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Journal Article

Design Science Research: The Case of the IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT CMF)  pp109-118

Marian Carcary

© Sep 2011 Volume 9 Issue 2, ECRM 2011 Special issue, Editor: Ann Brown, pp87 - 197

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Design science (DS) is a problem solving paradigm that involves building and evaluating innovative artifacts in a rigorous manner to solve complex, real world problems, make research contributions that extend the boundaries of what is already known, and communicate the results to appropriate audiences. The importance of this paradigm in the Information Systems (IS) field has been recognised since the early 1990’s with the publication of seminal articles by for example Nunamaker et al (1991), Walls et al (1992) and March and Smith (1995). However, over the past 15 years, DS research in IS has been sparse. In more recent times this has begun to change, with an increasing number of research contributions considering DS research. DS research in IS is important as the dominant behavioural science paradigm is not sufficient for addressing the types of problems that call for human creativity and innovative and novel solutions. One widely debated problem in the IS field that calls for such novel solutions centres on how organisations manage, deliver and optimise value from their IT investments. This paper presents a DS research project in the IS field that aims to improve organisational ability in managing and optimizing value realised from IT investments through increasing maturity in critical areas. This research involves development of an IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT CMF). The IT CMF project is centered at the Innovation Value Institute (IVI) at the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM). The IVI is a joint venture between NUIM, Intel and the Boston Consulting Group and seeks to drive innovation in the management and use of IT in order to optimise business value. The IT CMF represents an emerging blueprint of key IT capability processes, and at a high level consists of four integrated IT management strategies or macro processes: managing IT like a business, managing the IT budget, managing the IT capability, and managing IT for business value. The IT CMF represents a blueprint for incrementally improving these four macro processes across five maturity levels: initial, basic, intermediate, advanced, and optimized. These four macro processes are further broken into 32 critical processes (CPs), which are the key activities that an IT organisation needs to manage in order to deliver IT solutions and measure the business value generated. The content development and review for the IT CMF is performed by the IVI development community, which comprises academic researchers, industry based practitioner‑researchers and consultants based in over 55 global companies. This paper discusses its development in terms of key DS principles and presents reflections on the challenges and value associated with adopting a DS approach. The paper adds to the growing body of DS literature in the IS field, and enables other researchers and practitioners to judge the rigor with which the IT CMF artifact was created and evaluated, and its utility in practical application.


Keywords: design science, IT CMF, IS, case study, maturity models


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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 2, ECRM 2011 Special issue / Sep 2011  pp87‑197

Editor: Ann Brown

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The subject of research methods in business is showing an extra‑ordinary level of activity and innovation and this conference (the 10th European Conference on Research Methods in Business and Management) reflected this. These papers dealt with the problems facing management researchers in a variety of ways. Many Papers offer help in applying new methods such as Mixed Methods and Design Science and introduce new ideas such the use of visual imagery as stimuli in research interviews. The final selection of papers was agreed by the senior editor of the Journal and the guest editors. The comments of session chairs were taken into account in making the final selection of papers for this issue of the EJBRM. The papers selected were chosen for their quality of writing, their relevance to the Journal’s objective of publishing papers that offer new insights or practical help in the application of research methods in business research and the degree of innovation in the subject matter.

The chosen Papers

Two papers constitute a useful introduction to mixed methods – one used case examples to illustrate the potential value of the method (Stefan Cronholm and Anders Hjalmarsson) and one assessed the challenges facing the researcher who opts for this approach.(Roslyn Cameron)

Design Science seems to be acquiring more supporters – particularly for research into Information technology. One paper explains the technique illustrating with a detailed description of an ongoing study (Carcary). The paper by Venables suggests that few research methods courses currently include this method.

The conference received a surprisingly large number of papers on the teaching of research methods and on Project Management. This issue includes three papers on teaching research methods. One addressed the issue of the expanding range of research methods available to business researchers and proposed a framework that would help teachers to introduce the full set of options (Venables). A growing trend is that of doctoral candidates coming forward from industry and the professions. Two papers offer some extremely valuable ideas on how supervisors can support the special needs of this group of doctoral candidates – One paper argues for choosing research methods that specifically exploits this experience for the empirical research work (Caroline Cole, Steven Chase, Oliver Couch and Murray Clark). The other paper offers a framework that could help such students to work through the bewildering first few steps in the research journey that often proves too confusing and time consuming for mature candidates (Rahinah Ibrahim). The papers on Project Management while of great interest to managers tended to focus on Project Management issues rather than research methods. However one paper identified the lack of research support for the existing sets of Project Management standards produced by the professional societies (BoK) and discussed the implications.(Miles Shepherd and Roger Atkinson)

An interesting paper presents a visual technique, infographics to aid interviewers in the elicitation of relevant experiences from interview subjects (Robert Campbell, Gillian Green and Mark Grimshaw ). Pearse contributed an unusual paper on the Likert scale. This is widely used but at low levels of granularity (no of scales) and this paper presents research suggesting that we should consider using a much wider range of scales.

The PhD paper that won the award for best PhD paper was by Nicola Swan. This dealt with the problems faced by researchers collecting data in the emerging countries where facilities and attitudes differ markedly from the developed countries.

I would like to thank the help given in the reviewing of the papers from the conference from Marian Carcary, Marie Ashwin, Martin Rich, Roslyn Cameron, Gill Green, Gary Bell and John Warwick.

Ann Brown

September 2011.


Keywords: body of knowledge; business research; case study; certification; critical reflexivity; critical discourse analysis; critical research; curriculum design; design science research; dissertation; eagle table; graduate study; graphic elicitation; hermeneutics; inductive profession; inter-disciplinary; IS; IT CMF; knowledge representation; likert scale; maturity models; method combinations; mixed approaches; mixed methods; paradigms; pragmatism; publishing; qualitative methods; qualitative research; quantitative methods; questionnaire design; research design; research framework; research into professional practice; research methodology; research methods; research proposal design; scale construction; scale granularity infographics; teaching design science; teaching research methods


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