Organizing Interactive Product Development
Doctoral thesis, 2003
This thesis deals with the organizing of interactive product development. Developing products in interaction between firms may provide benefits in terms of specialization, increased innovation, and possibilities to perform development activities in parallel. However, the differentiation of product development among a number of firms also implies that various dependencies need to be dealt with across firm boundaries. How dependencies may be dealt with across firms is related to how product development is organized. The purpose of the thesis is to explore dependencies and how interactive product development may be organized with regard to these dependencies.
The analytical framework is based on the Industrial Network Approach, and deals with the development of products in terms of adaptation and combination of heterogeneous resources. There are dependencies between resources, i.e. they are embedded, implying that no resource can be developed in isolation. The characteristics of and dependencies related to four main categories of resources (products, production facilities, business units and business relationships) provide a basis for analyzing the organizing of interactive product development.
Three in-depth case studies are used to explore the organizing of interactive product development with regard to dependencies. The first two cases are based on the development of the electrical system and the seats for Volvo's large car platform (P2), performed in interaction with Delphi and Lear respectively. The third case is based on the interaction between Scania and Dayco/DFC Tech for the development of various pipes and hoses for a new truck model.
The analysis is focused on what different dependencies the firms considered and dealt with, and how product development was organized with regard to these dependencies. It is concluded that there is a complex and dynamic pattern of dependencies that reaches far beyond the developed product as well as beyond individual business units. To deal with these dependencies, development may be organized in teams where several business units are represented. This enables interaction between different business units' resource collections, which is important for resource adaptation as well as for innovation. The delimiting and relating functions of the team boundary are elaborated upon and it is argued that also teams may be regarded as actors. It is also concluded that a modular product structure may entail a modular organization with regard to the teams, though, interaction between business units and teams is needed. A strong connection between the technical structure and the organizational structure is identified and it is concluded that policies regarding the technical structure (e.g. concerning 'carry-over') cannot be separated from the management of the organizational structure (e.g. the supplier structure). The organizing of product development is in itself a complex and dynamic task that needs to be subject to interaction between business units.