Final Report Background and Need

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Everyone makes important decisions in the daily accomplishment of their duties, but do we document, track, manage and share those decisions effectively?

The aggregate of individual decisions constitutes the current state of our organization, and charts the course for our future direction and progress. In a sense, our decisions represent individuals and the organizations they represent. The effective representation, management, evaluation, and sharing of these decisions determines the success of the enterprise. Especially in a distributed, self-organizing, networked environment where digital media are the main interaction between members, distribution and tracking of decisions is particularly important for understanding what others are doing. Our decisions serve as information-work products; both as inputs and outputs. We use others decisions as references and our decisions become references to the decision process of others.

The significant time and effort we spend converting our decisions into work products such as briefs, papers, proposals, and communication of our decisions in meetings, teleconferences, conversations, and emails, could be recaptured if we had a standard concise format for representing and sharing our decisions. Our tools could be instrumented to generate our decisions in a format that could be shared and also track the state of decisions within the decision-making process. Instrumentation could support the development of a metric of decision flow and help us understand and optimize our decision processes across our organization or enterprise. Visibility of the decisions in their formation and evolution would enable proactive management and assistance from others.

For these reasons, the members of the Decisions and Decision-Making Incubator are exploring and determining the requirements, use cases, and a potential standard format for representing our decisions efficiently and effectively in a collaborative networked environment for the purpose of information exchange for situational awareness. The Emergency Data Exchange Language Common Alerting Protocol (EDXL-CAP) family of standards is an example of the type and style of information exchange formats which are simple, useful, and understandable. What EDXL-CAP did for alerts, a common decision exchange protocol should do for decisions. However, to reach its full potential, the proposed decision format must be extended by the Semantic Web tools and standards to provide semantic interoperability and to provide a basis for reasoning that can ease development of advanced applications. Simplicity and understandability of decisions is particularly important in distributed, dynamic settings such as emergency management.

The work performed by this incubator activity is designed to help organizations improve integration of human decisions into computer systems, to digitally track and manage the decision-making process, to enable improved information-flow metrics, to maintain an archive of the decisions and the decision-making process, to enable semi-automation of certain decision-making processes, to improve information sharing, and ultimately, to support better, rapid, and agile decision making.

The potential standard format should provide concise, generic, structured assessments and decisions that allow "drill down," support pedigree and confidence, enable approvals and vetting, define options considered, including decision criteria with weighting, links to previous decisions and sub-decisions, and support flexible structuring of complex decisions.

 Ref: The Charter of the Decisions and Decision-Making Incubator Activity