Decision Support Fundamentals

Decision Support Fundamentals

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2967-7.ch001


Rational approaches to decision-making are classified in one of the following categories: descriptive, normative, or prescriptive. The main normative models that are presented concern value functions, expected utility and subjective expected utility. Several alternative normative frameworks that have appeared in the literature of the last thirty years particularly for attacking the problem of conflicting objectives—the analytic hierarchical process, multi-criteria decision-making movement, outranking—are described. A Framework to align decision support-driven initiatives with the decision-making vision is given in the chapter. It divides the objective-oriented systems that determine the structure of decision-making domain from the strategic actions in this domain that have to determine the decision-making process. The latter serves as the basis for defining the main objectives, which have to be achieved in the development of Decision-Making Support Systems (DMSS). A classification scheme of the main categories of such systems is suggested. The development of DMSSs depends on the accepted implementation method, architectural representation of these systems, implementation approaches and used information, communication and computer technologies. They guarantee not only the capabilities of decision-making support systems, but its characteristics as well.
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1. Decision-Making And Decision Support

Ackoff (1981) presents four ways to cope with difficulties (problems) of the material word—absolution, resolution, solution, or dissolution.

  • Absolution: The problem remains outstanding in the hope of self-disappearing;

  • Resolving: This approach requires to select a course of action that yields an outcome (artifact) that is good enough for a purpose or meets the needs of the specific context, in which the artifact will be used (the “best-fit” artifact), i.e. the result satisfies;

  • Solving: This is to select a course of action that is believed to yield the best possible outcome;

  • Dissolving: It is a way to remove the difficulties through changing the nature and/or the environment of the entity which brings the problem, i.e. the problem is eliminated by its reducing.

The resolution differs from the solution in the kind of causality, on which they are based. In resolving the selection of an option causes a satisfactory result, i.e. the relation of cause and effect can be described as efficient. In solving the selection of a course of action produces an optimal result—the causality optimizes. It is not necessary to contrast efficiency with optimization, since the sufficient and necessary condition for realization of a sustainable choice is guaranteed by its efficiency and optimality. The problem resolution and problem solution are two aspects of an important theme of cognitive psychology that is known as problem solving.

The purpose of decision-making is to make deliberately opting for one choice from two or more, proactively to optimize a situation or outcome and not let it happen by default. The main attributes of decision-making are:

  • Cognitive process that focuses on the choice phase of a problem-solving activity;

  • Selection of an option over others, which could include no action;

  • Risky Choice: Under conditions that are uncertain;

  • Decision in order to reach a specified goal or outcome.

Human activity in decision-making terms is subject of active research that is performed in the decision-making domain from several perspectives. From a problem solving perspective, the decision-making process is the most important component of a problem solving activity. From a cognitive perspective, it is necessary to examine decision-making in its interactions with the environment. According to distributed cognition that is a branch of cognitive science, knowledge, and cognition are not confined to an individual, rather they are distributed across objects, individuals, artifacts, and tools in the environment. The goal is to describe how distributed units are coordinated by analyzing the interactions between individuals, the representational media used, and the environment within which the activity takes place. Distributed Cognition is a useful descriptive framework that describes decision-making activity in informational and computational terms and suitable for analyzing situations that involve problem-solving (Perry, 2003). Since the purpose of decision-making is to make rational choices, it is worth noting that from a normative perspective the analysis of individual decisions is concerned with the logic of decision-making and rationality it leads to.

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