Outsourcing of New Product Development - A decision framework

University dissertation from Luleå : Lulea? University of Technology

Abstract: The focus of this thesis is the outsourcing of activities in the New Product Development (NPD) process. Outsourcing of NPD refers to the outsourcing of development activities for the developing of new products (goods and/or service), where all or just the innovative part of the NPD process is purchased externally based on a contract with organizational units separate from the outsourcing firm. This definition implies that (A) the activity should be an innovative part of the NPD process, (B) the activity should have previously been conducted internally, and (C) the activity should be purchased under a contractual agreement between the organizations.This thesis focuses on the outsourcing of NPD in medium sized firms. Although the framework is probably also useful for small and large firms, the three empirical studies in the thesis explored samples of medium sized firms. NPD is a knowledge intensive activity that requires the ability to handle uncertainties and is very dependent on the individuals involved in the process. In this way it differs from production, which (especially when producing standard items on a large scale) is easier to control, monitor and to evaluate the costs. Therefore, some considerations connected to knowledge acquisition and uncertainty needs to be addressed.A literature review reveals that research on outsourcing often focuses on A) Large firms and B) outsourcing of production activities. In addition, research on NPD usually involves large firms, despite the fact that the interest in product development in small and medium sized firms has grown rapidly in recent years. Since outsourcing of NPD is a method frequently used to access competence, and reduce costs and/or uncertainty, it seems motivated to study the outsourcing of NPD in medium sized firms.The thesis presents a decision framework that is based on three empirical studies (two survey studies and one case study) and a theoretical framework. The theoretical framework presented in the thesis is commonly used to understand outsourcing questions in general. In the present thesis the framework is applied in the specific situation of outsourcing a knowledge intensive activity (such as NPD) in the context of medium sized firms. Transactions cost, resource based, resource dependency, knowledge based, agency cost, and institutional theories are revisited in the thesis.Outsourcing can lead to advantages in form of lower costs, access to knowledge or other resources, as well as access to markets, but it can also result in a knowledge drain, lower motivation among in-house staff, or an increased level of dependency on external organizations. Therefore the decision to outsource is not always a good one, and the pros and cons must be carefully evaluated. The result of the thesis is a decision framework that maps factors affecting the decisions that need to be made when outsourcing NPD. The implications can be of value to the outsourcing firm as well as to the potential outsourcing partner. The framework has been presented to the firms in the studies and thus has already proved its value to some extent.The framework will also be used for the design of the studies that will hopefully take me towards my PhD degree, including a new survey study as well as a case study focusing on knowledge integration.

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