Decision support systems (DSSs) are important in decision-making environments with conflicting interests. Many DSSs developed have not been used in practice. Experts argue that these tools do not respond to real user needs and that the inclusion of stakeholders in the development process is the solution. However, it is not clear which features of participatory development of DSSs result in improved uptake and better outcomes. A review of papers, reporting on case studies where DSSs and other decision tools (information systems, software and scenario tools) were developed with elements of participation, was carried out. The cases were analysed according to a framework created as part of this research; it includes criteria to evaluate the development process and the outcomes. Relevant aspects to consider in the participatory development processes include establishing clear objectives, timing and location of the process; keeping discussions on track; favouring participation and interaction of individuals and groups; and challenging creative thinking of the tool and future scenarios. The case studies that address these issues show better outcomes; however, there is a large degree of uncertainty concerning them because developers have typically neither asked participants about their perceptions of the processes and resultant tools nor have they monitored the use and legacy of the tools over the long term.
- decision support systems
- decision tools
- participatory development process
- process features