Business & Information Systems Engineering

Document Type

Research Paper


The digital transformation of the economy is accelerating companies’ engagement in information technology (IT) innovation. To anticipate which technologies will become relevant over time and integrate them in their innovation plans, companies often rely on product roadmaps as strategic tools. However, ethical issues resulting from ubiquitous IT use have shown the need to accommodate hyped technical advancements in information systems (IS) design and acknowledge human values with moral relevance. Scholars have argued that this moral relevance can only come from an ethical framework. The empirical study presented here investigates whether the three ethical theories of utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology can complement traditional innovation planning approaches. The mixed-method study covers three IT products – a digital toy, a food-delivery app and a telemedicine system. The results reveal that the three ethical theories boost creativity around values and enrich IT innovation planning by supporting the acknowledgment of more and higher value principles (e.g., freedom or personal growth), more diverse value classes (e.g., individual and social values) as well as more original values (e.g., human contact) in system design. What is more, participants identify and mitigate potential social and ethical issues associated with the IT product. Against this background, the findings in this paper suggest that a “value-based roadmapping” approach could be a vital stimulus for future IT innovation planning.