The term decision support system (DSS) is given to three levels of hardware/software that vary in capabilities, and therefore vary in their relative purposes and tasks (Sprague and Watson 1986). Each DSS supplies managers with an education that they can use to understand and solve intricate problems. FIT is a decision support tool falling under the DSS tool category.
The first of the three levels is the Specific DSS. This is the system that allows managers to carry out a task relating to a set of interconnected problems by doing the necessary work, such as a data collection program (Sprague and Watson 1986). The USGS uses data collection programs to download data from USGS gauges, then the data can be manipulated temporally and spatially to query stream flows. The specific DSS actually does the job required.
The second of the three DSS technologies is the DSS Generator which has the ability to build a specific DSS using a platform of hardware and software (Sprague and Watson 1986). An example of a DSS Generator is the Executive Information Center developed by Boeing Computer Services that has an array of integrated capabilities including report preparation, a modeling language and statistical analysis, each available as a separate, specific DSS (Boeing). Each capability is offered separately, but all work together using a common set of data to make financial decisions (Sprague and Watson 1986). The DSS Generator can create specific DSS by building upon the framework in place and can act as a stable environment from which specific DSS can be produced and modified easily (Sprague and Watson 1986). The DSS Generator can also lead to the creation of DSS tools.
The third and final part of the DSS technologies is DSS tools. According to Sprague and Watson (1986), DSS tools are, “the most fundamental level of technology applied to the development of a DSS.” This is because a DSS Tool aids in the creation of a DSS Generator and/or a specific DSS. Available DSS Tools have increased significantly in recent years. DSS Tools improve the overall functioning of a system and allow managers to make decisions concerning complex and dynamic systems. An example is the CommunityViz Tool developed by Placeways, used to make land-use related decisions by modeling and analyzing land use realities and possibilities (Sprague and Watson 1986). The development of DSS Tools requires the cooperation of human, software, and hardware systems alike.