Decision Support System (DSS): What It Is and How Businesses Use Them

Decision Support System

Investopedia / Michela Buttignol

What Is a Decision Support System (DSS)?

A decision support system (DSS) is a computerized program used to support determinations, judgments, and courses of action in an organization or a business. A DSS sifts through and analyzes massive amounts of data, compiling comprehensive information that can be used to solve problems and in decision-making.

Typical information used by a DSS includes target or projected revenue, sales figures or past ones from different time periods, and other inventory- or operations-related data.

Key Takeaways

  • A decision support system (DSS) is a computerized system that gathers and analyzes data, synthesizing it to produce comprehensive information reports.
  • A decision support system differs from an ordinary operations application, whose function is just to collect data.
  • Decision support systems allow for more informed decision-making, timely problem-solving, and improved efficiency in dealing with issues or operations, planning, and even management.

Understanding a Decision Support System (DSS)

A decision support system gathers and analyzes data, synthesizing it to produce comprehensive information reports. In this way, as an informational application, a DSS differs from an ordinary operations application, whose function is just to collect data.

The DSS can either be completely computerized or powered by humans. In some cases, it may combine both. The ideal systems analyze information and actually make decisions for the user. At the very least, they allow human users to make more informed decisions at a quicker pace.

Using a DSS

The DSS can be employed by operations management and other planning departments in an organization to compile information and data and synthesize it into actionable intelligence. In fact, these systems are primarily used by mid- to upper-level management.

For example, a DSS may be used to project a company's revenue over the upcoming six months based on new assumptions about product sales. Due to a large number of factors that surround projected revenue figures, this is not a straightforward calculation that can be done manually. However, a DSS can integrate all the multiple variables and generate an outcome and alternate outcomes, all based on the company's past product sales data and current variables.

A DSS can be tailored for any industry, profession, or domain including the medical field, government agencies, agricultural concerns, and corporate operations.

Characteristics of a DSS

The primary purpose of using a DSS is to present information to the customer in an easy-to-understand way. A DSS system is beneficial because it can be programmed to generate many types of reports, all based on user specifications. For example, the DSS can generate information and output its information graphically, as in a bar chart that represents projected revenue or as a written report.

As technology continues to advance, data analysis is no longer limited to large, bulky mainframe computers. Since a DSS is essentially an application, it can be loaded on most computer systems, whether on desktops or laptops. Certain DSS applications are also available through mobile devices.

The flexibility of the DSS is extremely beneficial for users who travel frequently. This gives them the opportunity to be well-informed at all times, providing them the ability to make the best decisions for their company and customers on the go or even on the spot.

What Is a Decision Support System Used for?

In organizations, a decision support system (DSS) analyzes and synthesizes vast amounts of data to assist in decision-making. With this information, it produces reports that may project revenue, sales, or manage inventory. Through the integration of multiple variables, a DSS can produce a number of different outcomes based on the company’s previous data and current inputs. 

What Is an Example of a Decision Support System?

Many different industries, from medicine to agriculture, use decision support systems. To help diagnose a patient, a medical clinician may use a computerized decision support system for diagnostics and prescriptions. Combining clinician inputs and previous electronic health records, a decision support system may assist a doctor in diagnosing a patient.

What Are the Benefits of a Decision Support System?

Broadly speaking, decision support systems help in making more informed decisions. Often used by upper and mid-level management, decision support systems are used to make actionable decisions, or produce multiple possible outcomes based on current and historical company data. At the same time, decision support systems can be used to produce reports for customers that are easily digestible and can be adjusted based on user specifications. 

Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Implementing Clinical Decision Support Systems." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

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