SYST 542

Decision Support Systems Engineering

Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
Department of Systems Engineering
George Mason University
Course Description

Fall, 2006

This course studies the design of computerized systems to support individual or organizational decisions. The course teaches a systems engineering approach to the decision support system (DSS) lifecycle process. This course studies factors leading to effective computerized support for decisions, characteristics of tasks amenable to computerized support, basic functional elements of a decision support system, the decision support lifecycle, and factors leading to successful integration of a DSS into an organization. Additional topics include support for multi-person decisions, support for distributed decision processes, support for time-critical decisions, and how to refine and improve an organization's DSS development capability.  A DSS is built on a theory (usually implicit) of what makes for successful decision support in the given context. Empirical evaluation of the specific DSS and underlying theory should be carried on throughout the development process. The course examines some prevailing theories of decision support, considers the issues involved in obtaining empirical validation for a theory, and discusses what if any empirical support exists for the theories considered. Students design a DSS for a semester project.

Class Email List

There is a class email list to which all students will be subscribed with their university email address.  University policy requires students to monitor their GMU email.  Students are permitted to subscribe to the class email list with an alternate email address.


There is no required texts. The following texts are recommended:
Decison Support Systems, George Marakas, Prentice-Hall, 2003
Decision Support Systems and Intelligent Systems, Ephraim Turban and Jay Aronson, Prentice-Hall, 2005.
Making Hard Decisions Second Edition, Robert Clemen, Duxbury, 1996
Decision Support Systems Hyperbook, Power, D.J., accessed August, 2006 at

Course Requirements

Grades will be based on asynchronous discussion of a regular discussion question, facilitation or recording of one in-class discussion, a paper review, and a group project, worth 30%, 5%, 15%, and 50% of the grade, respectively. Here is a schedule for facilitators, recorders, and paper presenters.

Internet Lectures

This course is being offered as both a regular lecture course and an Internet course using the Network EducationWare (NEW) software developed at GMU's Network and Simulation Lab.  Students may attend lectures in person or may participate from home over the Internet. Students logged in electronically can hear lectures, see vugraphs, see what the instructor writes on the electronic whiteboard, and ask questions. All lectures will be recorded and can be played back at students' convenience.  Instructions for using the student client software can be found here.

Lecture Notes

Lecture notes for each chapter will be made available from the distance education site before class, as well as from the site here. You will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to read these lecture notes.

Unit 1: Decision Making and Decision Support
Unit 2: Models, Cognitive Tools and Decision Making
Unit 3: DSS Elements: The Model Subsystem (1) - Decision Analysis and Optimization
Unit 4: DSS Elements: The Model Subsystem (2) - Other Model System Technologies
Unit 5: DSS Elements: The Dialog Subsystem
Unit 6: DSS Elements: The Data Subsystem
Unit 7: Putting the Pieces Together: The DSS Lifecycle
Unit 8: Evaluation Centered Design
Unit 9: Decision Support for Multi-Person Decisions
Unit 10: Creating Value with Decision Support

Discussion Question

Each week (with occasional weeks off) a discussion question will be posed to the class for asynchronous electronic discussion prior to the next class.  Discussion questions are based on a common theme and cumulatively lead to a collaboratively developed case study.  Artifacts from the CBNAIR case study (SYST 442/542, PUBP 692 Spring 2002) are available online.

Discussion question process: