Decision Support Systems and Executive Information Systems

Executive Information Systems

Introduction

In all organizations, it is the prerogative of the Executive (top) Managers to make monumental decisions that can make or break the organization. It is therefore imperative that these executive managers have access to information that enables them to make reliable decisions that will enable them to meet the organization’s goals. Executive Information Systems are easy to use systems for strategic decision making. Some of the features that differentiate EIS from other systems are that they are used to assist in setting of long range goals and are used to support non routine and subjective decision making. As the C.I.O. of Coles Myer Group I have been charged with the duty of proposing an EIS that would help the C.E.O. of the group receive more usable information to assist him in his decision making process. After deep research and extensive investigation of a number of EIS products available in the market, I have come to the conclusion that Innova Software Company’s Executive information System (Innova EIS) would be the best suited product for the company’s C.E.O. In this paper, I shall engaged in a detailed analysis of this product so as to give a solid justification for my choosing it as the most appropriate product for the C.E.O.’s needs.

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Innova EIS, Critical Analysis

Wall and Watson (1996, p.26) asset that it is the role of an EIS to assist in the enhancement of executive effectiveness in identifying and diagnosing strategic problems and opportunities. Inova EIS provides for these very functions by enabling the executive manager to monitoring the firm’s current status and also scan the external environment for trends that may point to future significant events. A very significant problem that top management faces is that of information overload. This arises from the fact that the executive may be required to monitor various projects especially if the business in question is of significant size. This is the case with Coles Myer Group where vast amounts of financial data are supposed to be monitored from the company’s stores throughout the country. Innova EIS will help to reduce the time the executive would spend searching for information by discarding the irrelevant.

One of the purposes for an EIS is to allow timely access to information by the user. Bearing in mind that the company’s C.E.O. is on a busy schedule, an EIS that can be accessed from various locations would be most suitable. Inova EIS has capabilities that allow tracking progress with E-mail. The C.E.O. will therefore be able to use a hand-held computing device even while on the move to monitor the progress of significant areas in the company affairs.

Ideally, EIS are supposed to have a powerful ability to direct management’s attention to specific areas of the organization (Turban, Aronson and Liang 2007). While this is one of the functionalities that makes EIS especially expensive, it is also the functionality that makes them most useful to an organization since managers are forced to prioritize on matters by dealing with the most significant issues first. The Innova EIS provides for this very functionality through its inbuilt alarm system which highlights critical situations to the user therefore forcing him/her to pay closer attention to the situation.

Senior executives are generally very busy people and as such, they want value-added reports that have easy navigability enabling them to hone in on the information that will enable them to deduce trends or get advice on particular data. Innova EIS enables the senior Executive to perform these very tasks through its drill down and roll up capabilities. By utilizing Innova, you as the C.E.O. will be able to dictate the level of detail on a particular piece of information. The interface of Innova is also very user friendly and intuitive in nature and very little time will be spent in learning how to best use the program.

Top executives are positioned to have a universal perspective of the organization and as such make better decisions on goals and objectives. However, the success of top executive decisions is greatly pegged on them having highly accurate information. Therefore, delegating the task of information scanning to subordinates may lead to undesirable results since this information may be inaccurate. EIS present a way for top executives to perform this task by improving access to external data and combining data from several sources and presenting it in a more meaningful format hence saving the user time and resources that would have been used in reconciling this information from various independent sources.

Finally, another feature that makes Innova the best option for you is that is provides for multiple user accounts. This is important especially when the Executive manager wishes to have the input of other managers so as to make even better decisions. Owing to the fact that Coles Myer Group has stores all over the country, it is highly unlikely that the one individual would be able to take in all the information from the various branches. Multiple user accounts will therefore allow you as the C.E.O. to make use of the expertise and opinions of various other top executives therefore coming up with the soundest decisions.

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Conclusion

In this paper, I set out to propose an Executive Information System that would be most applicable for the C.E.O. of the Coles Myer Group. After extensive research I recommended Innova EIS as the best system for you. Throughout this report, I have articulated the various features and functionalities that demonstrate that Innova EIS actually would cater for all the needs that you as the C.E.O. would require of an EIS. It is my believe that by purchasing and utilizing this system, you will not only be able to better understand the organization but will also make more sound decisions for the entire organization’s good.

Decision Support System

Introduction

Managing any project of non-trivial proportions is a complex and challenging assignment due to the various unique aspects that projects possess. A project manager is therefore taxed with the role of coordinating many differing activities so as to achieve the goals of the project. The decision making process is very essential in the project management. To ensure that projects have a higher likelihood of being run successfully to completion, various tools exist to assist the project manager and his team. These tools include; Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), Quantitative Analysis Method and Decision Support Systems (DSS) among others. DSS are particularly significant since one of the major roles of the manager is to make decisions. Power (2001, p.15) defines DSS as “interactive computer-based systems that help people use computer communications, data, documents, knowledge, and models to solve problems and make decisions” (Power 2002, p.15).

There exist many DSS products in the market and finding the suitable one for a particular project is vital for the project’s success. As the Project Manager in charge of a team of six project groups working on complex software development tasks, I have decided to carry out an investigation so as to establish which DSS would best suit my particular needs. In this essay, I shall perform a critical analysis of three software products in order to decide on which will be best suited for my task.

Project Simulator 2010

The Project Simulator 2010 is a DSS tool developed by ProModel Corporation to assist project managers in their tasks. Promodel (2010) describes the Project Simulator 2010 as “a scenario planning, simulation and reporting add-in for Microsoft Project enabling project managers to rapidly Visualize, Analyze and Optimize their project plans, resulting in a higher probability of completing projects on-time”. The product is very user friendly due to its high graphical nature and the user can without difficulty perform “what if” analysis with little training. One of the visual aids employed by this DSS tool is the Gantt chart. Gantt charts developed by Charles Gantt in 1917 are visual tools used by project managers to assess the status of a project and they are good tools for quick assessment of project status by the project manager (Jenkins 2006, p.28).

As the project manager, one of my goals is to ensure that staff and resource allocation takes place in the most cost effective and optimal manner. This task is hard to achieve without using tools since this particular project has never been undertaken before hence past experiences only assist minimally in decision making. The Project Simulator 2010 purports to assist in this function since it has modules that help one make decisions that will lead to a certain desirable end (Promodel 2010). This is achieved by a user keying in the intended goals into Project Simulator 2010. The DSS then gives information on the paths that can be taken to reach this goal. I will therefore be able to decide on paths that will lead to positive results through this product.

The software development industry has many players and therefore, it can be rightfully assumed that my there are other teams in other organizations that are coming up with complex software of a similar nature to the one that my team is developing. With this in mind, a DSS that can enable building innovation and yield competitive advantage for the company would be the most desirable (Power 2002). Project Simulator 2010 assists in process improvement initiatives and this may eventually lead to a competitive advantage being acquired by my project team against a rival software developer.

The most significant demerit of Project Simulator 2010 is that it is platform dependent (Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7) and it would therefore necessitate that the company invest in a Windows operating system before utilizing the project. This may be a major hindrance since it will definitely lead to the increase in cost of acquiring and using the product. In addition to this, lack of familiarity with the Windows environment may result in training being required before the benefits of the DSS tool can be reaped.

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Vanguard Global Optimizer

Vanguard Global Optimizer is a DSS that is developed by Vanguard Software Corporation. Vanguard (2010) declares that this DSS is a product that “solves complex decision problems by combining intelligent search strategies with the power of grid computing”. The product by Vanguard mostly enhances the decision making process by providing quality and reliable information that can be used by the decision maker in his/her decision making efforts.

Flexibility in terms of the project schedule may be an important attributes especially in instances where delays are inevitable. Vanguard Global Optimizer helps to assist in schedule shifting since it has modules that enable the project manager to adjust the schedule while still remaining within the set budgetary constraints. The DSS has functions that can assist a decision maker to come up with contingency plans that will lead to the project being completed within favourable time and cost constrains despite having deviated from the initial plans. In addition to this, Vanguard’s software also has modules for risk anticipation. This can be used by the decision maker to avoid certain actions which have high risk probabilities.

One of the realities of project management is that sometimes issues can arise causing the project to be derailed. In such instances, the first priority for the project manager is to get the project back on track. Stair and Reynolds (2008) assert that failure to get a project on schedule will not only lead to a delay but will also lead to increase in the overall cost of the project and in most times, decreased quality of the product. In my scenario whereby the software needs to be delivered in a timely manner, it is imperative that the DSS have capabilities that can assist in getting the project back on track in the event that we should run off schedule.

Vanguard is by design a very versatile product and as such, different decision types can be made from the same program. The product is therefore not limited to one discipline but rather can be utilized for problems from multiple departments in the organization. In my particular project, I shall be leading a team of developers who vary from analysts, programmers to administrators. A DSS that is can be used for various disciplines will therefore be very suitable for this project.

SIMUL8 Professional 2010

SIMUL8 Pro is a DSS tool created by SIMUL8 Corporation. According to its developers, SIMUL8 pro makes particular focus on quality and innovation and as such has increased efficiency and speed (Simul8 2010). This product gives the decision maker the capability to run simulations which take into consideration many different parameters at a very short time. A Manager can therefore run multiple simulations in a short time and come up with the best solution. This is a significant factor for my project since I shall be dealing with six project groups, each with its own members.

One of the features that distinguish SIMUL8 from most of the other DSS tools is that it is platform independent. This means that the product can be run in multiple platform environments therefore removing the inhibition that platform specific products create. This is an important consideration bearing in mind that the various personnel involved in the project will mostly likely have computers operating on different platforms. A DSS tool that can operate across different platforms will be most convenient since it will mean that data can be obtained from user machines running on various operating systems.

In all projects, there is always the possibility of risk which must be factored in by the project manager as he/she makes his decisions. Risks arise as a result of the uncertainties that are inherent in each project. One of the things which make risk management hard is that there is no standardized approach to dealing with risks (Norris, Perry & Simon 2000, p.2). Simul8 professional 2010 assists in risk minimization by giving a manager the means with which to assess the project for what could go wrong and once risk has been recognized, minimization of the same can be done.

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When a new product is introduced to an individual or a group of individuals, user training is very important since it helps the user to familiarize themselves with the new product in a timely manner. Simul8 offers user training so as to assist the manager to come up with simulations of their own while using the product. In addition to this, Simul8 has a free technical support and service plan. These after sale services are important since the users of the products are not afraid to experiment since they know that they will be assisted in cases whereby the system fails.

Simul8 Professional has the capability to connect to databases therefore increasing the data sources from which information can be retrieved in order for a decision to be made. In addition to this, the product allows for comparison of independent simulations therefore supporting team work since different people can work on the same simulation and compare results at a later time. This accommodation for collaborative efforts is very important since a successful project is one which takes into consideration the contributions of various parties.

Discussion

After assessing a number of DSS products available in the market, I could come up with an informed decision on which product to purchase to assist in my project management efforts. From the in depth analysis of the DSS products, I concluded that SIMUL8 Professional 2010 would be the most effective product for the task at hand. While the other two DSS tools reviewed in this paper (Project Simulator 2010 and Vanguard Global Optimizer) both had more user friendly interfaces, purchase of SIMUL8 Professional 2010 comes with free training which will enable one to grasp how the product works. In addition to this, the free support services that are provided for a year will prove useful in case of future problems.

Burstein and Holsapple (2008) suggest that decision making tools that are able to utilize the most up-to-date, relevant information to assist in decision making are most applicable today. As such, the best DSS would be the one which enables the project manager to tap into the various databases that the rest of the project team is using therefore coming up with decisions based on the latest information available. Another factor that made SIMUL8 Professional 2010 stand out from the other products was that it could be run on various platforms including: Windows, Linux and Mac OS. This means that the various members of the various project teams would not have to change their Operating Systems for the DSS to be useful.

Conclusion

This paper set out to provide an in depth analysis of the various DSS products that I could use to manage the software development project. From the discussions presented, it is clear that SIMUL8 would be the best option for my particular needs. By making use of this DSS product, I as the project manager will be able to make sound decisions in a complex environment therefore ensuring the health of the project and enabling me to reach the overall goals and objectives set.

References

Burstein F & Holsapple W C, 2008, Handbook on Decision Support Systems 2: Variations, Routledge.

Innova, 2010, Executive Information System, Web.

Jenkins N, 2006, A Project Management Primer, Web.

Norris C Perry J & Simon P, 2000, Project Risk Analysis and Management, The Association for Project Management.

Power DJ, 2002, Decision Support Systems: Concepts and Resources for Managers, Greenwood Publishing Group.

Promodel, 2010, Project Simulator 2010, Web.

Simul8, 2010, Simul8 Professional Products, Web.

Stair M R & Reynolds G, 2008, Principles of Information Systems, Cengage Learning.

Turban E, Aronson, J E & Liang T P, 2007, Decision Support and Business Intelligence Systems, Eight Edition ed., New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Vanguard, 2010, Global Optimizer, Web.

Wall, J. and Watson, H. 1996. Executive Information Systems: Introduction to Mini-Track, Hawaii: University of Georgia.

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