How IBM sees its decision support systems fitting with each other and the IBM world So that is IBM’s perception of what decision support systems are all about – and IBM clearly thinks that they are very Good Things indeed, because the OfficeVision announcement brought the number it offers up to four – although Personal Application System is really a subset of or companion to mainframe Application System, depending on how you choose to use it, and IBM defines Executive Decisions/VM as a related product, but not on its own definition, a decision support system, even though that seems to be exactly what it does. In IBM’s view, the products provide a complementary range of decision support functions and are designed to meet the needs of a variety of users in multiple operational environments – even though many users would likely be spared the embarrassment of choice and be offered one product that was able to meet all conceivable needs – but in the IBM scheme of things, customers can select not only the function required for their operating environment but can also choose the look and feel that best suits their users’ needs. That’s the way IBM likes it: who dare argue with Big Mother? The general features of the products Application System and the programmable workstation version, Personal AS – a programmable workstation is what we are all more used to calling a personal computer – are IBM’s general purpose decision support products, providing broad-based function for the business professional and administrative users under VM, MVS and OS/2, and are recommended where end users require an integrated set of high-function tools – report writing, graphics, query, statistics, application development, business planning and project management. And Personal AS can be run as a stand-alone personal computer product, or can also be used to exchange data, business graphics and report specifications with host AS 2. The Data Interpretation System, conceived by Metaphor Computer Systems but now presented as an IBM application, from is most applicable for gathering and analysing large amounts of detailed business information from remote or local relational databases, and exploits the full technical capabilities of an advanced local area network; it is particularly appropriate to the needs of departments, IBM reckons. Tools include an easy-to-use graphical interface to query, reports, business graphics, spreadsheet, text, mail, and development functions. The relationship with OfficeVision AS 2 and Personal AS 2 provide decision can be used in the OfficeVision Family environment, and, like Executive Decisions/VM, enable users to combine decision support activities such as data access and analysis with office tasks such as creating notes and documents, and using electronic mail to communicate results. The Personal AS base is included in OfficeVision/2 Release 2 and the four options can be installed as fully-compatible options for the OfficeVision/2 LAN Series. Data Interpretation System is separately offered from OfficeVision but provides communication to Profs and VM Notes so that people using it can OfficeVision users, and IBM promises that it will someday support swapping of notes with OfficeVision/MVS, /VM and /400. How executive support systems fit in IBM acknowledges that executive support systems are closely related to office and decision support systems but are distinguished by that fact that they provide access for senior executives or the executive’s support staff to computer-based systems for any business function, and to meet those needs, it has to exhibit a high degree of sophistication – whatever that means: executives are generally such computilliterates that anything remotely tricky must be eliminated, or their needs are so demanding and diverse that a support system has to be enormously versatile and powerful? IBM doesn’t say. Application System, Personal AS So what do you get with each? AS 2 offers a wide range of integrated decision support function including query, report writer, data entry and edit, business graphics,
business planning, project management, linear programming, statistics, and application creation; a new easy-to-use end-user interface similar to Personal Application System 2 that can be operated by keyboard or mouse; access to SQL/DS, DB2 and VSAM data; a new Customisable Data Interface for access to non-IBM data and other IBM data types; data, report specification and business graphics specification exchange with Personal Application System 2. It is aimed at managers technical professionals, scientists, engineers, business professionals and administrators and clerical workers. IBM highlights the bundled easy to use Application Preparation Feature, which provides a menu-driven, point-and-select interface for the novice or infrequent user for application creation – and all applications can be shared. Users can also access Query Management Facility, Profs and OfficeVision/VM from within an AS session. It also provides graphics, reports, and other data for Executive Decisions/VM, and can be used from a 3270. Personal AS base includes Query, Reports, Business Graphics, Data Entry and Procedures; Statistics, Business planning, Project management and Development are optional. It runs under OS/2 Standard 1.2 as well as Extended 1.2, on a PS/2 Model 50Z up. The powerful Data Interpretation System Key features, in IBM’s view, of Data Interpretation System, include the intuitive, iconic application tools that result in easily used and modified applications; the dynamic retrieval by end users of data from multiple relational databases – with support for the OS/2 and OS/400 environments promised. Graphic tools are used to manage databases and administer the system local network, and the thing can interconnect departments within an organisation. Using a technique called Capsules, users get a graphical and iconic interface to create patterns of data flows and sketch graphically the relationships of tasks that make up the application. Objects – queries, reports, graphs, spreadsheets, documents or entire Capsules – can be shared on the same or inter-connected local networks. Results of database queries can be analysed using an integrated spreadsheet or other tools, and a spreadsheet translator converts standard Lotus worksheet formats to the integrated Data Interpretation System spreadsheet. And, in the first mention IBM makes of Metaphor, it says that inter-networking is provided between nets running the IBM and the Metaphor Data Interpretation Systems. IBM sees it as most appropriate to workgroups that need to make heavy regular use of mainframe databases.