A methodology for implementing a decision support system : a small company case study
The importance of non-technical factors in the design and implementation of information systems has been increasingly recognised by both researchers and practitioners, and recent literature highlights the need for new tools and techniques with an organisational, rather than technical, focus. The gap between what is technically possible and what is generally practised, is particularly wide in the sales and marketing field. This research describes the design and implementation of a decision support system (DSS) for marketing planning and control in a small, but complex company and examines the nature of the difficulties encountered. An intermediary with functional, rather than technical, expertise is used as a strategy for overcoming these by taking control of the whole of the systems design and implementation cycle. Given the practical nature of the research, an action research approach is adopted with the researcher undertaking this role. This approach provides a detailed case study of what actually happens during the DSS development cycle, allowing the influence of organisational factors to be captured. The findings of the research show how the main focus of the intermediary's role needs to be adapted over the systems development cycle; from coordination and liaison in the pre-design and design stages, to systems champion during the first part of the implementation stage, and finally to catalyst to ensure that the DSS is integrated into the decision-making process. Two practical marketing exercises are undertaken which illustrate the nature of the gap between the provision of information and its use. The lack of a formal approach to planning and control is shown to have a significant effect on the way the DSS is used and the role of the intermediary is extended successfully to accommodate this factor. This leads to the conclusion that for the DSS to play a fully effective role, small firms may need to introduce more structure into their marketing planning, and that the role of the intermediary, or Information Coordinator, should include the responsibility for introducing new techniques and ideas to aid with this.