Many researchers have noted the high levels of abstraction required by the representation and conceptualisation of organisational decisions when these involve more than just simple operational concerns. They have concluded that the difficulty in specifying decisions problems in tangible terms at the early stages of a decision making process makes the analysis of DSS requirements difficult with current methods. If this observation is correct, it means that, despite substantial progress in technology, for example, quicker database engines, better graphical user interfaces, more flexible development platforms, and so forth, DSS developers may not be better equipped now than they were at the beginning of the history of DSS when it comes to understanding the problems they are trying to address. In this article, we argue that this gap in our understanding of the dynamics of DSS development must be addressed by the development of suitable analysis techniques that allow the capture of the less visible dimensions of organisational decision making. In particular, the wider context of decision making processes, for example, their political dimension, must be more finely understood by DSS developers before they propose systems that may embody elements of processes that change the information and communication webs of organisations in tangible ways. This article presents the results of our experimentation with the application of network analysis to a large organisation and shows how this orientation, which has yet to be broadly utilised in IS research, can allow researchers to capture the context of decision making in a modern business. We demonstrate that such approaches can support more complex analysis of the decision problems that must be tackled by DSS personnel.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Context: A combination of cultural, structural, and environmental factors, all of which are shaped by the specific circumstances that an organisation is going through at a particular point in time. This context, in turn, shapes the patterns of decision making in the firm (amongst other things).
Social Cohesion: (See entry on network analysis).
Structural Equivalence: (See entry on network analysis).
Extended Network: The extended network of a firm provides a complete representation of all nodes, internal and external, which have an influence on the decision making of organisational actors. It can only be uncovered following a detail analysis of the firm and the study of a sample of past decisions.