Group Decision Support Systems

GDSS consists of communication, computing and decision support technologies and the figure has demonstrated how these technologies can be contributed to VM studies. Decisions and recommendations are occurred as a result of interpersonal communication in VM studies, and Communication Technologies (level 1 GDSS support) can alter the communication pattern in order to promote participation and encourage interaction in workshops.

The use of electronic communication tools such as chat room and newsgroup provides a shared environment to facilitate the exchange of ideas, opinions, and preference within the groups. For example, large screen can be used to display of anonymous ideas and preferences in meetings. Recommendations and suggestions of VM studies are made after extensive consultation and in-depth analysis in VM studies and the tasks of backup calculations and cost analysis are essential, in particular the development phase, to translate the screened idea into proposed alternative designs. These activities, however, are time consuming and might constitute over half of the time of a VM study. In order to improve the productivity,

Computer Technologies (level 2 GDSS support) are applied Moreover, computer technologies also improve the information management of VM studies including information retrieval, maintenance and presentation. For example, the provision of file exchange server and connection with Internet improves the availability and quality of information to support decision analysis in workshops. These features enable the analysis to be completed more efficient and effective way and finally, the uncertainty encountered in VM studies are significantly reduced. Decision Support Technologies include (i) decision-modeling methods such as decision trees and risk analysis, (ii) structured group methods such as Nominal Group and Delphi techniques, and (iii) rules for directing group discussion.

The creative use of communication technologies and computer technologies can facilitate the introduction of new "group structuring techniques" to VM studies. For example, anonymous individual brainstorming can be integrated with face-to-face group brainstorming to form a new brainstorming technique.

The Interactive Value Management Systems (IVMS) is a Group Decision Support which is specifically designed for VM studies. It consists of three modules including (i) Communication Module, (ii) Information Module, (iii) Analysis Module which are shown in the following diagram. In a GDSS-supported VM study, facilitator is responsible to decide on what GDSS tools to use, when and how to use them. An assistant may help him to operate the system by starting and stopping the software and provide technical support to users. Team members are arranged to sit in a U shape which allows them to communicate verbally. Moreover, members also allows to communication electronically. They can participate in the tasks such as brainstorming, ranking, data analysis, and voting through individual terminal and the results will be displayed on a 'public screen'.

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Communication Module: In a cyber forum, members can be remained completely anonymous throughout the discussion. The research findings suggest that anonymity promotes active participation because members are not afraid of speaking in public or sounding stupid.

Parallel communication allows many users to participate in the discussion or contribute their ideas at the same time which is impossible in traditional workshops. Automated record-keeping can keep track of ideas or comments in discussion and so members can concentrate on thinking process without missing of any contents.

Information Module: Members can share or exchange the project information through file exchange server and they can also access to outside information such as personal data files, corporate data or public data through Internet in workshops.

Analysis Module GDSS provides information management tools and data analysis tools to simplify the evaluation and development of ideas in VM studies.

Conclusions Using IT to empower VM studies is becoming a new trend. GDSS which brings people together and enables them to interact more efficient and effective has great potential and opportunity to apply to VM studies. In the foregoing discussion, it has presented a new approach of integrating VM methodology with GDSS technologies and introduced the potential benefits. Group Decision Support Systems is the quintessential information processing problem, involving the intersection of computer science, behavioral science, and management science. In recent years, GDSS has focused on using the behavioral sciences to explore a relatively narrow range of group support applications. It is our contention that continuing along this single dimension will not lead much further. We need to apply all three disciplines in inventive new ways if we are to move GSS to new triumphs.