Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Assessing Information System Design Theory in Perspective: How Useful Was Our 1992 Initial Rendition?

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Assessing Information System Design Theory in Perspective: How Useful Was Our 1992 Initial Rendition?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

More than a decade has passed since the publication of the first article on building information systems design theories (ISDT) that appeared in Information Systems Research (Walls, Widmeyer, and El Sawy, 1992). Using the context of designing vigilant executive information systems, it articulated how to construct and test an ISDT that could prescriptively guide the design of a particular class of information system. The paper argued that successful construction of ISDTs would create an endogenous base for theory in the IS discipline, and could be used by scholars to prescribe design products and processes for different classes of information systems as they emerged.

This paper reviews ISDT and assesses how it has been used by IS scholars since that 1992 publication. It attempts to determine how useful the Walls et. al. ISDT has been in guiding design and helping theoretical development. The paper assesses the extent and practicality of its use as a theory building framework, and draws on samples of the various IS scholars have taken advantage of it in 26 papers to-date. The paper diagnoses the reasons for the limited use of ISDT and makes recommendations for enhancing its usability and adoption in the IS research community.

A BRIEF PERSONALIZED HISTORY OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS DESIGN THEORY - PART 1

Build it and they will come. Or so we thought - when we published what we believe to be the first article on constructing information systems design theories. The article was titled "Building an Information System Design Theory for Vigilant EIS" and appeared in 1992 in the IS field's top journal Information Systems Research. Using the context of designing vigilant executive information systems, it articulated how to construct and test an Information Systems Design Theory (ISDT) that could prescriptively guide the design of a particular class of information system. The paper argued that successful construction of ISDTs would create an endogenous base for theory in the IS discipline, and could be used by scholars to prescribe design products and processes for different classes of information systems as they emerged. The paper received very favorable reviews from referees while in the reviewing cycle (which is rare) and the revisions requested were minor. We were proud of our paper and its contribution, and we thought we had set the stage to show other scholars how to build design theories for different types of information systems, and had provided a foundation for strengthening the endogenous base for theory development in the IS research community. The deluge never came, but rather it was fairly limited use. True, each of the three authors embarked on other pursuits and none of us actively evangelized about the virtues of ISDT, but then we presumably also thought that a wellplaced journal article in the flagship Information Systems Research would be noticed by serious scholars if they needed to take advantage of it. Our most recent literature search shows 26 articles that have used this paper and ISDT in the 12 year span since it was published.

A BRIEF PERSONALIZED HISTORY OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS DESIGN THEORY-PART 2

Triggered by the editor of this special issue, we started to examine how ISDT (and especially ours) had been used by IS scholars in the last dozen years. We sought to answer the questions: How useful are ISDTs? How useful was the Walls et. al. rendition of ISDT? (especially that it seemed to be the very first). Is design theorising practically possible, and does it differ from other types of theory? Why has the use of ISDTs (mostly ours) been limited? Are they just formalisms or do they help provide new insights? Are they too cumbersome and unwieldy to work with? What is the next step in advancing ISDTs?

We were further triggered by an excellent article titled "Design Science in Information Systems Research" in the March 2004 issue of MIS Quarterly (Hevner, March, Park, and Ram, 2004). …

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