Managing Distributed Product Development Projects: Integration Strategies for Time Zone and Language Barriers

Forthcoming, Information Systems Research

51 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2017

See all articles by Edward G. Anderson

Edward G. Anderson

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management

Aravind Chandrasekaran

The Ohio State University; Operations

Alison Davis-Blake

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Geoffrey Parker

Dartmouth College

Date Written: April 24, 2017

Abstract

Distributed product development projects encompass product and process development activities that span organizational and country boundaries. The increasing trend toward globalizing projects requires firms to coordinate development efforts made by team members from various functions within the firm, speaking multiple languages, and working in various time zones. We analyze qualitative data from 70 distributed product development projects that span 14 countries and involve cross-functional team members speaking 10 different languages. We find that commonly discussed integration strategies such as modular product designs and co-locating team members by themselves are insufficient to coordinate project work. Rather, our field interviews suggest that firms invest in design information systems (DIS) with specific features to facilitate product design and empower their project managers to integrate the development efforts. Specifically, our interviews suggest that firms often modify the organization by “unifying” the engineering and purchasing functions into a single supply chain integrator function to increase the scope of responsibilities for these managers. We then test our hypotheses on the benefits of these strategies on project outcomes by using survey data from 55 distributed product development projects in 20 firms. Results indicate that the use of DIS is associated with higher quality and relationship performance when there are differences between focal and supplier firm personnel languages. Unifying engineering and purchasing functions into a supply chain integrator is associated with improved response time in the presence of time zone differences. We also find that a unifying strategy is associated with lower cost in the presence of language differences but is also associated with worsening of response time. These results provide guidance to product designers in organizations that must coordinate complex work across time zone barriers and languages. The results also provide guidance to researchers, by showing that different integration mechanisms may have differential effects across different coordination barriers and across different dimensions of project performance. We conclude by linking these results to integration mechanisms previously discussed in the coordination literature.

Keywords: design information systems, distributed product development, coordination barriers, integration mechanisms, empirical research, geographical distance, language difference, boundary spanners

JEL Classification: M11, M16, M54

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Edward G. and Chandrasekaran, Aravind and Davis-Blake, Alison and Parker, Geoffrey, Managing Distributed Product Development Projects: Integration Strategies for Time Zone and Language Barriers (April 24, 2017). Forthcoming, Information Systems Research. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3018820

Edward G. Anderson

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management ( email )

CBA 5.202
Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-471-6394 (Phone)
512-471-3937 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ed@edanderson.org

Aravind Chandrasekaran

The Ohio State University ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States

Operations ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States

Alison Davis-Blake

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Geoffrey Parker (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-9075 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/people/faculty/geoffrey-parker

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