively. Efficiency was realized by using more advanced computing technologies to improve or to automate certain work activities. Effective utilization was achieved by tracking and ensuring that the work force was spending time doing the correct tasks in the correct priority. The WTMS Tool described in this paper is an automated system successfully implemented at AIRMICS for providing the management with critical information on how work time is distributed among assigned tasks and what activities are associated in doing a specific task. Work-time data are collected from the work force by using a windows-based computer application. Data are statistically calculated at non-working hours, and the results are electronically mailed to management and interested members during the night on a monthly basis. Organizational cooperation and leadership were the two critical factors that led to successful implementation of the WTMS Tool at AIRMICS. Cooperation was secured because measured data were not used for evaluating the quality of work or setting performance standards. Another factor was that management used the information to improve the organization, its people's skills, and the work process.

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111-119
Vintar, M.

In an effort to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of public administration on the local and state level, the area of handling written materials and records within administrative processes plays a very important role. The purpose of this paper is to present the results and experiences of a five year project carried out in Slovenia in this field. The main aim of this project was to introduce the information technologies to the area, to analyze the impact of the IT on the organization of administrative processes in public administration and to explore new technical and organizational solutions. Special attention has been paid to the filing systems and questions of introducing of the so called 'electronic files' in the work of public organizations.

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121-131
Pomerol, J.-C., Futtersack, M. and Labat, J.-M.

The French Employment Ministry has established different kinds of actions and aids to deal with the problems of reinsertion for the long-term unemployed. This paper describes a Decision Support System, which has been designed to help decision makers in the task of programming the actions intended for the long-term unemployed. This system includes an expert system, which proposes a multicriteria evaluation providing the users with advice to choose an appropriate policy. Moreover the paper examines the reasons why the system, though it may bring real help, has been abandoned by the organization.

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133-147
Smits, M. T., Postma, T. J. B. M., Takkenberg, C. A. T. and Terpstra, S.

Manpower planning in the field of health care on a national level is a regular item on the agenda of policy makers. Recent examples are the quantities of dentists and ophthalmologists in the Netherlands. This paper describes a methodology for manpower planning in health care, applied in the field of rheumatology. In health care, important decisions usually have a multi-level and multi-actor character: different actors with different mental models, goals and power interact in a bargaining process, dealing with various problem situations on the regional as well as the national level. A group decision making approach is advocated, where interactive model building stimulates shared meaning and communication. The Group Decision Support System methodology to support manpower decision processes is described in this paper, and some early results are given in the form of conceptual models and a simulation model. A GDSS is recommended for supporting manpower planning activities in health care, especially the use of Delphi procedures, workshops and simulation models.

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149-158
Kenis, D. and Verhaegen, L.

This article gives a description of 'MacPolicy', a Group Decision Support System based upon the principles of the successful human sciences research method ‘Policy Delphi’. This method facilitates consensus-seeking and exactly defines existing controversies in a computer conference. It is very well suited to handle policy planning or other tasks involving different stakeholder groups or different perspectives on the matter. Our concept has the following features: - it provides a structured discussion, using an iterative consensus seeking questioning technique with anonymous information feedback. As such it can be used as a front-end for different single-user Decision Support Systems. - it is a database-mailing system that enables users to send and store questions, reports, opinions and critiques. - it contains statistical tools, mainly based on the existing package ‘Judges’, to analyze collected data. - Multicriteria Decision Aid tools are incorporated. The MacPolicy project aims to raise the quality of most group decisions. Without pretending to be an alternative for every meeting, it is a well structured alternative for the solution of complex problems, or when timing or distance is problematic.

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159-170
Grönlund, Å. and Guohua, B.

Technical development and widespread computer knowledge have changed the preconditions for organizations. The development has led to a situation of choice between a centralistic and a decentralistic way of employing IT. This choice is of particular importance when it comes to public sector information systems, since issues of democracy, openness and participation in decision making are vital in that context. In this paper, we delineate an “Information Network Paradigm”, which takes the clients’ information needs as the starting point for the design of information systems. This paper also describes and discusses one project in this vein, the CO-project at Umea university. The “Feedback Learning Stategy” is introduced as a way of involving users in system redesign. The “LiveBetter” is a prototype system designed to meet the communication and self-service demands raised by this strategy. LiveBetter includes some tools for redesign activities among users.

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171-200