Friday, April 22

Decision Support Problems (DSP), A Class of Information System !!!!!!!!!!!!

For those few, who sometimes follow my blog....... this post might seem weird to all of you..
I was puzzled even, when I wrote this, and still can't believe myself.. the reason being the content and the subject of this post which you will soon read as you go down.
Anyways leave aside all the mystery or what ever you may want to think about this article, but the idea to write about this topic came to my mind while I was enrolled, in one of my Masters classes ... (a decision that still haunts me big time).
The article is about Decision Support Systems or DSP's as you may say. DSP's are kind of information systems useful in making decisions. I would rather stop here, and without defining it further, would come straight to the crux of this concept.

Making decisions is never an easy job. A lot of things need to be considered before we arrive at a final decision. But here the most critical thing is choosing a decision which has the maximum prospect of success or usefulness and which best fits our aims, wishes, way of life, principles and so on. Decision making is always associated with tentativeness and risks. This is because if you do not have risks then you do not have a decision. In short, decision making is the study of recognizing and selecting options based on the values and preferences of the person who takes decisions.

Decision Support Problems – Knowledge based information systems that support decision making activities:

Decision support problems are a class of information systems which include a wide range of methods from simple manual knowledge based systems to computerized systems. Lately the concept of decision support problems has been used extensively for supporting commerce and trade, and managerial decision-making actions. Also decision support problems make use of a lot of things which include rare facts and figures, papers and credentials, individual knowledge and company models. In general decision support problems make use of record of all the existing assets, relative figures and projected figures based on the current problem. From the point of view of this course, I feel that decision support systems can be an important tool as they can make use of our suitable and available knowledge for improving the effectiveness of our managerial and professional activities. By doing that it can make possible faster decision making, finding out the unwanted or negative qualities, and making better use of available attributes.

A simple decision support system can be divided into 6 steps, which can be subdivided into 2 categories namely;

1. Meta Design

2. Design

Meta Design is basically a pre-stage of the actual design stage. Here an important task of dividing the decision problem is done so as to facilitate the future decision making. Also how these decision making plans can be successfully implemented is decided here.

In the design category the most important job that is done is that of problem formulation. I feel this step is more important than the earlier one. This is because understanding the problem is more important than actually working on finding its solution. If a person has a clear understanding of the problem, then he can work out its solution after some work. But if he is not sure about the problem itself, how can he move ahead?

When the problem is identified we then need to make use of mathematical methods, to form a good skeleton to make it more abstract. This can be done with the help of some problem related figures, appropriate documents etc. Once we have a proper problem framed in front of us then we can arrive at some numerical solution, with the aid of computers and stuff. As discussed earlier in recent years there has been a lot of computer use in decision problems. Computers make the mathematical part easier. Then comes the stage of analyzing the solution which we just found out, and checking it whether the outcome is in unison with what was expected. It is also important to corroborate the solution by checking whether it waivers away from any of the information present in all the stages which were used in finding the solution.In this way one can easily lay down a simple decision support problem.

As discussed earlier about there not being any specific practice of defining decision support problems, the classification of decision support problems is also not fixed. Depending upon how the user copes up with the problem, or how user tries to find a solution to the decision problem, one can divide the decision support problem if they wish. One famous author, whose classification seemed interesting to me, is Daniel Power. (Source: wikipedia). Power differentiates decision support system problems into communication driven, data driven, document driven, knowledge driven and model driven.

* Communication driven problems support more than one person working on a shared task.

* Data driven emphasizes access to and manipulation of a string of data points of company data which is directly or indirectly related to it.

* Document driven system problems deal with recovering and maneuvering unarranged information in some computerized formats.

* Knowledge driven is concerned with some dedicated problem-solving proficiencies &

* Model driven problems use numbers and factors given by users to help out people concerned with making decisions in investigating a case.

It is clear that decision support problems because of the possibilities associated with it can be used widely and in variety of applications.

Some of the fields that employ decision support systems are the field of agriculture, medical field, manufacturing systems, financial market, water management, transportation systems, forest protection etc.

I feel that agriculture, water management, forest protection and medical have a lot of serious decision making associated with them. Just to go over this a bit more, currently the problem of water management has high degree of complexity associated with it. Due to growing water problems resulting from reduced rainfall, deforestation etc human societies are getting increasingly concerned about this issue. Also if there is less water the agricultural market is one of the biggest losers immediately. This is because for sustainable development and crop production, water is a must. This makes the job of decision making processes and decision makers even more crucial, so as to come up with improved techniques and practices.

Thus in short I feel that, in order to achieve development for the needs of present and future generations, the influence of decision making is going to be vital for raising consciousness and steering growth towards sustainability.

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