Business Intelligence: Decision Support Systems

This post explains the relationship and the difference between Decision Support Systems (DSS) and business intelligence (BI) systems in a manufacturing organization. It also, includes a real-world example of this relationship.


Many years ago a measure of Business Intelligence (BI) systems was on how big the data warehouse was (McNurlin, Sprague,& Bui, 2008).   This measure made no sense, as it’s not all about the quantity of the data but the quality of the data.  A lot of bad data in the warehouse means that it will provide a lot of bad data-driven decisions. Both BI and Decision Support Systems (DSS) help provide data to support data-driven decisions.  However, McNurlin et al. (2008) state that a DSS is one of five principles of BI, along with data mining, executive information systems, expert systems, and agent-based modeling.

  • A BI strategies can include, but is not limited to data extraction, data processing, data mining, data analysis, reporting, dashboards, performance management, actionable decisions, etc. (Fayyad, Piatetsky-Shapiro, & Smyth, 1996; Padhy, Mishra, & Panigrahi, 2012; and McNurlin et al., 2008). This definition along with the fact the DSS is 1/5 principles to BI suggest that DSS was created before BI and that BI is a more new and holistic view of data-driven decision making.
  • A DSS helps execute the project, expand the strategy, improve processes, and improves quality controls in a quickly and timely fashion. Data warehouses’ main role is to support the DSS (Carter, Farmer, & Siegel, 2014).  The three components of a DSS are Data Component (comprising of databases, or data warehouse), Model Component (comprising of a Model base) and a dialog component (Software System, which a user can interact with the DSS) (McNurlin et al., 2008).

McNurlin et al (2008) state a case study, where Ore-Ida Foods, Inc. had a marketing DSS to support its data-driven decisions by looking at the: data retrieved (internal data and external market data), market analysis (was 70% of the use of their DSS, where data was combined, and relationships were discovered), and modeling (which is frequently updated).  The modeling offered great insight for the marketing management.  McNurlin et al. (2008), emphasizes that DSS tend to be defined, but heavily rely on internal data with little or some external data and that vibrational testing on the model/data is rarely done.

The incorporation of internal and external data into the data warehouse helps both BI strategies and DSS.  However, the one thing that BI strategies provide that DSS doesn’t is “What is the right data that should be collected and presented?” DSS are more of the how component, whereas BI systems generate the why, what, and how, because of their constant feedback loop back into the business and the decision makers.  This was seen in a hospital case study and was one of the main key reasons why it succeeded (Topaloglou & Barone, 2015).  As illustrated in the hospital case study, all the data types were consolidated to a unifying definition and type and had a defined roles and responsibilities assigned to it.  Each data entered into the data warehouse had a particular reason, and that was defined through interviews will all different levels of the hospital, which ranged from the business level to the process level, etc.

BI strategies can affect supply chain management in the manufacturing setting.  The 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10 Boeing Dreamliners have outsourced ~30% of its parts and components or more, this approach to outsourcing this much of a product mix is new since the current Boeing 747 is only ~5% outsourced (Yeoh, & Popovič, 2016).  As more and more companies increase their outsourcing percentages for their product mix, the more crucial it is to capture data on fault tolerances on each of those outsourced parts.  Other things that BI data could be used is to make decisions on which supplier to keep or not keep.  Companies as huge as Boeing can have multiple suppliers for the same part, if in their inventory analysis they find an unusually larger than average variance in the performance of an item: (1) they can either negotiate a lower price to overcompensate a larger than average variance, or (2) they could all together give the company a notice that if they don’t lower that variance for that part they will terminate their contract.  Same things can apply with the auto manufacturing plants or steel mills, etc.



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