Group Decision Support System (GDSS)

A group decision support system (GDSS) is an interactive computer based system that facilitates a number of decision-makers (working together in a group) in finding solutions to problems that are unstructured in nature. They are designed in such a way that they take input from multiple users interacting simultaneously with the systems to arrive at a decision as a group.

The tools and techniques provided by group decision support system improve the quality and effectiveness of the group meetings. Groupware and web-based tools for electronic meetings and videoconferencing  also support some of the group decision making process, but their main function is to make communication possible between the decision makers.

In a group decision support system (GDSS) electronic meeting, each participant is provided with a computer. The computers are connected to each other, to the facilitator’s computer and to the file server. A projection screen is available at the front of the room. The facilitator and the participants can both project digital text and images onto this screen.

A group decision support system (GDSS) meeting comprises different phases, such as idea generation, discussion, voting, vote counting and so on. The facilitator manages and controls the execution of these phases. The use of various software tools  in the meeting is also controlled by the facilitator.

Components of Group Decision Support System (GDSS)

A Group decision support system (GDSS) is composed of 3 main components, namely hardware, software tools, and people.

  • Hardware: It includes electronic hardware like computer, equipment used for networking, electronic display boards and audio visual equipment. It also includes the conference facility, including the physical setup – the room, the tables and the chairs – laid out in such a  manner that they can support group discussion and teamwork.
  • Software Tools: It includes various tools and techniques, such as electronic questionnaires, electronic brainstorming tools, idea organizers, tools for setting priority, policy formation tool, etc. The use of these software tools in a group meeting helps the group decision makers to plan, organize ideas, gather information, establish priorities, take decisions and to document the meeting proceedings. As a result, meetings become more productive.
  • People: It compromises the members participating in the meeting, a trained facilitator who helps with the proceedings of the meeting, and an expert staff to support the hardware and software. The GDSS components together provide a favorable environment for carrying out group meetings.

Features of Group Decision Support System (GDSS)

  • Ease of Use: It consists of an interactive interface that makes working with GDSS simple and easy.
  • Better Decision Making: It provides the conference room setting and various software tools that facilitate users at different locations to make decisions as a group resulting in better decisions.
  • Emphasis on Semi-structured and Unstructured Decisions: It provides important information that assists middle and higher level management in making semi-structured and unstructured decisions.
  • Specific and General Support: The facilitator controls the different phases of the group decision support system meeting (idea generation, discussion, voting and vote counting etc.) what is displayed on the central screen and the type of ranking and voting that takes place, etc. In addition, the facilitator also provides general support to the group and helps them to use the system.
  • Supports all Phases of the Decision Making: It can support all the four phases of decision making, viz intelligence, design, choice and implementation.
  • Supports Positive Group Behavior: In a group meeting, as participants can share their ideas more openly without the fear of being criticized, they display more positive group behavior towards the subject matter of the meeting.

Group Decision Support System (GDSS) Software Tools

Group decision support system software tools helps the decision makers in organizing their ideas, gathering required information and setting and ranking priorities. Some of these tools are as follows:

  • Electronic Questionnaire: The information generated using the questionnaires helps the organizers of the meeting to identify the issues that need immediate attention, thereby enabling the organizers to create a meeting plan in advance.
  • Electronic Brainstorming Tools: It allows the participants to simultaneously contribute their ideas on the subject matter of the meeting. As identity of each participant remains secret, individuals participate in the meeting without the fear of criticism.
  • Idea Organizer: It helps in bringing together, evaluating and categorizing  the ideas that are produced during the brainstorming activity.
  • Tools for Setting Priority: It includes a collection of techniques, such as simple voting, ranking in order and some weighted techniques that are used for voting and setting priorities in a group meeting.
  • Policy Formation Tool: It provides necessary support for converting the wordings of policy statements into an agreement.

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