1998 - Context Sensitive Decision Support Systems

Bled, Slovenia, 12-15 July

Proceedings edited by D. Berkeley, G.R. Widmeyer, P. Brézillon & V. Rajkovič.


Title Pages
Humphreys, P.
Keywords:Organisational Discourse Power Discourse of Truth Discourse of Prestige Career Discourse Levels of Handling Decision Problems Prescriptions for Action Implementation of Decisions

Textbook accounts and case studies of decision making in the social and organisational contexts of decision support typically concentrate on modelling the representation of the decision problem, and/or of information which may be relevant in its solution and/or the motivations of interested parties, etc. They employ the discourses of the participants in the decision making, and of decision analysts and/or DSS designers, as accessories, useful in contextualising the representations which are the focus of the account. This paper attempts to invert this process, focusing on the discourses employed in decision making, decision analysis and the design of decision support, first, identifying the kind of discourse employed in negotiating and constructing decision problem representations, at five qualitatively different levels in determining prescriptions for action, and, then, investigating how these representations are employed as artefacts by those people who participate in the making of decisions and attempt to get them implemented in organisational contexts.

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1-23
Duffy, N. M.
Keywords:Executive Information Systems Executive Support Systems Complexity Business Environment Critical Success Factors

Executive information systems have evolved into powerful, flexible and widely used management tools. At the same time the business contexts within which they must support users have become more complex and turbulent. This paper examines how well EIS has aligned to its more demanding contexts. Prior research has been used to identify the variables associated with the ·component parts of the total EIS context the business environment, the host organisation, personal characteristics of the user and the situation in force at the time. These are compared with EIS benefits and capabilities to establish aspects of EIS alignment with its contexts. Propositions are formulated from the findings for testing at some future time but the over-riding conclusion is that EIS aligns well with the various parts of the contexts in which it must operate and that this is likely to continue to be the case in future.

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24-40
Power, D. J. and Kaparthi, S.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Information Technology Technology Change

Understanding technological change is important for practitioners and academics who want a realistic perspective on information technology's role in building Decision Support Systems (DSS). T o develop this perspective, the DSS technology outlined by Sprague and Carlson (1982) is compared and contrasted with the technological context of current DSS. Their technology framework of dialogue, database, models, and DSS architecture is reviewed. Current technologies like Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), data warehouses, On-line Analytical Processing (OLAP), and client-server technologies are then discussed in terms of that framework. Several examples are used to illustrate the changing technological context of DSS.

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41-54
Simosi, M.
Keywords:Conflict Resolution Decision Making Organisational Bureacracies

The purpose of this paper is to outline various organizational as well as wider social issues which relate to the way in which organizational members conceptualize and deal with conflict encounters in their workplace. Using open- ended interviews, I examined the way in which employees in two divisions of a Greek bureaucratic organization resolved conflict situations experienced in the context of their division. The analysis of the case study material led to the development of a net model, which revealed (a) common conflict resolution strategies both within as well as across each of the two divisions; (b) employees’ involvement in a decision making process which directly alluded to the specific organizational context and the wider social conditions within which the bureaucratic organization was embedded. Having offered insights into which aspects of the social and organizational context have a bearing on the way in which conflict situations are processed by organizational members, the paper concludes with some suggestions for the design of decision support systems which are sensitive to the contextual elements described. The design and the implementation of such a support system aims to increase the possibility for taking into account positive effects of conflict for organizational functioning.

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55-73
Zoltay-Paprika, Z.
Keywords:Strategic Decision Making Decision Support Systems Decision Roles Decision Making Styles

This paper presents the results of a study of strategic decision making of chief executives of major Hungarian companies and the prospects of use of Decision Support Systems. It also considers the implications of the findings for designing DSS for such decisions, especially in the context of Hungary.

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74-89
Carlsson, S. A. and Leidner, D. E.
Keywords:Management Support Systems Design Context

A model for contextual design of Management Support Systems (MSS) is presented. The model is based on Layder's philosophy and four levels framework of social science. Self, situated activity, setting, and context comprise the framework. The model for contextual MSS design can be used to structure, describe, and analyze the context where a MSS is used or is to be used. It can also be used to increase designers as well as other stakeholders understanding of the context where MSS design takes place.

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88-105
McCosh, A. M.
Keywords:Champions Decision Support Systems Adaptation Organisational Environments Context

A DSS which was written with one situation in mind may occasionally be moved to a different organisational environment. This will usually happen when there is a ‘champion’, or ‘principal’ for the DSS who wants to obtain the benefits in a new place. How should he go about moving it across so that it will continue to be a success? The paper presents stories about such transfers, and seeks to isolate the championing behaviours which worked well, the championing behaviours which did not, and the reasons.

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106-121
Adam, F. and Pomerol, J.-C.
Keywords:Organisational Decision Making Context Network Analysis Decision Support Systems

This paper reports on our application of network analysis to a large organisation undergoing drastic changes. To develop new techniques that enable DSS researchers and developers to analyse the context of the organisations where they must contribute to decision making, we investigated the political, organisational and environmental factors that shape the decision making processes of a case study organisation. We also analysed the relationship between the IS department and the other functional areas in order to analyse the contribution of IS staff to the decision making of this organisation. Our results indicate that the approach used in this research - network analysis - provides a valuable analytical framework in trying to capture the reality of decision making in an organisation and has the potential to provide the basis for a novel method for developing DSS applications. They also confirm that awareness of the context of decision making is paramount for the development of DSSs that make a worthy contribution to the management of an organisation. Finally, they indicate that the contribution of IS to the decision making of an organisation is related to the quality of relations between IS staff and staff in other departments.

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122-145
Drenik, E. D.
Keywords:Financial Management Control Controlling Decision Support Systems Sensitivity Adaptation

This paper is about the context-sensitivity of a financial management control system in a large company that goes through the process of organizational restructuring in an environment in transition. We trace the evolution of the system in order to clarify the impact of context changes and how the system has adapted to them. Also, we try to induce from our experience guidelines for development of adaptable DSSs. This paper is a report from practice. Its objective is to contribute our experiences to the understanding of the inevitable interaction between sensitivity and adaptation of DSSs which serve their context.

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146-157
Brézillon, P. and Pomerol, J.-C.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Context Action Postponing Robust Action Macro-Action

Look-ahead reasoning leads to unmanageable decision trees due to the large number of possible actions and events. However, in decision practice, people reduce the complexity of the tree by using as much as contextual information as they can. In this paper, we explain and model the different ways of using contextual knowledge to reduce decision-tree complexity. From a theoretical viewpoint, we introduce first the notion of action robustness and action postponing. As a consequence, the reasoning moves from look-ahead to diagnosis and relies on macro-actions. Then, we illustrate how context can be modeled and used to simplify decision trees according to the notions introduced in the first part.

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158-173
Bohanec, M., Cestnik, B. and Rajkovič, V.
Keywords:Multi-Attribute Decision Making Decision Support Systems Decision Models Evaluation Ranking Context Sensitivity Loan Allocation Housing

In this paper, we analyze the impact of contextual changes to the size, structure and behavior of a qualitative multi-attribute model. The study involves an evaluation model for allocating housing loans in the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia. So far, this model was used in 13 completed floats of loans for citizens. As a result of considerable contextual changes that occurred from float to float, the model had to be adapted accordingly. These changes were reflected in the modifications of model structure, used attributes, and decision rules at various levels of the model. Based on the analysis of time series of different model parameters, we articulate some guidelines for efficient model management, and justify the flexibility of the approach and its robustness to contextual changes. In particular, we show that a model can be designed so that relatively large changes in the decision environment cause minor and isolated changes in the model.

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175-189
Hiti, I., Cestnik, B., Selan, F. and Janezic, J.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Telecommunication Services and Technologies Context Sensitivity

The development of new technologies in telecommunication offers to companies many new possibilities for quick and efficient communication. The problem for network managers is how to find the most suitable communication services on optimal network technology for a company with respect to its business process and costs. The problem can be solved by a decision support system (DSS); the result can be viewed as a suggested selection of telecommunication services on optimal network technologies. In this paper, we present Thesia DSS that deals with the stated problem. In particular, we explore the impact of the key factors from various contexts to Thesia’s performance. The key factors are considered in two categories: factors that change in time and factors that present new environment to the DSS. The main focus is on describing our approach for determining DSS sensitivity to various contexts and methods of handling its sensitivity in order to create an adequate platform for high quality consulting services.

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190-201
Widmeyer, G. R.
Keywords:Context Decision Support Systems Structuration Theory Modal Logic Object Oriented

This paper addresses the issue of how one can model, represent and use context in a DSS. The modeling approach builds upon a decision making framework and concepts from sociology in developing five classes of decision support objects: interpretative scheme, facility (resources), norm (preferences), argumentation process, and task context (set of options). Specific instances of these five classes are iteratively adjusted in providing support to the decision makers. Additional support is provided by the use of formal procedures adapted from automated reasoning research. The result is a context sensitive DSS that supports decision makers in the communication of an argument for a particular course of action.

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202-215
Berztiss, A. T.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Context Evolution Context Switching Domain Model Product Line

Information systems are affected by the very rapid change of the environment in which they are embedded. There is also increased dependence of organizations on externally developed information systems. The first trend requires that any particular DSS be easily adaptable to environmental changes. This we call context evolution. The second leads to DSSs being developed as product lines, and this gives rise to context switching. We address these trends by means of two-level domain modeling: a generic base model remains for the most part unchanged for all products of a product line; an upper level consists of specializations for specific contexts.

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216-226
Stanek, S.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Context Analysis Context Sensitivity Adaptation Heterogeneous Links Virtual Organization

The paper explores the problem of development of context-sensitive DSS, building on systems analysis and a number of recent trends in the field of management and information technology. The pivotal proposition of the paper is the splitting of DSS into two subsystems: Executive Support (Sub-)System and Worker Support (Sub-)System. The methodological propositions are illustrated with the case of the ‘AE2000 Intelligent Computer Strategy Game via Internet’ project. The game prototype design sets out from a model of interorganizational links. The game is intended to find a number of applications in research on decision support in virtual organizations. The use of Software Agents is expected to help bring the project to fruition.

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227-246
Shanks, G. and Darke, P.
Keywords:Data Warehousing Decision Support Systems Data Management Context

Data warehouses provide the necessary data infrastructure for executive information systems and decision support systems. The design of a data warehouse is a complex and critical activity within the data warehousing process. The corporate data model has been proposed as a tool to support data warehouse design. Although corporate data models are widely used to support data management within organisations, both information systems professionals and business users find them difficult to understand. This paper describes a data warehouse design approach which is intended to facilitate stakeholder understanding by making explicit use of explanation and visualisation mechanisms to incorporate context into the representation of the data warehouse design, and reports a case study of the use of the approach in practice. Three important findings about the use of the explanation and visualisation mechanisms emerged from the case study. First, design rationale is an effective means of explaining the evolution of concepts in the data warehouse design for specialist data modellers. Second, scenarios should be used for elicitation of information requirements and to explain abstract concepts in the model to business users. Third, graphical icons and subject area partitions are effective means of visualising the model and lead to improved understanding of the model by business users.

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247-265