We wish we’d come across this post when it was first published, but better late than never. The article – The Real Docs Need is Decision Support – by Mark Baker on his Every Page Is Page One blog describes how decision support provides a means of structuring the optimal delivery of knowledge – a point of view which is, obviously, very close to our own hearts.
The additional idea we’d like to add is that the key value underlying decision support technology is the quantitative management of the relationships between the information describing symptoms, causes, and supporting resolution resources. This means that Decision Support not only allows you to structure and automate diagnostic pathways that could be followed in applications available to agents and/or users, but it also allows for automated learning and evolution. As a result you allow users to answer questions applicable to a variety of different potential resolution pathways and have the system learn from the users’ repeated experience. For example: a user identifies his/her product’s internal networking as the problem area and the decision support system starts to ask relevant questions. As questions are answered, the user sees the most relevant probable causes and their respective probabilities. The user can keep answering questions until the probability is 100% or skip straight to an end-point and perform the recommended resolution steps to see if that doesn’t solve the issue. Once resolved, the system would factor in the final resolution pathway for future use and the organization would accumulate detailed statistics on the diagnostic results and the user experience.
So, Decision Support is much more than having an expert document his ideas at an initial point in time and structure a single recommended pathway. Rather it goes beyond to provide a self-maintaining knowledge repository that optimizes itself and reacts to changing approaches over time.