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Using Ontologies and Soft Systems Methodology to Provide Multi-user Support in Problem Structuring

Gaspoz, Cédric and Wand, Yair "Using Ontologies and Soft Systems Methodology to Provide Multi-user Support in Problem Structuring" (2012). Proceedings of the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Science (HICSS-45), pp. 658-667, IEEE Computer Society, January 2012.



Decision support systems (DSS) are aimed at helping decision makers in devising appropriate solutions to business problems while negotiation support systems (NSS) are aimed at assisting stakeholders in reaching mutually satisfactory decisions. The successful use of these systems involves a combination of human ability and computer support. An implicit assumption underlying their use is that the business problems for which they are deployed have been carefully defined by the stakeholders prior to their use. This includes, in particular, understanding of the problem variables and their possible impact on the decision outcomes and knowing which information is necessary for supporting it. However, this assumption might not hold in the modern business environment. This is due to the increasing complexity and rate of change of the environment, the geographical and temporal dispersion of modern organizations, and the diversity and quantity of information sources that is available. In this paper we propose the idea of extending the scope of these systems to include a step preceding the solution process: problem framing. We claim that new technologies such as Web 2.0 provide novel opportunities to add this facility to DSS and NSS. To achieve this, we propose a novel approach combining domain and task ontologies. The task ontology we propose employs concepts from soft systems methodology. Specifically, we suggest that a stakeholder can use the ontologies to understand the problem, frame the issue, and identify the information required for the task. The ontologies can support accessing the information sources when the system is being used by stakeholders.