Cloud-Based Collaborative Decision Making: Design Considerations and Architecture of the GRUPO-MOD System

Cloud-Based Collaborative Decision Making: Design Considerations and Architecture of the GRUPO-MOD System

Heiko Thimm (Pforzheim University, School of Engineering, Pforzheim, Germany)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/jdsst.2012100103
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Abstract

The complexity of many decision problems of today’s globalized world requires new innovative solutions that are built upon proven decision support technology and also recent advancements in the area of information and communication technology (ICT) such as Cloud Computing and Mobile Communication. A combination of the cost-effective Cloud Computing approach with extended group decision support system technology bears several interesting unprecedented opportunities for the development of such solutions. These opportunities include ubiquitous accessibility to decision support software and, thus, the possibility to flexibly involve remote experts in group decision processes, guided access to background information, and facilitation support to direct group decision processes. The architects of such future solutions are challenged by numerous requirements that need to be considered and reflected in an integrated architectural approach. This article presents a thorough analysis of major design considerations for software solutions for collaborative decision making from a broad range of perspectives especially including the business process management perspective and the Cloud Computing perspective. The proposed architectural approach of the GRUPO-MOD system demonstrates how one can address the requirements in one integrated system architecture that supports different deployment options of Cloud Computing. A refinement of the high-level system architecture into a corresponding implementation architecture that builds on widely adopted standards such as OSGi and industry proven technology such as the Eclipse platform is also given in the article.
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Introduction

The pressure for globalization and the rapidly changing conditions of markets and other reasons promote the ongoing transformation of traditional value chains. It is a characteristic of the resulting new forms of value chains that business partners will collaborate in new forms of organizations such as virtual organizations and collaborative business networks (Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005). Specialists often work together in these arrangements more than in traditional business partnerships to achieve a common goal and thus they are obligated to complete collaborative decisions. Collaborative decision making is typically targeted at reaching a consensus among the persons that take part in the decision process (Watson, DeSanctis, & Poole, 1988). Examples are dislocated engineering teams that jointly need to decide about design alternatives (Adla, Zarate, & Soubie, 2011), global sales teams that need to choose from a set of alternative sales strategies, cross-sector healthcare experts that are called to collaboratively decide about future therapies for patients, plant engineers that through a collaborative root cause analysis attempt to identify the reason for a defect (Jankovic, Zaraté, Bocquet, & Le Cardinal, 2009)and crisis management teams that need to collaboratively decide about appropriate actions in crisis situations such as flooding.

Organizations today are increasingly challenged by the requirement to frequently complete such collaborative decisions at the strategic, tactical, and also at the operational level. Often the collaborative decisions are complex decisions where different alternatives are to be judged with respect to a set of criteria. In order to handle the above described complexity organizations attempt to make use of software solutions that are specialized in collaborative decision making. Several open source and commercial software solutions (e.g., Team Expert ChoiceTM, Decision LensTM) for collaborative decision making are available and organizations can undoubtedly gain benefits from these solutions. However, in order to offer the full spectrum of ICT support for collaborative decision making further system research studies are needed that especially take the new ICT advancements into account.

It is the general goal of the research reported in this article to investigate new software solution architectures to effectively support collaborative decision making in traditional and new types of organizations such as collaborative business networks (Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005). The GRUPO-MOD system (Group Decision Making with Automated Moderation) is presented as a major research result. The system is based on a combination of recent advancements in the area of business process modeling and digital moderation with group decision making support concepts.

GRUPO-MOD among others builds on an integration of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) (Saaty, 1980) as group decision method with a means for automated decision moderation. A solution to achieving this integration was described in an earlier research article (Thimm, 2011). The GRUPO-MOD system is intended to support two unique features through this approach and other concepts that are combined into a coherent and self-contained system architecture. Firstly, GRUPO-MOD supports a model-driven collaborative decision making approach where decision making processes are explicitly described in the form of extended business process models that may include moderation elements. Secondly, GRUPO-MOD is able to transform these extended business processes into executable programs that enact and direct the corresponding real-world collaborative decision making processes. It is assumed that these and the other GRUPO-MOD capabilities will be most beneficial to organizations when they are made ubiquitously accessible as on-demand services over a network. Therefore, the GRUPO-MOD system is primarily designed to support a Cloud Computing approach.

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