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The Internet and World Wide Web have created a major opportunity to deliver more quantitative and qualitative information to a firm’s external stakeholders to support their decision makers. Web architectures and networks permit information systems professionals to centralize and control information and yet easily distribute it in a timely manner to managers who need it. The Web has not resolved all problems associated with building, developing, and delivering IODSSs, and many questions about such systems remain controversial. The following questions are still being debated, but at this point, the associated responses seem like reasonable answers. Can an IODSS provide a company with a competitive advantage? Sometimes, especially in knowledge-oriented businesses, an IODSS can provide a competitive advantage. If knowledge sharing reduces costs, improves customer loyalty, or increases sales in the focal organization, then an advantage may result. A major concern is that any advantage is temporary due to technology changes. Does an IODSS have significant cost advantages for all parties, including the focal organization and stakeholders? Usually it does, especially in large-scale implementations where companies have multiple, geographically dispersed sites.
Will an IODSS improve decision making? Perhaps it will—the optimists think so. Will IODSSs provide a broader knowledge base for decision making? Yes, in most cases, once the “knowledge” is on-line. Does a Web-based, IODSS provide timely, user-friendly, and secure distribution of business information? Yes, if a good development product is selected and if the implementation is successful. Can a Web-based, IODSS be managed and maintained? Yes, the tools for managing the Web server and Web content are maturing. Does a Web-based IODSS help customers and suppliers? Yes, customers and suppliers can make better choices.
Will Web-based, IODSSs facilitate corporate growth? Will they improve productivity and improve profitability? Yes, appropriately designed IODSSs can impact the corporate bottom line. Profits can improve in the focal organization and its stakeholder organizations. Communication-driven, document-driven IODSSs can improve productivity and, consequently, impact the bottom line.
Along with the Web-based opportunities for building innovative IODSSs come new challenges. Managers must choose which stakeholders need what information and support and decide how to deploy these capabilities. Also, managers must learn how to use Web and Internet technologies to really gain a competitive advantage. This means that to implement IODSSs, it is essential to develop appropriate strategies and organizational structures, redesign business processes, integrate the technologies and associated information into decisionmaking processes, evaluate costs and benefits, and manage new types of business relationships.
The Web is the platform of choice and the new frontier for innovative DSSs. All of the Web DSS development environments have strengths and weaknesses, but the capabilities are increasing rapidly, and the Web DSS user interfaces are impressive compared to those of only a few years ago. DSSs built using Web technologies will take on a new importance as accessible and useful tools for improving business decisions (cf., Power, 2000, 2002).
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