Solution Decision Advisor

Software tool to implement decision-modeling concepts

Overview

Capturing and sharing design knowledge such as architectural decisions is becoming increasingly important in professional Information Technology (IT) services firms. Methods, models, and tools supporting explicit knowledge management strategies have been proposed in recent years. We extended previous work in the architectural knowledge management community to satisfy the requirements of an additional user group: the designers of IT infrastructure solutions that are outsourced from one company to another. Such strategic outsourcing solutions require complex, contractually relevant design decisions concerning many different resources such as IT infrastructures, people, and real estate.

We have developed a domain-specific knowledge base and a supporting workflow-oriented decision knowledge processing tool that is largely independent of the strategic outsourcing domain (anticipating reuse and application in other domains and application scenarios). In our metamodel, individual decision points provide decision guidance in the form of known uses (i.e., selection of particular options on previous projects), decision making recommendations, and resulting actions (i.e., actions that have to be taken to ensure a certain design becomes visible in solution design documents, the contract and in the implementation). Decision points and their dependency relations are modeled as a directed graph consisting of nodes and connections.

The following figure illustrates the decision point attributes informally by giving them a name, providing rationale in question form (from a user’s perspective), and relating them to the decision point graph:

Attributes of a Decision Point that is embedded in a Decision Point network

Attributes of a decision point that is embedded in a decision point network.

We used the Eclipse platform (e.g., Eclipse Rich Client Platform, Eclipse Modeling Framework, Graphical Editing Framework, and BIRT reporting) to implement these decision-modeling concepts in a software tool called Solution Decision Advisor (SDA). The current implementation supports about 50 use cases; its domain model comprises about 15 key entity types. To manage decision dependencies, the tool has workflow semantics; the key activity type is a decision point (DP) representing a state machine.