A decision support system, or DSS, is a commonly used term in the business intelligence world. No doubt that BI is a critical piece of effective executive tools.
Organizational decisions have been researched for decades, even before software, computers, and other systems were part of the mix. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the idea of DSS as part of an technology really took hold. Up until then, most systems really weren’t robust and widespread enough to handle the diverse range of information and put it in an easily accessible format.
In the 1980s, a big trend was the use of EIS, or executive information systems. These were the precursors to today’s BI dashboards. They never quite caught on, mainly due to limitations in technology but the ideas remained in circulation.
In the 1990s, more robust database and OLAP technologies started making these systems a reality. The ability to “slice and dice” as well as the ability to consolidate multiple data sources put more information and analysis in decision-makers’ hands. With this came several different types of DSS.
Now, decision support systems are usually defined to have 3 main components as part of the architecture: database, data model, and some sort of UI, or user interface. All of these are critical. A database needs to be designed to store whatever critical information is needed for the decisions. The data model must bridge the gap between technical and business user terminology and process. The UI must be friendly enough for the decision-makers to actually use it.
Besides the commonly thought of data-driven DSS, other models have been developed over the years. These include communication and document based systems. Much emphasis has been made in recent years off allowing collaboration between decision makers. Another big trend in decision support is mobile. Executives and managers need to be able to make decisions on the go, and get their thoughts back to the team quickly. In many cases, there's even a push for a financial ROI on the project.
A good source for additional information is the website DSS Resources