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Developing Web-Enabled
Decision Support Systems

Using Access, VB .NET, and ASP .NET


by Abhijit A. Pol and Ravindra K. Ahuja

Dynamic Ideas, Belmont, Massachusetts, 2007.

ISBN: 0-9759146-4-2

Decision support systems combine models, data, and information technology for effective decision-making and are becoming increasingly popular in business and industry. Developing Web-Enabled Decision Support Systems is a comprehensive book that describes how to build data-driven, Web-enabled decision support systems using a Microsoft Access database, VB .NET, and an ASP .NET framework and illustrates it using several case studies arising in Management, Engineering, and Operations Research.

Example pages for your review:

View the Table of Contents for the book here

View an Example Chapter of the book here.

The book contains five parts:

Part I - Principles of Good Database Design: This part of the book covers entity-relationship diagrams, creating relational databases, and normalizing databases.

Part II - Database Development with Microsoft Access: This part describes how to create tables using Microsoft Access, establish relationships between tables, and manipulate tables using Access queries or using Structured Query Language (SQL).

Part III - Windows Application Development with VB .NET: The topics for this part include the Visual Studio development environment, object-oriented and visual programming, database connectivity using ADO .NET, and Crystal Report .NET.

Part IV - Web Application Development with ASP .NET: This part illustrates the process of developing Web applications by using HTML and ASP .NET.

Part V - Case Studies: This part presents several case studies of decision support systems arising in different application settings including Online Book Store, Portfolio Management and Optimization, and Television Advertisement Allocation.

The book is self-complete and does not require any prior background in information systems, databases, or database management systems. Each topic covered is illustrated through examples and hands-on tutorials. Each chapter contains several hands-on exercises for additional practice. This book is ideally suited as a textbook for teaching undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in any branch of science, engineering, and management but can also be used as a supplementary reference book or a self-study manual.

Educational Philosophy of the Book

Information systems based on decision models are called Decision Support Systems (DSS). A DSS uses the data residing in databases, models it, processes or analyzes it using problem-specific methodologies, and assists the user in the decision-making process through a graphical user interface. Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IE/OR) and business school graduates are frequently being employed in positions that require developing DSS. We believe that decision support systems will gain widespread popularity in the future, and knowing how to develop such systems will make our students highly desirable in the workplace.

IE/OR departments and business schools teach their students decision models-based courses that impart spreadsheet modeling, optimization, and simulation skills. Most of these departments require their students to take computer-programming courses, often in C++, Java, or Visual Basic (VB). Several departments require their students to take a database course as well. Thus, students acquire background in modeling, optimization, simulation, databases, and programming, but there are no courses that teach students how to integrate the technologies learned in these different courses to build complete decision support systems. Students are given many components, but they cannot assemble them into a complete package suitable for use by a customer. Decision support systems combine these technologies, and teaching how to build such systems is ideally suited to be an integral part of the IE/OR and business school curriculum. This book addresses this important need and illustrates how to build complete systems using various techniques learned in different courses. We believe these skills will make our students highly desirable and sought after in today’s information technology dominated workplace.

Distinguishing Characteristics of This Book

The book has the following distinguishing characteristics:

  • A unified approach that describes all technologies necessary to build a complete web-based decision support system. The book covers the material found in several books in one book and makes it highly accessible for students with little previous background.
  • This is the first book that covers integration of operations research methodologies with information technology techniques related to web development.
  • All important topics are explained using easy-to-follow and interesting hands-on tutorials. Numerous hands-on exercises further supplement the learning experience.
  • This book can be used as a textbook for teaching courses at the undergraduate as well as graduate levels in industrial engineering, operations research, and business departments. The book can also be used as a self-study guide by practitioners wanting to learn more about operations research and/or information technology.
  • The book can also be used to supplement existing courses. The book material is organized in a modular fashion so that instructors can pick and choose certain modules to supplement other courses they teach.

Instructor and Student Resources

We have developed additional course material that contains valuable resources for both instructors and students. The following material is available at the website (this site is still under construction and will be available shortly):

Access Chapters: Additional chapters on Access Forms and Access Reports that could not be included in the book.

Case Studies: Additional case study chapters that could not be included in the book.

Case Files: Source code and the complete application package including database files for all five case studies described in the book.

Chapter Examples: Database files, VB .NET and ASP .NET source code, and application files for all the hands-on tutorials covered in all chapters.

Chapter Exercises: Access databases for exercises in all chapters. Solutions available only to the instructors.

Chapter PowerPoints:  PowerPoint presentations for all the book chapters.

Projects Manual: A compilation of 50 student (team) projects describing additional applications of desktop and web-based decision support systems.

Instructor Resources: Tips for instructors and sample course schedules.

The Solutions Manual of the book is also available and will be provided on a CD-ROM to instructors offering courses using this book as the principal textbook. The website ( provides the email addresses for requesting the Solutions Manual and giving your feedback to the book authors (this site is still under construction and will be available shortly).

About The Authors

Abhijit A. Pol

Abhijit Pol coauthored this book as a researcher in the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He is now a Senior Software Engineer in the Strategic Data Solutions at Yahoo, Inc. His research focus is in the area of databases, with special interests in approximate query processing, physical database design, and data streams. Abhijit has taught the course Developing Web-Enabled Decision Support Systems (DSS) several times in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida. He has presented several tutorials at workshops and conferences on the need and importance of teaching DSS material, and he has also taught at two instructor-training workshops on DSS development. Abhijit has presented research papers at several prestigious database conferences and performed research at the Microsoft Research Lab.

Ravindra K. Ahuja

Ravindra Ahuja is a professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He specializes in mathematical modeling, state-of-the-art network optimization techniques, and solving large-scale scheduling problems arising in logistics and transportation. He founded the company Innovative Scheduling, Inc. ( to bring cutting-edge operations research and information technology techniques to the field of transportation and scheduling. He has developed innovative models and algorithms for several scheduling problems that were previously considered intractable; these models are now being packaged into interactive web-enabled decision support systems. He is winner of the 1993 LanchesterPrize for the best contribution of the year in Operations Research, the 2003 Pierskalla Award for the best paper on Operations Research in Health Applications, and the 2006 Daniel H. Wagner Award for Excellence in Operations Research Practice. He is a coauthor of the widely used text and reference book “Network Flows: Theory, Algorithms, and Applications.” He is also a coauthor of the companion book, “Developing Spreadsheet-Based Decision Support Systems,” which describes how to build decision support systems using Excel and VBA for Excel.