Modularity vs. Programmability in Design of International Products: Beyond the Standardization-Adaption Tradeoff?

European Management Journal, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 281-292, 2009

13 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2012

See all articles by Mark A. Lehrer

Mark A. Lehrer

Suffolk University

Michael Behnam

Loyola University Chicago

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This paper argues that design innovation constitutes an important means for multinational corporations (MNCs) to manage the standardization–adaptation dilemma in product development for international markets. Through design innovation MNCs can accommodate the heterogeneity of different national markets by building functional versatility into products. Two design principles are covered. First, the familiar design principle of modularity is reviewed along with its bearing on the standardization–adaptation dilemma. Second, the less familiar design principle of programmability is introduced. A historical case study on ERP (enterprise resource planning) software is presented, showing how one firm (SAP AG) used design innovation to serve internationally heterogeneous markets. The study also illustrates the interplay of these two principles; in essence, modularity helps reduce some of the complexity costs that arise from increasing levels of programmability in product design.

Keywords: Design innovation, Modularity, Programmability, European market diversity, ERP software, Multinational corporations, SAP, Standardization–adaptation

Suggested Citation

Lehrer, Mark A. and Behnam, Michael, Modularity vs. Programmability in Design of International Products: Beyond the Standardization-Adaption Tradeoff? (2009). European Management Journal, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 281-292, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2023620

Mark A. Lehrer (Contact Author)

Suffolk University ( email )

8 Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
United States
(617)573-8338 (Phone)
(617)994-4260 (Fax)

Michael Behnam

Loyola University Chicago ( email )

16 E Pearson St
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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