Decision Support Systems for Business Intelligence (Sauter/Decision) || Group Decision Support Systems

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    Many decisions in an organization are made not by an individual, but rather by groups of individuals. By its very nature, a group enriches the choice process by gathering the knowl-edge, experience, and probably different perspectives of several people. The enrichment may in turn allow the group to understand the problem better, spark synergy for creative solutions, and identify errors in the information or process. Finally, since more people are involved, they create a deeper commitment to the choice and thus less resistance to its implementation.

    However, groups bring a few drawbacks to the decision process. Most group decisions take longer than individual decisions. Groups tend to spend significant nonproductive time waiting, organizing, or repeating what already has been said. Group dynamics can inappro-priately influence the process if there are substantial differences in the rank or temperament of the members. Often, the supporting work may be uncoordinated if completed by multiple individuals or some people may abdicate their tasks and responsibilities to others. Finally, there is social pressure to conform to a group position. "Groupthink" can exist in any group and may exacerbate incomplete or inappropriate uses of information.

    Groupthink is an agreement-at-any-costs mentality that often results in ineffective group decision making and poor decisions (Hellriegel et , 2007). It is associated with groups that have a high degree of conformity and cohesion, that are insulated from outside information sources challenging their decisions, that have excessively directive leadership, and/or that exist in a complex and rapidly changing environment. When groupthink occurs, members ignore limitations or impropriety of their analyses as well as possible conse-quences of their choice process. In fact, the group collectively rationalizes its choice and

    Decision Support Systems for Business Intelligence by Vicki L. Sauter Copyright 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


    process, going so far as to censor itself when group members deviate from the established position, solution, or parameters.

    The problem with groupthink is obviously that it can lead to poor decision processes. In particular, it is associated with:

    Incomplete generation of alternatives Incomplete understanding of goals Failure to examine risks of preferred choices Poor search of information Bias in the interpretation of information Failure to appraise and reappraise alternatives.

    Each of these in turn is associated with bad decision making. Unfortunately, DSS as it has been defined to this point does not provide methods for addressing these problems.

    Hence, to support group decision making, a tool needs to have not only those char-acteristics of DSS discussed throughout this book but also the hardware, software, and procedures necessary to reveal the positive aspects of the group and inhibit the negative. Group DSS (GDSS) represent this hybrid technology; they combine DSS and groupware technologies. Group DSS should have the components of a DSS, including the model man-agement system, the database management system and user interface management system, as they have been described previously. The system must be able to support the needs of all of the decision makers easily. Group DSS must have the range of models and model management functions necessary to meet the choice needs of the participants. Further, they must be able to access and aggregate information from a variety of sources in a variety of formats to meet the group's broad information needs. Finally, GDSS must be easy for all users to operate.

    Too often, the group dynamics themselves block active participation by one or more people and discourage innovative thinking. Group DSS must therefore include tools that address the group dynamics so decision makers can gain consensus about a particular problem or opportunity and group dynamic management systems to address the special needs of group processes. Group consideration of any problem allows the use of additional information, knowledge, and skills, but only if all participants have equal opportunity to be

    Collective rationalization is the characteristic that allowed North American automobile executives to agree upon two "facts" about the consumers in the 1970s. In particular, the executives agreed that (a) only a small segment of North American automobile buyers would, in fact, purchase Japanese-manufactured automobiles and (b) North American consumers would be willing to tolerate a per-gall on gas price of over $2.50, It is likely that at least one of those executives had concerns about the validity of these two assumptions and their impact upon the automobile design decision-making process. However, he or she may have been hesitant to express concerns in a meeting where others perceived the assumptions to be true. This was groupthink and it had a remarkably negative impact upon the North American automobile industry. Over time, the American automobile industry has repeated this mistake multiple times.


    heard and to have ideas received. Since GDSS use the technologies of groupware, before discussing more about GDSS, we will examine the concept of groupware in more depth.


    Groupware or group support systems (GSS) have evolved over time. One definition available in the literature is that GSS are computer-based information systems used to support intellectual, collaborative work (Jessup and Valacich, 1993). This definition is too broad for one discussion, because it does not specifically address the role of groups. Another definition emerges as "tools designed to support communications among members of a collaborative work group" (Hosseini, 1995, p. 368). Another way to describe a GSS is as "the collective of computer-assisted technologies used to aid group efforts directed at identifying and addressing problems, opportunities and issues" (Huber, Valacich, and Jessup, 1993, p. 256).

    Groupware exists to facilitate the movement of messages or documents so as to enhance the quality of communication among individuals in remote locations. It provides access to shared databases, document handling, electronic messaging, work flow management, and conferencing. In fact, groupware can be thought of as a development environment in which cooperative applicationsincluding decisionscan be built. Groupware achieves this through the integration of eight distinct technologies: messaging, conferencing, group document handling, work flow, utilities/development tools, frameworks, services, and ver-tical market applications. Hence, it provides the foundation for the easy exchange of data and information among individuals located far apart. Although no currently available prod-uct has an integrated and complete set of capabilities, Table 11.1 summarizes the range of functions that may be included in groupware.

    There are many examples of successful use of groupware to enhance communications. In fact, it is believed that over 90% of firms using groupware will receive returns of 40% or more, with some as large as 200%. Boeing engineers collaborated with engineers at parts manufacturers as well as maintenance experts and customer airlines while designing the 777. Using groupware technologies, engineers shared ideas through e-mail and specifi-cations through computer-aided-design (CAD). Similarly, Weaton Industries used desktop

    Group decision making is supposed to provide a richer poo] of knowledge and experience and therefore better choices. Research has shown that groups that share unique information, that which is known only to a few members, rather than to discuss information shared by most or all of its members tend to make better decisions. Further groups that talk to each other more make better decisions. Unfortunately, a meta-analysis of 72 studies involving 4795 groups and over 17,000 individuals showed that groups tend to spend most of their time discussing the redundant information shared by most members, rather than discussing information known only to one or a minority of members. In addition, the analysis found that groups that talked more tended to share less unique information. The problem seems particularly bad when groups seek a consensus opinion or judgment rather than solving a problem for which a correct answer exists. There is good news, however. Groups improved both their unique information sharing and the range of discussions among group members when the group was more focused and highly structured. Such structure can be created when using a GDSS to manage the meeting.


    Table 11.1. Functionality of Groupware Products

    Enterprise needs

    Cross-vendor support

    Local/remote servers

    Integrated networks

    Executive information systems standards

    Network operating systems


    Document and image repository

    Object repository and knowledge ware

    Group needs


    Desktop video and audio conferencing

    Group application development environment

    Group editing

    Work flow management


    E-mail and messaging

    Calendar management and scheduling

    Personal productivity applications

    Models and model management

    videoconferencing to diagnose and repair giant blow-molding machines around the world. Finally, law firms use groupware to gain access to documents for improved efficiency and customer service.

    DSS in Action Around the Clock Processing

    Many companies are goin^ beyond simple document sharing, deploying such programs on an enterprise-wide basis and using repository-based groupware as databases, internal communication networks, and work flow systems. Many companies are using groupware products to spearhead efforts to reengineer the way they do business. For ex am pi e, a Wall Street investment firm used groupware to help prepare the final details of a merger and acquisition deadline. It became clear to this management that they could not finish those details without help at 3 p


    The main groupware competitors at this time are:

    FacilitatePro from Lotus Notes from IBM Net Meeting and MeetingWorks from Microsoft Oracle Beehive from Oracle Corporation GroupWise 4.1 from WordPerfect: The Novell Applications Group WebEx from Cisco

    Each one provides some kind of meeting ability. Typically the products include agenda-setting, discussion, and voting capabilities, such as those shown in Figure 11.1. This screen shot from FacilitatePro shows the brainstorming options after participants voted on their desirability. Characteristics of the voting pattern are illustrated both graphically and statistically to help users understand the votes of their colleagues. In addition, since all of the information is stored electronically, the tools help organizations meet the regulations associated with the storage and disclosure. However, they do not provide the analytical tools associated with DSSs that we have discussed in this book.

    One of the major problems with most groupware products at this time is that they rarely interface with one another nicely. They have, however, adopted standards that allow most of them to provide e-mail, calendar, and scheduling through a single standard (most use Microsoft Outlook) as proposed early in the millennium. Further, over time, the various products have increased the modules available with the products, making them more able

    Figure 11.1. Voting tools available with groupware. A Screenshot from FacilitatePro web meeting software. Used with permission of ( (Source:


    Table 11.2. Possible Standards for Groupware Products

    The multivendor scheduling standard should support transparent scheduling for all store-and-forward messaging transports as well as via real-time network protocols

    The standard should include hooks into shared X.500 directory services as well as proprietary e-mail, groupware, and network operating system directories

    The standard should support the calendar synchronization policies maintained by various scheduling tools

    The standard should support interfaces to multivendor network-enabled project planning and management tools

    The standard should allow users to control who may access their personal calendars, what fields may be viewed and modified, and what types of events may be scheduled without the owner's prior consent

    The standard should mediate between the various techniques used by scheduling tools to request meetings, negotiate meeting times and places, and reconcile conflicting schedule

    to stand alone for the range of functionality they provide. Furthermore, it means that users must adopt and maintain a single product line regardless of whether it continues to meet their needs because it is expensive for all users to change. Hence, there is a move in the industry to develop a groupware standard, including items such as those described in Table 11.2.


    A group DSS incorporates groupware technology with DSS technology. As such, GDSS consist of hardware, software, and procedures for facilitating the generation and evaluation of alternatives as well as features for facilitating to improve group dynamics. However, a GDSS is not a reconfiguration of an existing DSS but rather a specially designed system that integrates DSS and groupware technologies.

    A typical configuration includes model management, database management, and group management tools interconnected and managed by a facilitator. The purpose of the facilitator is to coordinate the use of the technology so that the focus of the decision makers is on the problem under consideration, not on the use of technology. Early GDSS included interconnected machines located in one room (sometimes called a decision room) to create a decision conference attended by an appropriate group of individuals to consider options and find a solution to the problem. An example of a decision room is shown in Figure 11.2. In this configuration, information can be communicated to and from participants via a network or by use of one or more public screens projecting the output of a particular computer. Over time, GDSS have expanded to include people located in different places, at different times, and with a variety of support tools. In fact, it is now a mature technology, many of whose concepts are now embedded in the way organizations work

    A typical decision-making process has several stages. After an introduction by the facilitator, the group is asked to discuss the issues and concerns so that the problem can be detected and defined. Once a set of alternatives is understood, the group attempts to construct a model of the choice context through which to evaluate the several alternatives. The analyst then assists the participants to...


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