The Theoretical and Practical Study of Management Support Systems


Sarinda Wongkosolsuk


Doing business in this era is not that easy like the old days. The competition is so intense. As there are many developments of new technologies, which can facilitate and make our lives easier, we should learn how to use them. Management Support Systems are one of those technologies that can support business people.

This assignment is the theoretical and practical study of MSS. In the part of theory, it will give definitions of both MSS and four major types of MSS, which are DSS, ODSS, GDSS, and EIS. Also, it will explain how they are linked and how they work. For MSS’s practice, there will be examples of some organizations that use MSS and one case study of SilverScreener (A Marketing Management Support Systems).

I hope that this would give you more understanding about Management Support Systems and their functions.


The way of doing business keeps changing. Only the one who has right decisions and be fast enough will win. Nowadays, internet has great effect to the business world. People can acknowledge all kinds of information easier and faster, and thus make the business competition even more intense. New problem occurs when there are too much data and information that should be known, while human brain has limited capacity. This brings us to the challenges of the information technologies. One of them that we should be aware of is Management Support Systems.

MSS’s Theory


MSS stand for Management Support Systems. The well-known definition of MSS comes from Turban & Aronson in 1998, who defined MSS as “the applications of any decision support technologies to decision making” . Therefore, MSS are any kinds of technological systems, which are used to support decision making of managers.

As MSS are defined broadly, there are many support systems to be called Management Support Systems. However, four major types of MSS are Decision Support Systems or DSS, Organizational Decision Support Systems or ODSS, Group Decision Support Systems or GDSS, and Executive Information Systems or EIS.

From the same authors, the term DSS is defined as “flexible, interactive, and adaptable computer-based information systems (CBIS) specially developed for supporting the solution of management problems for improved decision making” .

Generally, the systems in DSS and ODSS are similar. However, the difference is that DSS are used “for a limited number of decision makers” , while ODSS are used “for a larger number of decision makers” . To make it more precise, ODSS “often deal with problems cutting across different functional, hierarchical and geographical layers in organizations, as well as taken account of the larger possibility of finding some sort of intelligent component supporting decision making in this kind of decision support systems” .

GDSS are also computer-based information systems (CBIS), which are used to “enhance group decision making by facilitating the exchange and use of information by group members, and interactions between the group and the computer, to formulate and solve problems” .

For EIS, they are “information systems originally designed to support the strategic information needs of top management” .

How they are linked

From appendix 1, assume that the big green circle is an organization which uses different types of MSS for different purposes.

Firstly, every department in the organization has its own tasks to accomplish and there are many decisions to be made by manager of each department. For example, marketing manager has to decide on how to effectively use all kinds of integrated marketing communication for all products launched by the organization. By using DSS, it would support marketing manager with more accurate and precise information about what should be done, from all data gathering internally and externally. In this stage, the marketing manager can also use GDSS together with DSS to better support some important decisions that should be made by a group, for example, a plan to launch new product.

Some projects require coordination across different functions. For example, the new product development needs support from people in engineering department, manufacturing department, finance department, and some others. It is a complicated project, which needs cooperation from all people who involved. However, different people from different departments have different ideas and conditions. Therefore, ODSS and GDSS can be helpful for this kind of situation. They provide useful information for all participants, formulate possible solutions, and help them solve problems. The information to be used within each department and cross-functions are mostly tactical and operational information.

As middle and top level management have different responsibilities, the support systems for each of them must be different for serving different kinds of purposes. Normally, top level management doesn’t have much time to look into very detailed data. They want to see the whole picture, not parts of the jigsaw. Therefore, the systems that support people in this blue circle must be able to sort out important aspects from big pool of data, support strategic decision making, help solving problems, and be fast enough for them. EIS are the systems designed especially for executives to fit with those conditions.

How they work

We can see that different types of MSS are designed to support different level of management, who needs different types of supports. Mostly, DSS, ODSS, and GDSS are used by the low and middle level management to support the solutions of two kinds of problems. Structured problems are the first and easiest kind of problems to be solved. Most problems happening in the work site are structured problems because they happen again and again. Therefore, once it was fixed and recorded, we can handle easier the next time it happens. Next, unstructured problems are something harder to cope with. As all information is not on hand and some are unpredictable, the solutions generating from those support systems are varies, which leave more works to be made by human. From the example above, the new product development is one of the unstructured problems. We can never know exactly what customers want, what new attributes should be added, and many more of the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

On the other hand, EIS are designed to support the solutions of semi-structured problems for the top level management. For example, the government of Thailand is trying to make FTA agreements with many countries. The pros and cons of these agreements can be predicted, but the executives can not be 100% sure with the real outcomes. EIS have to help them generate all possible solutions for the right strategic movements of the companies.

As these are all theoretical explanation, the organization in the real world may not use all kinds of MSS together because of many reasons. First, it would cost a lot to implement all those DSS, ODSS, GDSS, EIS and more. Second, for small and middle-sized companies, implementing only one kind of MSS might be enough. Third, implementing all kinds of MSS, the organization would be either excellent or messy.

MSS’s Practice

Some organizations that use MSS

MSS are widely used in many fields of organizations for different objectives. Mostly, they are used internally. One example is the Fujitsu Group, which uses the environmental MSS to reinforce green management in its organization . Another example is the State Agricultural Experiment Station, which is established by the US Federal Government, uses the National Information MSS to facilitate the use of agricultural research . Also, sometimes they are used to connect two or more organizations. For example, the road management organizations in Hokkaido, Japan, use MSS to connect with weather information organizations to perform better road maintenance in the winter .

Case Study: SilverScreener – A Marketing Management Support Systems

In 2001, Pathe The Netherlands, “the largest movie theater company in the Netherlands and owns a large chain of theaters ”, decided to implement and evaluate SilverScreener, a marketing management support system (MMSS) in one of its theaters. There were many reasons given by Pathe The Netherlands for implementing this MMSS. Firstly, there are so many movies available in each week. However, the theater manager has to pick only some of them for a limited number of screens by comparing the attractiveness of each movie. Secondly, “as distributors release new movies each week, they pressure the owners to provide screens and play time for them” . Thirdly, “theater owners often base a number of theaters in the same geographical area and must manage the interdependency among several facilities” . Fourthly, there are many complicated conditions in the contract between the distributors and the theater owner (the exhibitor). For example, “signing a contract to play a movie in its theaters, the exhibitor becomes obligated to play the film for a certain period of time even when audience demand is weak” . Fifthly, the decision making style of each theater manager is different and nonstandardized. Therefore, if the implementation of MMSS in one theater is effective, all company’s theaters should implement this MMSS for the same standard of decision making.

Then Pathe chose one of its middle-sized theaters called Buitenhof. It has “six screens, ranging from 113 to 434 seats, and it is one of the three theaters Pathe owns” in that town. Therefore, it would be easy for Pathe to compare the performance of the theater with MMSS and the other two theaters without MMSS.

Previously, the theater manager had to decide which movies to play. Then he would think about which movie should be on which screen. The movie that had “the highest expected number of visitors” would be on “the highest capacity screen” and so on. Later, he should think about how long the movie should be on the screen. In the contract, the movie revenue was shared by the distributors and the exhibitors. The longer the movie was in the theater, the higher percentage of share the exhibitors would get. In addition, the total revenue of the exhibitor was from two ways. First was the share from movie revenue deducted by taxes. Second was from the sales of snacks and soft drinks. Therefore, SilverScreener should be able to estimate the number of visitors of each movie, find the optimal solutions of which movie should be on which screen and for how long, and finally find the theater’s expected income per week.

After 12 weeks of implementation, the results were that SilverScreener “succeeded in satisfying multiple criteria. The first is technical validity as MMSS accomplished its goals in a timely and efficient manner” . Second, comparing between the theater Buitenhof with SilverScreener and the other two theaters without SilverScreener “by percentage change in attendance” , the theater Buitenhof was in the first rank three-fourth of time and the second rank one-fourth of time. Third, three questions, which were “I think that movie-planning decisions will be easier when using SilverScreener, I think that movie-planning decisions with SilverScreener will be better, and I expect to be able to improve my movie-planning decisions using SilverScreener” , were asked to rank before, between, and after implementing MMSS. The results represented more favorable towards MMSS over time. Later, Pathe The Netherlands “asked the SilverScreener team to take on the programming for” its new theater.


One research in 1995 was conducted with CEOs and CFOs of the top 500 largest companies from Fortune magazine about EIS. The results were that 91% of those companies’ executives who use EIS, “said it paid back to invest on implementing an EIS” .

Although implementing MSS cost a lot, it is worth enough if the company knows how to use it optimally. Anyway, the last word from the case study of SilverScreener states that even though the management team appreciated with the MSS, they didn’t follow the guideline blindly. That is what it should be because MSS give decisions from its formula, but human decides with brain and instinct.


Damiani, W., 1996, EIS – Executive Information Systems [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

Eliashberg, J. & Swami, S. & Weinberg, C.B. & Wierenga, B., 2001, Implementing and Evaluating SilverScreener: A Marketing Management Support System for Movie Exhibitors [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

Fredman, J. & Horndahl, M. & Strömberg, L.T., 1999, A Framework for the Design of Organizational Decision Support Systems [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

Mize, R.G., 2001, National Information Management and Support System [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

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Takitani, K. & Kagaya, H. & Yamagiwa, Y. & Kajiya, Y., 2002, Development of Winter Road Maintenance Management Support System about Anti-freezing and Snow Removing Work Based on Web and E-mail [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

The Fujitsu Group, 2003, 2003 Fujitsu Group Sustainability Report [Website], Retrieved 25/10/05, from

George, J.F., 1991/1992, The Conceptualizations and Development of Organizational Decision Support Systems, Journal of MIS, Vol. 8, No. 3

Huber, G.P., 1984, Issues in the Design of Group Decision Support Systems, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3

Walker, W.E., 1989, Differences Between Building a Traditional DSS and an ODSS: Lessons from the Air Force’s Enlisted Force Management System, Santa
Monica, California

Turban, E. & Aronson, J.E., 1998, Decision Support Systems and Intelligent Systems, Prentice-Hall International Inc., London


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