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Technology Selection and Commitment in New Product Development: The Role of Uncertainty and Design Flexibility


  • V. Krishnan

    () (McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712)

  • Shantanu Bhattacharya

    () (INSEAD, Boulevard de Constance, Fontainebleau, 77305, France)


Selecting the right technologies to incorporate in new products is a particularly challenging aspect of new product definition and development. While newer advanced technologies may offer improved performance, they also make the product development process more risky and challenging. In this paper, we focus on the problem of technology selection and commitment under uncertainty, a major challenge to firms in turbulent environments. We argue that the "pizza-bin" approach of rejecting prospective technologies outright may not serve firms well when the pressure to differentiate products is enormous. After motivating the challenges and decisions facing firms using a real-life application from Dell Computer Corporation, we formulate a mathematical model of a firm that must define its products in the presence of technology uncertainty. Specifically, the firm faces two options: (i) a proven technology that is known to be viable and (ii) a prospective technology that offers superior price to performance results but whose viability is not a fully certain outcome. To minimize the impact of technology uncertainty, we consider two approaches to design flexibility, termed parallel path and sufficient design, which allow the firm to concurrently develop its products while the technology is being validated. Our analysis helps understand appropriateness of the different flexible design approaches. We illustrate our model with the Dell portable computer example and note the managerial implications of our analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • V. Krishnan & Shantanu Bhattacharya, 2002. "Technology Selection and Commitment in New Product Development: The Role of Uncertainty and Design Flexibility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(3), pages 313-327, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:48:y:2002:i:3:p:313-327

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sam Ransbotham & Sabyasachi Mitra, 2010. "Target Age and the Acquisition of Innovation in High-Technology Industries," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(11), pages 2076-2093, November.
    2. Lim, Wei Shi & Tang, Christopher S., 2006. "Optimal product rollover strategies," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 174(2), pages 905-922, October.
    3. van Soest, Daan P., 2005. "The impact of environmental policy instruments on the timing of adoption of energy-saving technologies," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 235-247, October.
    4. Victoria L. Mitchell & Barrie R. Nault, 2007. "Cooperative Planning, Uncertainty, and Managerial Control in Concurrent Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(3), pages 375-389, March.
    5. Sreekumar R. Bhaskaran & V. Krishnan, 2009. "Effort, Revenue, and Cost Sharing Mechanisms for Collaborative New Product Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(7), pages 1152-1169, July.
    6. Yeolan Lee & William I. Mackenzie & Eric A. Fong & J. Daniel Sherman, 2016. "The Importance Of Inter-Temporal Integration In New Product Development," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(03), pages 1-23, April.
    7. Scott A. Shane & Karl T. Ulrich, 2004. "50th Anniversary Article: Technological Innovation, Product Development, and Entrepreneurship in Management Science," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(2), pages 133-144, February.
    8. Wang, Juite & Yang, Chung-Yu, 2012. "Flexibility planning for managing R&D projects under risk," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(2), pages 823-831.
    9. Axarloglou, Kostas & Visvikis, Ilias & Zarkos, Stefanos, 2013. "The time dimension and value of flexibility in resource allocation: The case of the maritime industry," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 35-48.
    10. Axarloglou, Kostas & Visvikis, Ilias & Zarkos, Stefanos, 2012. "The Time Dimension And Value Of Flexibility In Resource Allocation: The Case Of The Maritime Industry," DUTH Research Papers in Economics 2-2012, Democritus University of Thrace, Department of Economics.
    11. Kretschmer, Tobias & Rösner, Mariana, 2010. "Increasing Dominance - the Role of Advertising, Pricing and Product Design," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 11500, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
    12. Lacourbe, Paul, 2012. "A model of product line design and introduction sequence with reservation utility," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 220(2), pages 338-348.
    13. Ma, Daw & Chang, Chia-Chin & Hung, Shiu-Wan, 2013. "The selection of technology for late-starters: A case study of the energy-smart photovoltaic industry," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 10-20.
    14. Olga Kokshagina & Pascal Le Masson & Benoit Weil & Patrick Cogez, 2012. "Risk Management strategies in a highly uncertain environment: undesrtanding the role of common unknown," Post-Print hal-00734100, HAL.
    15. Lau Antonio, K.W. & Yam, Richard C.M. & Tang, Esther, 2007. "The impacts of product modularity on competitive capabilities and performance: An empirical study," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 1-20, January.
    16. Gil, Nuno & Miozzo, Marcela & Massini, Silvia, 2012. "The innovation potential of new infrastructure development: An empirical study of Heathrow airport's T5 project," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 452-466.
    17. Yassine, Ali A. & Sreenivas, Ramavarapu S. & Zhu, Jian, 2008. "Managing the exchange of information in product development," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 184(1), pages 311-326, January.


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