Decision support systems are computer networks that professionals use to gather and analyze intelligence that informs decisions they make. Unlike conventional databases, however, decision support systems are made up of a number of different computers that work together to pull data from a number of different sources. Systems then present data to users in formats that are easy to understand. One of the main applications of decision support systems is management decision-making, especially when it comes to issues of long term growth. For example, before branching out into a new market, managers and executives might access intelligence reports that include data about competitor behaviors, economic outlook, and market projections.
Another of the common applications of decision support systems is in the medical industry. Medical professionals often find themselves having to quickly make medical diagnoses based on a number of different symptoms and medical histories. They can use decision support systems to rapidly draw data from a number of sources and present a diagnosis based on many factors. Without support systems, medical professionals would have to spend hours perusing conventional databases for diagnoses that make sense.
Agricultural professionals, such as farmers, biologists, and other specialists also have found applications of decision support systems. These individuals might use systems to gather data related to growing seasons, climates, markets, and policies to make plans. Due to the high cost of decision support systems, however, agricultural professionals in some countries, who run relatively small operations, depend on government assistance for funding to use this technology.
Air traffic professionals have discovered applications of decision support systems, too. They use complex computer networks to manage the number of planes traveling in certain areas. They also can monitor weather with these systems. Air traffic professionals quickly gather information regarding current status of weather, weather forecasts, and weather reports in nearby regions.
Individuals who participate in meetings also use decision support systems. When this is the case, systems might be referred to as a group decision support system. These models enable participants at a meeting to enter their views into a program. A leader can organize perspectives of group members and discuss possible outcomes to problems.
Another of the applications of decision support systems is to facilitate voting. This is common in large organizations where board or committee members vote on policy. Each member might receive a micro-computer that he or she uses to place a vote. Votes can be anonymous or viewed by a group leader who oversees proceedings.