Fifth Meeting of the Task Force
London, April 2 - 3 2009
The 2009 meeting of the WG8.3 task group on Learning from case studies in Decision Making and Decision Support took place on April 2nd and 3rd at the London School of Economics (LSE) in London, UK, at the invitation of Fergal Carton (Chair of the Task Force) and Patrick Humphreys (Host of the event and Chair of the working group). Fourteen researchers attended the event and presented their latest research. The general theme of the meeting was the learning that can be derived from observing decision-making in the field, the use of models to help simplify the complexity, and the transfer of knowledge that occurs in applying models. The common thread in the presentations, which involved cases from public, corporate and SME sectors, was the awareness of how decisions are made in situ, and how this knowledge can be passed on by systematising the decision scenarios.
Fergal Carton presented a new approach to an action oriented case design for teaching, where a fictional business, modelled on an existing Irish SME, waswas used to teach post-graduate students the rudiments of system design. The use of industry mentors added authentic complexity to the decision making context faced by the students. Fergal Case
Patrick Humphreys and Eidi Cruz-Valdivieso presented the case of an engineering SME in Spain, where the challenge was the formalisation of company know-how, using a flow approach to model the movement and application of intellectual capital in the execution of key operational tasks. Unfolding collaborative decision making within the organization allowed the actors to be explicit about implicit knowledge, thereby creating new possibilities for problem solving. Patrick and Eidi Case
Piero Migliarese presented the case of a local wine producer in Calabria, and how knowledge absorption can be conceptualised in SME decision making.
Peter Gelleri spoke of succession issues in a family owned UK financial services business, and used that to re-evaluate the applicability of personal decision conferencing approaches.
Public sector cases
Sven Carlsson presented the political nature of the decision process to outsource ICT services for the Swedish Post. The challenge of researching highly political decision processes such as this is that managers often rationalise retrospectively decisions that were made before the process started. Sven Case
Rien Hamers presented the use of a case of “security scanning” by the town of Tilburg in the Netherlands as a teaching method for an Erasmus programme on business intelligence techniques. Students and lecturers used publicly available data on citizens an open source BI tools to try to predict anti-social behaviour and provide local government with a dynamic dashboard of social atmosphere. Rien Case
Csaba Csaki used the case of public procurement decisions in Hungary to explore the relationship between decision support systems and legislation. Increasing layers of bureaucratic controls have the effect of systematising decision processes to the point of asphyxiation. Csaba Case
Patrick Brezillon explored the use of Contextual Graphs as an operational intermediate between task and activity models. Illustrated with the use of drivers learning road sense in relation to approaching a T-junction in traffic, these graphs allow flexibility in representing elements of reasoning in context rich situations, thus providing a more realistic approach to understanding behaviour than is possible with traditional methods of analysis by abstraction. Patrick Brezillon Case
Ana Respicio presented an approach to improving queue management (in the context of retail banking) through the use of real time decision models. The transition between business rules and common sense was debated in detail with the system KPI’s acting as alerts. Rien suggested the applicability of a business rules tool, which they have developed at Fontys, which is separate from the transaction software. Ana Case
Mary Daly compared the use of decision support tools in five Irish organisations, finding that the perception of value is only at very operational levels. Decision making at a strategic level typically constrains decisions lower down in the organisation, this case work re-frames the question as to the influence of operational DSS on higher levels of abstraction. Mary Case
Frederic Adam presented a framework for constructing case studies for teaching, suggesting that the complexity of the scenario, the complexity of the underlying theories being explored, and the nature of the questions asked of students are all design elements purposefully selected by the teacher. The scenarios are complicated by the amount of detail provided on actual business processes, and the underlying theories being taught can be made more or less advanced, for example in terms of problem analysis or decision system development. Fred Case
Simon Woodworth conceptualised the interplay between the degree of customisation of enterprise systems and the core capabilities of the organisation. This framework will be tested in the study of two cases who chose opposing customisation strategies (vanilla versus highly customised).Simon Case
Finally, Jozsef Csicsman reported on the application of micro-simulation techniques to the modelling of demographic changes over time. These techniques, using applications such as SAS Enterprise Miner, permit analysts more accuracy in decision domains that are constrained by forecasting difficulty. Josef Case
Comparison of Cases
Conclusions and actions
In the concluding debate the members suggested that the contribution of this task force should be in helping academics and practitioners to find a path through the wealth of case based information available. It was decided to use a social networking facility to circulate material related to the task forces activities and to administer activities. A group in LinkedIn has been accordingly set-up by Ana Respicio entitled “IFIP WG8.3:Decision Support Systems”, those members with LinkedIn connections can access this forum via the Groups link on their home pages.
Topics for further meetings were discussed, with the use of mobile technologies to supply chain postponement strategies mooted as a topical subject. It was suggested that Frederic Adam’s framework would be a suitable vehicle to conceptualise further case contributions from members, that is, that at the next meeting members are asked to position their work on the framework. Publication opportunities were discussed, with Patrick Brezillon suggesting that the work of the task forces could be channelled into a special issue of Knowledge Engineering Review (KER).