The future of managerial decision support in system perspective

It is very difficult to provide relevant predictions in such a dynamic field of computer technology as decision support systems. The small examination of the past made here may, however, give some reasonable conclusions for the future.

The users of today’s systems differ substantially from the past and are no longer the hard-core computer scientists of yesterday. In the corporate world the use of computers is now a matter of course and has become an integral part of the scene. User-friendliness has been made a reality by systems which are neither difficult to learn nor complicated to utilize. Middle level decision makers will take advantage of this, personally gathering both internal and external information from the system, in order to make themselves independent of subordinates.

This augmented control of the business environment and the possibility to use new ‘last minute information’, will give decision makers better conditions for prompt and substantiated decisions. The prerequisites for direct management and control will be considerably improved.

Another major trend will be the integration of the different kinds of systems. DSS, EIS and ES will all be integrated into each other in one all- purpose EIS system (Everybody’s Information System!) which implies that personnel at many levels will use it.

On the other hand it is still difficult to imagine that top-level executives should have any major benefit from the system. From the beginning, decision support systems were intended to be a computer- supported tool for the highest level decision. It was, however, soon realized that this category of users would never accept a place in front of a computer screen. Decision makers at the strategic level have always obtained the information they demanded and they will continue to get it delivered from their subordinates.

To apply the rulebook is something which the computer today tackles successfully and even a robot can learn from experience. But the best decision support will continue to be what is particularly human, namely good intuition, good guesses and a certain feeling rather than slavishly applied rules. Decision-making is a compromise between our conscious thought processes and nonconscious intuition. No doubt this will also be true in the coming century.

Source: Skyttner Lars (2006), General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice, Wspc, 2nd Edition.

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