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DSR Methodology

Overview

Design Science Research is the dominant research approach at IWI-HSG. Besides community engagement (editorial service in journals and conferences), we contribute to further develop research methods and techniques, e.g. regarding validity, modularization, or communication excellence.


Projects

Architectural Thinking

Architectural thinking aims at supporting non-architects and people outside the IT function to adopt holistic, long-term considerations in their daily decisions. To establish architectural thinking we build small interventions such as labels for applications, domains or projects to increase the awareness of employees for architectural goals and provide opportunities to contribute to the goal achievement.


Responsible

Prof. Dr. Robert Winter

Responsible

Prof. Dr. Stephan Aier



Nudging for Data Quality

Many organizations struggle with creating and maintaining data quality in their everyday business. Beyond formal means of control, such as data governance frameworks comprising rules, regulations or regular data quality reviews, in this project we explore lightweight interventions that nudge people in the organization to spend a little more effort here and there, which overall measurable increases the understanding for data quality and data quality itself.


Responsible

Prof. Dr. Stephan Aier


Publications

Design science research (DSR) aims to generate knowledge about innovative solutions to real-world problems. A comparably new stream of research, DSR has matured methodically, and is increasingly catching the interest of researchers, specifically for its potential to contribute to problem solving in society and the economy. Since research methodology curricula develop slowly, however, DSR is still underrepresented in most curricula and courses on research design and methods, and we lack guidance on what and how to teach in a DSR course in a way that enables junior academics to conduct DSR according to high standards. We report on teaching DSR methodology both on PhD and Master levels and for both managerially and technically oriented student populations. Our interactive on-site and distance formats have been refined over 14 years. The PDW presents an effective syllabus, teaching material and experience from conducting over 25 courses with students from over 20 countries across all three geographic AIS regions.

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The spectrum of changes that enterprises need to deal with varies from simple continuous adjustments of the product portfolio in response to evolving customer preferences, to complete overhauls of the business and operating model in response to disruptive trends. Many research fields and practitioner disciplines have produced analysis and engineering approaches that can help enterprises to assess and prepare for the impact of changes from this spectrum. However, they have partial scopes and consequently limited integration. By selecting, slightly extending and integrating existing approaches, this paper introduces a ‘simple enough’ integrated solution model and a ‘simple enough’ integrated analysis and engineering method that covers the full spectrum of changes. Our focus is the large, complex enterprise that operates in a specific industry and performs information processing at scale. The research is intended to provide methodical support to practitioners with a responsibility for shaping solutions. Our proposal is the result of initial experiences in practice that instilled the research theme, application in a large-scale industry project, focused collaborative research that joined researchers and academia, and ongoing applications and experiences in practice. The solution model and the analysis and engineering method that we propose support three types of adaptability: a) foundational adaptability produces full new business model and operating model parts, b) transitional adaptability extends the current business model and operating model and adds additional configurability, and c) routine adaptability is managed within the configurability of individual operating model components that need to be designed with sufficient bandwidth. A business configuration center is proposed as a key constituent that manages the differences in underlying technology, and that allows to perform integrated, technology agnostic administration of an industry solution.

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Businesses of all kinds need to innovate rapidly and adapt quickly due to market disruption fueled by the digital transformation. Executive managers require the management tool that supports them in navigating their company through agility transformation journey by identifying and developing organizational capabilities as means to enhance Corporate Agility.

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In the context of digital transformation, it is mandatory for most organizations to conduct information systems development (ISD) projects as part of their digitalization and business development journey. One reason that many ISD projects fail is lack of knowledge about which ISD method (ISDM) is most suitable for the project at hand and how to adapt it to reflect the respective business development context. These problems especially occur in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as they often lack specific methodological skills and project governance experience – so they cannot even manage ISD consultancies that promise to support them in their digital transformation. In this conceptual paper, we present the design of a method for selecting and using ISDM for SMEs. It considers both the context dependency and missing project governance skills of SMEs. The main components of the proposed method link the knowledge areas of business development and ISD: business context evaluation, ISDM selection and ISDM management.

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Digital platforms (DPs) – technical core artifacts augmented by peripheral third-party complementary resources – facilitate the interaction and collaboration of different actors through highly-efficient resource matching. As DPs differ significantly in their configurations and applications, it is important from both a descriptive and a design perspective to define classes of DPs. As an intentionally designed artifact, every classification pursues a certain purpose. In this research, the purpose is to classify DPs from a business model perspective, i.e. to identify DP clusters that each share a similar business model type. We follow Nickerson et al.’s (2013) method for taxonomy development. By validating the conceptually derived design dimensions with ten DP cases, we identify platform structure and platform participants as the major clustering constituent characteristics. Building on the proposed taxonomy, we derive four DP archetypes that follow distinct design configurations, namely business innovation platforms, consumer innovation platforms, business exchange platforms and consumer exchange platforms.

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(a) Problem faced: Due to heterogeneous stakeholder requirements, highly diverse tasks, and massive investments needed, enterprise-wide information systems (e-wIS) are often developed through multiple projects over long time periods. In this context, choosing the ‘right’ evolution paths becomes essential. This is not straightforward because e-wIS comprise technical, organizational, and use-related issues so that development stages need to be aligned over heterogeneous dimensions. Although maturity models (MM) are an established instrument to devise development paths, their respective development processes often lack transparency and theoretical as well as empirical grounding. Moreover, extant MM often focus on the control of certain capabilities (doing things right) rather than on providing the necessary capabilities in a sequence appropriate for a given type of organization (doing the right things). (b) Solution developed: We propose an empirically grounded design method for MMs, which devises capability development sequences rather than control levels. We instantiate the proposed method twice—for developing a Business Intelligence (BI) MM as well as a Corporate Performance Management (CPM) MM as two exemplary types of e-wIS. The artifacts are developed over three laps to successively enhance both their projectability in the problem space and their tangibility in the solution space. (c) Lessons Learned: (1) In DSR projects it often proves valuable to be open for diverse research approaches such as classical qualitative or quantitative approaches since they may purposefully ground and guide design decisions. (2) Complex artifact design processes may not be carried out by a single PhD student or published in a single paper. They require adequate decomposition and organizational integration. (3) Finally, complex and emergent artifact design processes require a reliable network of practice organizations rather than a project contract with a single organization.

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While agile principles and methods have become mainstream in IT solution development, they have also immersed project management and organizational design. This process, however, is gradual so that management and governance practice of digital transformation programs (DTP) often have to deal with a coexistence of agile and traditional components. Such coexistence leads to tensions as some agile principles and methods are incompatible with or even contrary to their traditional counterparts. Drawing on existing discourses on tensions and governance, the purpose of this paper is to (1) identify and analyze such tensions in the context of complex DTP, (2) explore the corresponding challenges for program governance, and (3) derive requirements to enhance current DTP governance practice to deal with those challenges. The data gathered from an in-depth revelatory dual-case study of large DTPs let us identify 18 tensions, 17 corresponding governance challenges, and derive 10 requirements for a “change-mode-agnostic” governance system.

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Despite growing project management maturity, the failure rate of IT-related projects remains high. We investigated four large IT-related projects within the Swiss Federal Administration that were well-managed but still failed. We found that these projects failed because of poor project governance, in particular inadequate handling of project context by the project sponsor and steering committee. We identify five contextual factors that steering committees should focus on and provide recommendations for strengthening context-aware project governance, illustrated by their implementation in the Swiss Federal Administration.

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Sir Isaac Newton (1676) famously said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Research is a collaborative, evolutionary endeavor—and it is no different with design science research (DSR), which builds upon existing design knowledge and creates new design knowledge to pass on to future projects. However, despite the vast, growing body of DSR contributions, scant evidence of the accumulation and evolution of design knowledge has been articulated in an organized DSR body of knowledge. Most contributions rather stand on their own feet than on the shoulders of giants, and this continues to limit how far we can see, curtailing the extent of the broader impacts that can be made through DSR. In this editorial, we aim at providing guidance on how to position design knowledge contributions in wider problem and solution spaces. We propose (1) a model conceptualizing design knowledge as a resilient relationship between problem and solution spaces, (2) a model that demonstrates how individual DSR projects consume and produce design knowledge, (3) a map to position a design knowledge contribution in problem and solution spaces, and (4) principles on how to use this map in a DSR project. We show how fellow researchers, readers, editors, and reviewers, as well as the IS community as a whole, can make use of these proposals, and also illustrate future research opportunities.

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Enterprise architecture management (EAM) in organizations often requires coping with conflicts between long-term enterprise-wide goals and short-term goals of local decision-makers. We argue that these goal conflicts are similar to the goal conflicts that occur in public goods dilemmas: people are faced with a choice between an option (a) with a high collective benefit for a group of people and a low individual benefit, and another option (b) with a low collective benefit and a high individual benefit. Building on institutional theory, we hypothesize how different combinations of institutional pressures (coercive, normative, and mimetic) affect decision makers’ behavior in such conflictive situations. We conduct a set of experiments for testing our hypotheses on cooperative behavior in a delayed-reward public goods dilemma. As preliminary results, we find that normative and mimetic pressures enhance cooperative behavior. Coercive pressure, however, may have detrimental effects in settings that normative and mimetic pressures are disregarded. In future work, we plan to transfer the abstract experimental design of an onlinelab experiment into a field experiment setting and thus into the real-world context of EAM.

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