Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Assessing Interface Challenges in Product Development Projects: Product Development Challenges Can Be Anticipated Based on Contextual, Technical System, and Organizational Interfaces

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Assessing Interface Challenges in Product Development Projects: Product Development Challenges Can Be Anticipated Based on Contextual, Technical System, and Organizational Interfaces

Article excerpt

New product development (NPD) can be characterized as a process by which technology is incorporated into new product concepts, which are designed to fit certain manufacturing systems (Clark and Fujimoto 1991; Adler 1995). Thus, a product-development project links technology development with production. The project needs to embrace new technology inputs and reduce potential problems in the transference of product specifications to subsequent production processes. This process presents a number of management challenges stemming from both internal and external sources.

These challenges should be assessed at an early stage so that plans can be made to address them. Project managers often do this intuitively, based on their previous experiences, using practice-oriented tools such as risk matrices and failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA). The literature on innovation management, product development, and project management provides some theoretical and conceptual support for identifying and addressing specific challenges, showing how factors such as technological maturity and complexity, market characteristics and potential business opportunities, reliance on external partners, and localization of manufacturing can influence the project (see, for instance, Clausing and Holmes 2010; Rice et al. 2001; Lakemond, Berggren, and van Weele 2006; Swink and Calantone 2004). However, the literature is fragmented, which limits its usefulness for practitioners.

Although the specifics will differ from project to project, a number of generic challenges that NPD projects may face can be identified. Synthesizing these challenges into an assessment model can provide practitioners a tool to assess critical management challenges in NPD projects. To develop, refine, and validate such a model, we conducted original research at five medium-sized manufacturing firms. Our initial work showed that challenges in NPD projects stem from interfaces, or boundaries and interrelationships that affect the NPD effort. Managing these challenges requires addressing these interfaces in a structured manner. Our model, which we have called the "interface assessment model," provides support for assessing and addressing interface challenges by defining statements that can be used to determine what challenges a project is likely to face and providing a basis for adapting development processes to meet those specific challenges.

Interface Challenges in NPD Projects

NPD projects face numerous challenges that stem from different sources and demand management attention. To provide a structure for assessing these challenges, we use the concept of interfaces. Three kinds of interfaces are particularly relevant in NPD projects:

* Contextual interfaces are interlaces at the edges of the NPD project, between the technology and the market.

* Technical system interfaces are interactions between the product and the production system.

* Organizational interfaces occur where the project team interacts with the surrounding organization.

Each of these three interfaces invokes a particular perspective on the NPD process and engages specific challenges (Figure 1). These challenges are widely acknowledged in the literature. For example, Eisenhardt and Tabrizi (1995) outline strategies to deal with technological and market uncertainty (contextual interfaces), Iansiti (1995) discusses the implications of product and production complexity (technical interfaces), and Eldred and McGrath (1997) and Swink and Calantone (2004) argue that project managers need to address dispersion between technology development, product development, and production functions (organizational interfaces). However, the categorization by interfaces is new and it provides a useful structure for assessing management challenges in NPD projects. The interface-based framework makes it possible to trace a specific challenge to its origin, which sharpens the insight into the challenge and indicates the capabilities necessary to deal with it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.