Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Design science research strives to be practical and relevant. Yet few researchers have examined the extent to which practitioners can meaningfully utilize theoretical knowledge produced by design science research in solving concrete real-world problems. Are design theories developed by scientists readily amenable to application by practitioners? Does the application of a theory by practitioners always lead to the outcomes predicted (by the scientists)? We examine a particularly difficult challenge—ensuring that the development and deployment of an IT artifact by practitioners based on a design theory result in appropriate changes in the environment predicted by the design theory. As we show in our paper, a gulf exists between theoretical propositions and concrete issues faced in practice—a challenge we refer to as design theory indeterminacy. Design theory indeterminacy might result in considerable ambiguity when implementing a design theory in practice and reduce the potential relevance of information systems knowledge. In this paper, we articulate the problem of design theory indeterminacy, examine factors that contribute to it, and suggest fruitful directions for future research to help reduce it.