|Decision Support Systems (DSSs) are generally based on a couple
of pillars, Information System technologies and Operational Research
(OR) models and techniques; marketing being a core research topic
of the latter. Sustainability on the other hand is currently and for
some time now on the focus of international research as topics like
climate change, waste management, environmental protection and
biodiversity conservation are high on the agenda. How can DSSs, OR
and sustainability be all three combined into an information system that
will enable the decision makers to make sound and robust marketing
(and not only) related decisions, for instance about agribusiness, taking
on the same time into account the sustainability factor? To add to the
complexity of the above statement, active public participation to such a
system would be much welcome, if not a prerequisite.
|Participatory approaches are not new; successful Participatory
Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) linking spatial data with
governance decisions have been around for some time; Elwood ,
Dunn , Jankowski  and Duval-Diop et al.  provide some critical
issues regarding modern PGIS, Sieber  presents a literature review
of the state of the art and framework, while Hessel et al.  refer to a
successful case study in Burkina Faso. Specialised Marketing DSSs have
also been around for some time, Little  introducing and defining the
concept. Nearly a couple of decades later, Wierenga and Van Bruggen
[8,9] presented a classification of marketing decision support tools
and technologies, and used the term “marketing management support
systems”, describing them as any device combining information
technology, analytical capabilities, marketing data, and marketing
knowledge, made available to one or more marketing decision makers,
with the objective to improve the quality of marketing management.
|As far as the sustainability factor is concerned, the EU has a
concrete research policy under the Framework Programme 7 research
scheme currently and others in the recent past. The TESS project
(Transactional Environmental Support System, www.tess-project.
eu) pursued a bottom-up approach; it aimed at mobilizing the local
population, by producing a system capable of handling huge amounts
of diverse information in a coherent and easy way for the user with
limited IT knowledge. The author participated in TESS both as a
deputy project manager and as a researcher; it produced the design of
a decision support system that will make it easy for policy makers to
integrate local knowledge into their decision making processes, while
at the same time guiding and encouraging local activities that restore
and maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services. The TESS vision is
to enlighten, encourage and empower local communities to support
biodiversity restoration across Europe, through an internet system
that unifies all available knowledge to guide decisions for the benefit of
biodiversity and livelihoods Kenward et al. .
|Put simply, to take the sustainability factor into account when
making marketing decisions that affect the environment, active public
participation is needed in order to acquire credible data and there is
much room for research combining the above three elements. TESS
partners made a lot of efforts to assess local willingness, attitudes and
capabilities regarding the new technologies, in order to discover how
much hidden local knowledge could be brought to the surface. Data from the local level, after a proper harmonization procedure, can be
then fed to the regional and national level for implementing policies,
marketing issues included. This should be of great help to formal
assessment methods, like the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessments
(EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), to produce
more robust, tangible and exploitable results. TESS showed that the
local population is both willing and actually keen on participating in
|The above would require, of course, a very large information system
integrating huge databases and environmental plus marketing models.
Information systems have actually changed in size and complexity
considerably in the last decades Neukom , evolving to a global
impact level. Murer et al.  define very large information systems
as “Functionally rich, having a long development history, containing
significant legacy parts which need to be replaced or reengineered,
being exposed to a high rate of change, having high replacement
cost, thus representing a high value to their owners, relying on
heterogeneous technologies, being mission critical, having a large
number of stakeholders resulting in a federated governance and often
in a distributed IT organization”. The complexity of such systems tends
to increase heavily over time as the number of connections between
the different system parts, including legacy systems, grows. The fact is
that such systems already exist operating in a global context and the
tendency is for their number to increase in the forthcoming years.
|TESS also revealed that the environmental modeling and database
community is largely fragmented, disparate and uncoordinated; not
to mention that marketing models do not always take into account
environmental issues. The different scientific groups involved in
environmental modeling and data gathering must come to a consensus
about the standards for environmental models and databases. The
marketing research community should also be involved in the above
procedure; after all in a business oriented economy sustainability
policies must integrate a marketing component and vise versa. What
is more, all models should be accompanied with adequate and easily
comprehended documentation, aimed if possible to the non expert
user as he should in the heart of the overall design.
|As a concluding remark, marketing and sustainability components
integrated into a web based DSS will be a reality sooner of later; if
active public participation is encouraged the yielded results will have
more credentials and applicability. Such complicated systems are not
easily built thought, in 1995 only 16% of IT projects were successful in
meeting the project scope, time, and cost requirements simultaneously The Standish Group ; this figure improved later on Anderson 
but still remains high. Bearing this in mind, careful step-by-step actions
are required as the stakes are high; the desired system needs time to
develop and become a really useful tool.
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- Dunn CE (2007) Participatory GIS – a people’s GIS? Prog Hum Geogr 31: 616–637.
- Jankowski P (2009) Towards participatory geographic information systems for community-based environmental decision making. Journal of Environmental Management 90: 1966–1971.
- Duval-Diop D, Curtis A, Clark A (2010) Enhancing equity with public participatory GIS in hurricane rebuilding: faith based organizations, community mapping, and policy advocacy. Community Development 41: 32-49.
- Sieber R (2006) Public Participation Geographic Information Systems: A Literature Review and Framework. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96: 491–507.
- Hessel R, Van den Berg J, Kabore O, Van Kekem A, Verzandvoort S, et al. (2009) Linking participatory and GIS-based land use planning methods: A case study from Burkina Faso. Land Use Policy 26: 1162–1172.
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