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Linking modularity with problem solving and coordination efforts


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  • Paulo J. Gomes

    (Faculdade de Economia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)

  • Nitin R. Joglekar

    (Boston University School of Management, Boston, MA, USA)

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    We explore the relationship between process architecture decisions, problem solving and coordination efforts during distributed product development, i.e., when development work is dispersed across organizational boundaries. Process architecture refers to the manner in which the tasks and interfaces within a project are organized so that a project can be executed in an efficient manner. The theoretical foundation for our investigation draws upon the information processing (IP) view of product development and transaction cost economics. The IP view calls for manipulation of the architecture by making problem-solving tasks modular, such that reducing task interdependencies minimizes the development time. The transaction cost view calls for transactional efficiency, for example, reduction in the coordination burden for each productive task. We present several measures of modularity based on a design structure matrix (DSM) mapping of the development task structure. Then, we analyze the relation between these measures and transactional efficacy and task completion times. Our empirical evidence comes from 71 tasks carried out in 11 software development projects. Data analyses show that the improvement in the transactional efficacy is associated with increase in task modularity. Our results establish that increasing modularity reduces the development time and the coordination effort. However, these results also suggest trade-offs: modularity measures do not contribute equally to this gain in efficiency and increasing modularity is negatively associated with the technical problem-solving efforts. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Managerial and Decision Economics.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 5 ()
    Pages: 443-457

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:29:y:2008:i:5:p:443-457

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    Cited by:
    1. Dewen Yao, 2013. "Understanding Industrial Innovation and Upgrade from Modularization’s Perspective," Journal of Knowledge Management, Economics and Information Technology,,, vol. 3(6), pages 11, December.
    2. Sylvie Geisendorf, 2010. "Searching NK Fitness Landscapes: On the Trade Off Between Speed and Quality in Complex Problem Solving," Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 35(4), pages 395-406, April.
    3. Israelsen, Poul & Jørgensen, Brian, 2011. "Decentralizing decision making in modularization strategies: Overcoming barriers from dysfunctional accounting systems," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 131(2), pages 453-462, June.
    4. Andreas Reinstaller, 2011. "The Modularity of Technology and Organisations. Implications for the Theory of the Firm," WIFO Working Papers, WIFO 398, WIFO.


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