Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS): Improving the Group-Decision-Making Environment

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  • 0:06 Group Decision Making
  • 2:22 Characteristics of a GDSS
  • 4:32 GDSS Tools
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul is a GIS professor at Vancouver Island U, has a PhD from U of British Columbia, and has taught stats and programming for 15 years.

A Group Decision Support System, or GDSS, consists of interactive software that allows for making decisions by a group of participants. Learn about some of the tools used in a GDSS.

Group Decision Making

Many decisions in an organization require the collaboration and participation of multiple individuals. For example, consider a company manufacturing electronic consumer products, such as TVs, DVD players, MP3 players, car stereos, etc. The company is losing market share to the competition. The company needs to decide whether to keep selling its existing range of products, focus only on its best-selling products or add new types of products.

This decision requires the input from a number of different units within the organization, such as marketing, engineering, manufacturing, etc. Let's say the CEO of the company has set up a task force to develop a recommendation. Each unit in the organization is represented by one of its managers. How is the task force going to work together to come up with the best decision?

There are a number of ways for the group members to collaborate. They can have meetings to share information and discuss the decisions that need to be made. If meeting face-to-face is not practical, they can use a technology, like videoconferencing. They can also communicate with each other by e-mail to share ideas and provide updates.

In-person meetings allow group members to collaborate, but are not always feasible.
Face to Face Meeting

While these approaches can be productive, many decisions in today's world are very complex and require a lot of different considerations. Having access to the same information can contribute to better decision making. However, this can quickly become overwhelming, and not all participants may have the time, skill or interest to analyze all this information. Imagine having to read through hundreds of pages of a document just to prepare for a meeting.

One strategy to not get bogged down by complexity and information overload is to use computer-based tools for group decision making. A Group Decision Support System, or GDSS, consists of interactive software that allows for making decisions by a group of participants. The goal of a GDSS is to improve the productivity of a group to come to a decision. A GDSS is sometimes also referred to as a 'computerized collaborative work system.'

Characteristics of a GDSS

A GDSS has a number of unique characteristics to support a group of participants in their decision-making process:

  • Special design to support creative thinking, effective communications and decision-making techniques
  • Easy to use so participants from different backgrounds can all participate effectively
  • Flexible so it can incorporate the different perspectives and decision-making styles of the different participants
  • Automated record keeping for future review and analysis
  • Parallel communication to allow multiple participants to contribute simultaneously

The most important characteristic, however, is that it provides support for a group to come to a decision. A number of different approaches can be used.

The Delphi approach is a structured communication technique in which experts answer questionnaires in several rounds. Participants get to see each other's input after each round and are encouraged to revise their earlier answers based on replies by others. The underlying assumption is that this type of communication will lead to a convergence toward a final answer. This approach is often used when conditions are highly uncertain and the opinion of experts is weighed heavily. A good example of this would be trying to predict the sales of a particular new product. If there are no similar products on the market, there may not be a lot of data for analysis.

The group consensus approach forces members to come to a unanimous decision. This is sort of like locking a team up in a room, and they can't leave before a decision is reached - but the room could be virtual, and the communications could all be electronic.

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