Decision support systems have always had a goal of supporting decision-makers. Over time, DSS have taken many forms, or many forms of computer-based support have been considered in the context of DSS, depending on one’s particular perspective. Regardless, there have been decision support systems (DSS), expert systems, executive information systems, group DSS (GDSS), group support systems (GSS), collaborative systems (or computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) environments), knowledge-based systems, and inquiring systems, all of which are described elsewhere in this encyclopedia. The progression of decision support system types that have emerged follows to some degree the increasing complexity of the problems being addressed. Some of the early DSS involved single decision-makers utilizing spreadsheet models to solve problems. Such an approach would be inadequate in addressing complex problems because one aspect of problem complexity is that multiple stakeholders typically exist. Baldwin (1993) examined the need for supporting multiple views and provides the only attempt found in the information systems literature to operationalize the concept of a perspective. In his work, a view is defined as a set of beliefs that partially describe a general subject of discourse. He identified three major components of a view: the belief or notion to convey, a language to represent the notion, and a subject of discourse. He further described notions as comprising aspects and a vantage point. Aspects are the characteristics or attributes of a subject or situation that a particular notion emphasizes. A vantage point is described by the level of detail (i.e., overview or detailed analysis). Assuming the subject of discourse can be identified with the notion, Baldwin described how differences in views may occur via differences in the notion, the language, or both.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Inquiry: A process followed in which the goal is to create or acquire knowledge.
Problem Formulation: (1) The process in which a problem situation is described or modeled, (2) problem structure.
T, P, and O (Technical, Personal, and Organizational) Perspective: Three ways of describing perspectives of a problem.
Problem Structure: A description of a problem.
Complex Problem: A problem characterized by relationships among the components of the problem whose inter-relationships are difficult to specify or whose behavior cannot be deduced simply from knowledge of the behaviors of the individual component parts.
Perspective: The way in which a subject or its component parts are mentally viewed.