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From Decision Support to Action Support


I often write about the difference between decision support systems and the kind of systems that result from applying decision management – decision management applications. For instance, this post on To Hell with Business Intelligence, try Decision Management and this interview with Dan Power. Last week I came across a great way to describe the kinds of systems that decision management delivers – Action Support.

Now obviously Decision Support Systems involve actions at some level. After all, decisions involve a choice, a selection of a course of action from a set of alternatives and decisions generally result in an action being taken, not just knowledge being added to what’s known. But Action Support systems, unlike Decision Support systems, are focused on taking this action or on supporting action-taking by users. Decision Support Systems are focused, obviously, on helping someone make the decision not necessarily on the actions to be taken. From a practical point of view this means a couple of things:

  • Action Support Systems (or Decision Management Applications) must deal with rules or semantics as well as data and analysis. Instead of the policies, regulations, expertise, know-how being applied by the user of the Decision Support System, these rules are embedded in an Action Support System.
  • Action Support Systems tend to be quicker – the computer is taking action or recommending action and this is likely to be quicker that waiting for a person to decide on an action based on the information presented in a Decision Support System.
  • Action Support Systems require analytics and optimization that is predictive so that they can take or suggest action in that context.

DecisionSupportDecisionManagementAnother way to consider this is to compare Decision Support and Decision Management item by item. At left is a slide I developed for a class on Decision Support and Decision Management (the class is an online class that will be available from IASA in the not too distant future – as soon as I finish it). As you can see I make a number of points about the differences between decision support and decision management, especially around embedding the experience and judgment of experts, applying analytics programmatically, having the system be compliant with policies and regulations and repeatability.

Given organizations’ need to respond appropriately and effectively in ever more compressed timeframes, action support systems built using a decision management approach would seem to be an essential requirement.


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