n Journal of Public Administration - Facilitating negotiations through electronic decision support software

Volume 37, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The objective of this paper is to summarise the potential applications of selected user-friendly, state of the art electronic negotiation support software to promote more successful negotiation outcomes within complex public management networks.

Various specialised niche software packages have been developed over the last few years to support negotiation processes as a result of the complicated nature of these processes and the different, frequently contradictory variables that need to be taken into account in the preparations for such negotiations. The knowledge explosion in this regard and the recent expansion in electronic hardware and software applications in government, have, however, taken place so fast that these tools are either still relatively unknown or have not yet been integrated in mainstream negotiation planning exercises in public management processes in many developed countries.
In lesser developed countries, the current state of affairs with regard to the use of such electronic support software is not good. In order to improve the positive impact of negotiations outputs, the success of such decisions in government need to be significantly increased. The experiences of different nations where electronic decision support tools have been used or are in use, to achieve a better success rate with public sector decisions and implementation, are important in this regard. This is especially relevant for decisions in negotiation situations within complex public management related networks.
The adoption and use of more user-friendly but effective electronic decision support systems for this purpose, has the potential to maximise more successful results if they are applied appropriately and effectively. However, these tools will not necessarily guarantee success in negotiations, because it does not divest the decision-maker of taking decisions. IT only allows such a person to take better informed decisions, hopefully more aware of the main implications of those decisions.
Selected new negotiation support software packages are identified, and the application of one elementary electronic decision support tool for this purpose, the WinSquared negotiation support software package, is illustrated in this paper. It can be used to increase the systematic nature and scope of qualitative information available to negotiators about strategic choices regarding issues, problems, options, strategies, costs, benefits, risks, probabilities and/or priorities. The package deals systematically with the main variables that can influence negotiation outcomes, and prompts negotiators for assessments of those variables, allowing the negotiator to devise the most appropriate negotiation strategies and tactics on the basis of those assessments. Its quantitative capabilities are, however, weak and it does not provide effective issue analysis and negotiation outcome support.
Complex decisions with multiple decision objectives that may be contradictory, need to be prioritised in terms of different, potentially also contradictory decision criteria. The interests, preferences, resources, constraints, personality profiles and negotiation styles of the negotiation parties need all to be considered in a systematic way and factored into decisions about the contents of negotiation proposals, strategies and tactics.

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