Technology is one of many tools organizations use to help solve problems. The entire process of problem solving involves gathering and analyzing data, and then putting forth solutions to correct an issue in the business. Decision making involves tools to help management and other personnel choose what to do during the problem-solving process. The two concepts seem independent to some people, but when you throw technology into the mix, you can see the close relationship problem solving and decision making have with one another.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Small business operators do not normally equate the word "enterprise" to local and mom-and-pop business. However, many enterprise resource planning software developers are increasingly tailoring this software to meet the needs of small and mid-sized businesses. Most multinational mega corporations already use ERP to solve efficiency problems between various departments, including accounting, finance, manufacturing and sales. Where a bottleneck exists in the business process, management makes decisions on how to solve the problem. Similarly, a small business can use a scaled down version of an ERP program to coordinate front office and back office activities. For example, a busy diner might institute a system that shows orders on a LCD screen in the kitchen after the cashier or server inputs the order into a computerized cash register. This speeds order delivery and based on recorded service times, diner management can make decisions about improving service delivery.
Many businesses have multiple locations that function independently from each other. Sometimes called a branch, managers and personnel in these facilities need tools which help the location stay on the same page with business practices and policies handed down from a headquarters. Customers expect a uniform level of service from a business who carries a name, no matter the physical location. Collaboration software tools can solve the problem of helping several small business locations conduct business on behalf of a larger corporate entity. Instead of a district manager or vice president wasting time and money traveling to each location to ensure business conformity, all branches can join a conference call or video webcast. In these settings, problems are brought to the attention of all involved and decisions are commonly made after a tally or voice vote.
Business Analysis Tools
Enterprises can afford to staff and run an entire department devoted to business analytics. However, for smaller operations, the owner and manager are all-things-at-once, including the business analyst. Instead of hiring or outsourcing this function, small companies can use business analysis tools to crunch data. For example, if the previous month's or quarter's sales performance was sub-par, based on customer traffic, a manager can plug data into a spreadsheet to run an analysis about future performance. If sales are projected to fall again, the business can decide to increase spending on advertising to solve this problem of falling revenues.
Decision Support System (DSS)
Predictions and concerns regarding computers eventually overtaking and out thinking human intellect is upon us. The concept of a decision support system is not new, but as computer processing power increases, so does the role these machines play in helping professionals make important decisions about business operations. DSS systems mainly focus on compiling raw business data and helping organizations foresee problems or issues a human alone cannot predict or plan for. Another way in which businesses can use DSS is as an artificial intelligence, or AI, to help professionals, such as doctors and nurses, make informed decisions when presented with a problem in patient care.
As you can see, technology has already played a huge role in helping businesses overcome certain dilemmas, while increasing efficiency.
Zachary T. Brown