Design science can contribute to resolving the three dilemmas facing IS.
As for the technology vs. behavior dilemma, design science reinforces what true systems thinking told us before: the technology subsystem and the behavioral subsystem are not dichotomous, but inseparable. Just as a physician cannot design a remedy for a patient’s body and emotions separately, and just as an architect cannot design “form and function” independently, the IS field similarly does not have the option of designing the technology subsystem alone or the behavioral subsystem alone – we have to design both together.
As for the “reference discipline” vs. “independent discipline” dilemma, design science again supports what we concluded from the systems perspective earlier, which was that the IS field ought to develop as an independent discipline. One of the problems in the past was the absence of a clear set of expectations or blueprints for how we should develop the IS field. My recommendation here is that IS should continue doing its natural-science research, but in addition, we should also adopt the expectation of doing design-science research, analogous to the research we see in medical schools, architecture schools, and law schools. Taking not only a systems approach, but a systems approach that includes design science, would help to better establish IS as independent of other disciplines in business schools and the behavioral sciences.
As for the rigor vs. relevance dilemma, design science is the perfect
remedy. By re-establishing the IS field so that it also deals not
just with the natural-science research of behavioral theories, but also
with the design of information systems for uses in the real-world, we would
be doing relevant research. And as for how our design research could
be rigorous at the same time that it’s relevant, I suggest that we look
to medicine, architecture, and law for reminders that relevance and rigor
are compatible and for pointers about how it can be done.