Decision environments may be described by four features, (i) decisions as part of our behavior mechanism, (ii) stages in the decision processes, (iii) players involved in the decision making process, and (iv) the unknown and uncertainty involved in the process. As mentioned in Sec. 3, decision problems can be regarded as events, which can catch our attention. Because we have to attend to a number of events over time, the same decision problem cannot occupy our attention all the time.
So, if IT can provide decision makers with decision elements in the way of attractiveness and easy understanding, then decision makers may efficiently make a decision before they lose their attention because of massive unorganized information inputs. Decision processes take time to complete. In order to facilitate analysis, the entire process may be decomposed into sub-processes or sub-stages. In the example of purchasing a house, the sub-stages could be among the followings: consulting with a real estate agent, touring houses, consulting with experts, making offers and negotiating, etc.
Theses stages may be clearly understood by experienced buyers, but not by inexperienced buyers. However, because of IT, the inexperienced buyers can get a picture and understand these stages of the process by surfing the Internet and search for related information. In addition, IT may shorten the duration of stages or even the number of stages of the decision process. For example, there may be no need for a buyer touring houses, because the buyer can see pictures or even 3-D reality vision of houses from websites. People make decision and interact with others continuously.
In the house purchasing example, in addition to the buyer and his/her family members, there are real estate brokers, sellers, and colleagues facilitating the purchase and/or affecting the decision elements. For simple decision problems, it may not be harmful if the decision makers do not pay attention to the other players. However, for high stake decision problems, continuously identifying the potential players, visible and invisible, and making an effort to know their interests, needs or roles in the decision processes can often provide useful information in clarifying or understanding the decision environment.
Because of IT, decision makers can get more information about players involved in the decision process, and get to know their interests, needs or roles. For example, the recruiter and the boss of the recruiter are important in the job interview. To be successful in the job interview, an applicant may visit the company’s website and search for information about the recruiter, and the boss of the recruiter. Unknowns create charge and excitement in our decision processes. If we know the unknowns and know how to manage them, they may add satisfaction to our decision processes. Otherwise, they can create fear, pains, and frustration.
There is no doubt that IT can help to reduce the degree of uncertainty and unknowns. (Sage 2001) Decision Aids People usually need aid to facilitate good and effective decision making for unfamiliar but important problems. In a broad sense, when the decision maker cannot use his/her internal capacity to sufficiently release the high level of charge caused by a nontrivial decision problem, he/she has a tendency to look for external aid from trusted friends, colleges and/or experts. Put in another way, when the decision maker’s HD is not adequate enough to handle the problem, he/she has a tendency to seek external aids.
When does a decision maker need aids, and how can we help him/her? This question may be answered by checking into the decision elements, and decision environments. Let us summarize some important ones as follows: (a) Suggest vital alternatives. (b) Suggest effective decision criteria. (c) Describe likely outcome of a decision. (d) Help clarify the decision maker’s preferences. (e) Help establish and utilize external information inputs, and help select the facts, which are true and screen out the deceptions. (f) Help understand the evolution and the dynamics of the decision making process.
(g) Help decompose the problem into a number of sub problems and a number of stages so as to facilitate analysis of the problem. (h) Help identify who the players are and their various interests, stakes and habitual domains. (i) Help clarify and cope with the unknowns and/or uncertainty involved in the decision process. (j) Help expand and/or restructure the HDs so as to increase decision efficiency and effectiveness and shorten the decision cycle. (k) Enhance the perceived and acquired competence sets of the decision maker so as to improve the confidence and decision quality. (l) Help implement the decision. (Benbasat 2000)