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What is a planning support system?

by Dan Power

Computerized planning support systems are examples of decision support systems (DSS) that serve a special purpose, assisting a person in completing planning analyses and tasks. Some general planning tasks that can be supported using software and systems include evaluating courses of actions, preparing plans and monitoring results and contingencies.

Planning support systems are often model-driven DSS, but some data-driven DSS are used for situation monitoring and control and for processing ad hoc queries that are needed during planning processes. In some situations communications-driven DSS are useful in supporting distributed planning activities. Also, a number of software vendors have attempted over the years to develop knowledge-driven DSS to support specific planning domains like strategic business planning. So far, knowledge-driven DSS for planning support have been unsuccessful. Finally, building document-driven DSS for supporting planning tasks is a major opportunity that has not been adequately explored and exploited.

Specialized planning support systems and software have been developed for project management, budget planning and management, operations and supply chain optimization, resource allocation and scheduling.

The targeted user for a planning support system of whatever type DSS is a planner. A person in that role may be a line manager and decision maker or a staff specialist. Staff specialists in finance or marketing who have a planning role may use a planning support system and they may develop more customized computer support as part of a special study.

From my perspective the classic book about planning support and computerized planning special studies was written by Professor Tom Naylor and published in 1979. Naylor's book Corporate Planning Models developed a theory of corporate planning modeling, reviewed the state of practice up to 1978, and "outlined a systematic approach to the design, development, and implementation of corporate planning models (p. iv)."

Naylor reviewed financial planning models, marketing forcasting models, econometric marketing models, production planning models, and an integrated corporate planning model.

His book includes 4 case studies and a discussion of SIMPLAN, a planning and modeling system. The cases describe computerized planning support at Hammermill Paper Company, Dresser Industries, CIBA-GEIGY, and Tennesse Valley Authority (TVA).

Computers have gotten faster, the user interfaces have improved tremendously, planning support is more accessible to managers and planners, and the development software is more powerful and easier to use, but the basic theory and the possible planning models have remained largely unchanged.


Naylor, T. H., Corporate Planning Models, Readings, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979.

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