This paper explores an ongoing conflict concerning the nature of software design. This conflict manifests itself as antagonism between managers and developers, debates about agile vs. plan-driven methodologies and aspiring developers’ dissatisfaction with their courses. One side views design as a plan-driven information processing task involving rational decision-making (the Reason-Centric Perspective), while the other views design as an improvised, creative task involving naturalized decision-making (Action-Centric Perspective). Each perspective includes an epistemology, theory of human action and a software design process theory (an explanation of how software is created in practice). This paper reports the results of an exploratory questionnaire study that comparatively and empirically evaluated the two process theories. Results clearly favor the Action-Centric process theory: the Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Framework.


Design Science Process Theory Software Design Questionnaire 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    March, S.T., Smith, G.F.: Design and natural science research on information technology. Decision Support Systems 15, 251–266 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hevner, A.R., March, S.T., Park, J., Ram, S.: Design Science in Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly 28, 75–105 (2004)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Simon, H.A.: The Sciences of the Artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge (1996)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Freeman, P., Hart, D.: A Science of design for software-intensive systems. Communications of the ACM 47, 19–21 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sullivan, K.: Preliminary Report: NSF Workshop on the Science of Design: Software and Software-Intensive Systems. University of Virginia Department of Computer Science, Airlie Center (2003)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wynekoop, J., Russo, N.: Systems development methodologies: unanswered questions. Journal of Information Technology 10 (1995)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wynekoop, J., Russo, N.: Studying system development methodologies: an examination of research methods. Information Systems Journal 7, 47–65 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ralph, P.: The Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Framework of Software Design. MIS Quarterly (under review), 76 pages (2010)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Van de Ven, A.H., Poole, M.S.: Explaining development and change in organizations. The Academy of Management Review 20, 510–540 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Curtis, B., Kellner, M.I., Over, J.: Process Modeling. Communications of the ACM 35, 75–90 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ralph, P., Wand, Y.: A Proposal for a Formal Definition of the Design Concept. In: Lyytinen, K., Loucopoulos, P., Mylopoulos, J., Robinson, W. (eds.) Design Requirements Engineering: A Ten-Year Perspective. LNBIP, pp. 103–136. Springer, Heidelberg (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Walls, J.G., Widmeyer, G.R., El Sawy, O.A.: Building an information system design theory for vigilant EIS. Information Systems Research 3, 36–59 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Schön, D.A.: The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. Basic Books, USA (1983)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hacking, I.: Scientific Revolutions. Oxford University Press, New York (1982)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Luce, D., Raiffa, H.: Games and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey. Wiley, New York (1957)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Suchman, L.: Plans and Situated Actions: The problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1987)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Newell, A., Simon, H.: Human Problem Solving. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs (1972)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Love, T.: Philosophy of Design: A Meta-theoretical Structure for Design Theory. Design Studies 21, 293–313 (2000)CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Gero, J.S.: Design prototypes: A Knowledge Representation Schema for Design. AI Magazine 11, 26–36 (1990)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Gero, J.S., Kannengiesser, U.: The Situated Function-Behaviour-Structure Framework. Design Studies 25, 373–391 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kruchten, P.: Casting Software Design in the Function-Behavior-Structure Framework. IEEE Software 22, 52–58 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kruchten, P.: The Rational Unified Process: An Introduction. Addison-Wesley Professional, Reading (2003)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Royce, W.W.: Managing the development of large software systems: concepts and techniques. In: Proceedings of Wescon (1970)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Berger, P., Luckmann, T.: The social construction of reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Penguin, London (1966)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Levina, N.: Collaborating on Multiparty Information Systems Development Projects: A Collective Reflection-in-Action View. Information Systems Research 16, 109–130 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Klein, G.: Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. The MIT Press, Cambridge (1999)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ralph, P., Wand, Y.: A Teleological Process Theory of Software Development. In: JAIS Theory Development Workshop, Paris, France. Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, vol. 8(23) (2008)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ralph, P.: Theories of Software Design. MIS Quarterly (under review), 76 pages (2010)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Beck, K.: Extreme Programming eXplained: Embrace Change. Addison Wesley, Boston (2005)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Graham, P.: Hackers and Painters (2003)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Truex, D., Baskerville, R., Travis, J.: Amethodical systems development: the deferred meaning of systems development methods. Accounting, Management and Information Technologies 10, 53–79 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Singer, E.A.: Experience and Reflection. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (1959)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Churchman, C.W.: The design of inquiring systems: Basic concepts of systems and organization. Basic Books, New York (1971)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sober, E.: Testability. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 73, 47–76 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Yin, R.: Case study research: Design and methods. Sage Publications, California (2003)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Wolfe, R.A.: Organizational innovation: review, critique and suggested research directions. Journal of Management Studies 31, 405–431 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Straub, D.W.: Validating Instruments in MIS Research. MIS Quarterly 13, 147–169 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    DeVellis, R.: Scale development: Theory and applications. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2003)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Fowler, F.J.: Improving survey questions: Design and evaluation. Sage, Thousand Oaks (1995)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Harwell, M.R., Gatti, G.G.: Rescaling Ordinal Data to Interval Data in Educational Research. Review of Educational Research 71, 105–131 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Parnas, D.L., Clements, P.C.: A rational design process: How and why to fake it. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 12, 251–257 (1986)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Nandhakumar, J., Avison, D.: The Fiction of Methodological Development: A Field Study of Information Systems Development. Information Technology & People 12, 176–191 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Zheng, Y., Venters, W., Cornford, T.: Agility, Improvisation and Enacted Emergence. In: International Conference on Information Systems, Montreal, Canada (2007)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Dube, L., Pare, G.: Rigor in Information Systems Positivist Case Research: Currect Practices, Trends and Recommendations. MIS Quarterly 27, 597–635 (2003)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Eisenhardt, K.M.: Building Theories from Case Study Research. The Academy of Management Review 14, 532–550 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Lee, A.S.: A scientific methodology for MIS case studies. MIS Quarterly 13, 33–50 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Benbasat, I., Goldstein, D., Mead, M.: The case research strategy in studies of information systems. MIS Quarterly 11, 369–386 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Ralph
    • 1
  1. 1.Lancaster UniversityUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations