The Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Theory of Software Design

52 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013

See all articles by Paul Ralph

Paul Ralph

Lancaster University - Management School

Date Written: February 17, 2013


Understanding software design practice is critical to understanding modern information systems development. New developments in empirical software engineering, information systems design science and the interdisciplinary design literature combined with recent advances in process theory and testability have created a situation ripe for innovation. Consequently, this paper utilizes these breakthroughs to formulate a process theory of software design practice: Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Theory explains how complex software systems are created by collocated software development teams in organizations. It posits that an independent agent (design team) creates a software system by alternating between three activities: organizing their perceptions about the context, mutually refining their understandings of the context and design space, and manifesting their understanding of the design space in a technological artifact. This theory development paper defines and illustrates Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Theory, grounds its concepts and relationships in existing literature, conceptually evaluates the theory and situates it in the broader context of information systems development.

Keywords: Software Design, Design Science, Process Theory, Theory Development, Coevolution

Suggested Citation

Ralph, Paul, The Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Theory of Software Design (February 17, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Paul Ralph (Contact Author)

Lancaster University - Management School ( email )

Lancaster, LA1 4YX
United Kingdom

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