The faculty of human cognition often finds it difficult in making decisions concerning systems that are extensive and complex such as in the management of organizational operations, investment portfolios, military command and control situations and control of nuclear facilities. Even though one may fully comprehend the individual interactions amongst a system’s variables, it is usually very difficult to predict how a system will react to new stimuli as a result of a decision taken.
Under such circumstances, the results of many researches have indicated that the judgment and decision making capabilities of human beings could well fall short of the optimal. Stress and complexities acts negatively on the human cognition system, making it even harder to make what could be termed as the most optimal decision. The decision to be taken can nevertheless be very crucial, and a wrong decision could lead to catastrophe.
It therefore becomes essential to find some way to aid and help a human being in taking crucial decisions on complex systems not only in atmospheres of stress and pressure but also in normal situations. Science has strived to device such decision-making aids through out history. Operations research, statistics and economics have developed various methods for making rational choices. The advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and its dramatic developments in the last two-and-a-half decades has made it possible apply ICT in integrating various disciplines in aiding decision making in complex situations.
As a result, information science, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology and the neurosciences have come together to develop a variety of decision making aids. These decision-making aids are practically implemented as computer applications deployed either as stand-alone tools in individual systems or are installed to cover entire working networks. Such decision-making tools and integrated computing environments are together known as Decision Support Systems (DSSs), which is a very broad term incorporating a multitude of methodologies, tools, techniques, approaches and technologies.
Druzdzel & Flynn (2002) takes all existing DSSs into consideration when they attempt to define them empirically as computer-based interactive systems that help users in making decisions. DSSs are sometimes also referred to as knowledge-based systems because they basically try to structure domain knowledge into a form on which mechanical decision making is possible. Decision Support Systems integrate information from various sources, allow intelligent access to the information sources that are relevant, and help in the process of organizing decisions to help human beings overcome their cognitive deficiencies.
Decision Support Systems strengthen the conventional tasks of accessing and retrieving information with reasoning support based on a model and model building approach. Framing, modeling and problem solving are supported by DSSs. They are usually used for strategic and tactical decisions to be made by planners and senior levels in the management. Such decisions have a reasonably low frequency but their consequences have very high potential. Therefore the time and investment taken in using DSSs to aid in taking such decisions are paid off in the long run.
Decision Support Systems not only define the alternative decision choices, but can help in picking out the most logical and optical choice amongst the alternatives adhering to and adopting elements from disciplines such as engineering economics, operations research, statistics and decision theory. Artificial Intelligence is used by Decision Support Systems to tackle problems in a heuristic manner in situations in which the problems are not amenable to formal conventional techniques.
Decision Support Systems have grown in popularity because it has been found that when decision-making systems are used appropriately they tend to increase efficiency and output providing appreciable competitive edge over rival businesses. This happens because organizations and businesses employing DSSs make sound choices in the deployment of technology, and in planning business operations, logistics and operations.