Title of Dissertation - Examining Project Selection Frameworks and Methods- Developing New Methods while Reducing Risks for New Product Development
Product development is an important competitive factor for companies. One of the central tasks to maintain competitiveness in an industry, especially engineering companies, is to select which projects are to be developed to achieve the company’s strategic objectives but without exceeding the threshold of available resources (Graves, 2003; Grimaldi et al., 2012; Wei and Chang, 2011). The selection of projects for new product development comes with specific risks attached to it. Therefore, it is essential to analyze the best frameworks or methodologies for choosing the right project, which is the proposed study's purpose, key aspects studied in the project portfolio management.
By studying the current models and frameworks for project selection, newer and improved models can be developed to minimize risk. This is especially important in engineering companies looking to market their products for consumers, both private and corporate. With the constant evolution of technology, engineering companies need to ensure that they can deliver products to clients that can aid them with current needs. Hence, the selection of projects that provide new products becomes extremely important to survive in an ever-increasing competitive market.
After examining the issues that are to be investigated in the study, the following research question was formed;
What project selection frameworks/methodologies most reduce the risk for new product development in engineering companies?
Hence, the study's primary aim is to find an appropriate project selection framework for reducing risk for new product development in an engineering company.
To successfully achieve this aim, the following objectives need to be met:
1. Analyse the current frameworks and methods of project selection present in project portfolio management.
2. Using secondary research, examine current literature available that addresses the research topic.
3. Using primary research, examine the current views that project managers or research & development executives have towards selecting the right project.
4. Produce a framework for selecting a project that achieves corporate objectives and reduces associated risk to a project in engineering companies.
The proposed research study aims to analyze the previous literature to form a rationale for the current interest topic. The literature review will be constructed using the principles of a systematic literature review. The chapter will provide significant background information for the current research, which will be discussed in depth throughout the thesis. To establish a context for the literature review, it is essential to include;
1. A thorough explanation of the specific purpose for the proposed case study.
2. Discussion on the existing models and frameworks used to selection of product development projects.
3. Indicating the scope of work that is presented in the literature review chapter.
The literature review's primary objective is to survey previous studies on portfolio management based on the models and frameworks that are currently employed for the selection of new products.
Denscombe (2003) argues that this step is imperative to scope out the key data collection requirements that will be needed for primary research. It also aids in developing the emergent research design process. Easterby-Smith et al. (2002) agree that this method is acceptable in familiarising existing literature before collecting primary data.
Familiarisation of previous literature serves three purposes for the proposed study;1. It provides the researcher with guidelines regarding developing data collection tools and hinders the risk of overloading oneself at primary data collection stages.
2. Comprehending the results from existing academic literature using a formal review to maintain the current study’s sense of perspective.
3. The chapter increases the opportunity for understanding the critical analysis of the actual meaning of data collected with the current study reaches the stage of analyzing data.
The literature review purposes using a wide variety of secondary data references as bibliographic tools for identifying relevant literature for review. The academic domain of portfolio management, project management, risk management, life cycle analysis, and other sects of business studies will be searched to find relevant literature. It is required that a majority of the publications selected take the form of research papers. Using the model of systematic literature review, key publications will be identified and examined. For the current study, it is proposed that the literature review is thematically analyzed, which will allow the researcher to group relevant material.
The proposed study aims to contribute to the research in project portfolio management. However, it focuses on engineering organizations and new product development. Therefore, it is essential to review project portfolio management theories and models.
Tidd and Bessant (2013) argue that companies that engage in developing new and existing products need a framework that can help them judge which projects should be undertaken to achieve their strategic view. Cooper et al. (2001) developed three main reasons that see an advantage in using a managerial process to provide a view of projects.
He stated that it is crucial to have the ability to select the right projects that will become successful products tomorrow. Secondly, Cooper et al. (2001) argued that projects are manifestations of the business’s strategy, and the wrong project or mix of them may result in a failed implementation of the strategy.
Lastly, the process is needed because development resources that are invested are limited. Using them for the wrong projects over the good ones will deprive the company of its crucial resources.
Analysis of literature portrays that selection projects and optimizing the project portfolio that best suits the organization’s strategic priorities is imperative. PMI (2006) and Cooper et al. (2001) defines project portfolio selection as a dynamic process whereby a business’s list of active projects is constantly updated, revised; within the process, new projects are evaluated, selected, and prioritized; existing projects may become accelerated, killed or demoted and resources are allocated and reallocated to active projects.
Scholars and practitioners like Dye and Pennypacker (1999), Sommer (1999), Cooper et al. (2001) have reiterated that the decision making, prioritization, and reprioritization, strategic alignment and realignment, allocation and reallocation of resources are the ongoing process of project portfolio management.
The same researchers argued that cooperative efforts made to select the right mix of projects require consideration of internal capabilities and external possibilities.
The academic literature in project portfolio management has discussed in great length the requirements that project portfolio needs to meet to achieve the corporate strategy. Research such as Gashemasadeh et al. (1999); Sommer (1999); Radulescul and Radulescu (2001); Cooper et al. (2001); Yelin (2005); and Better and Glover (2006) express common important requirements including;
1. Project portfolio needs to align with corporate strategy as it needs to contribute to the implementation of the strategy.
2. Maximising the organization's value since any organization's resources are limited, which makes it the goal of the business to use resources effectively to achieve the maximum value of the project portfolio.
3. the project portfolio must have balancing elements. This means that the organization can choose a project that can balance risks and return, long-term and short-term benefits, time for completion, and competitive impacts.
Levine (2005) contributed to the existing literature by adding requirements for the project selection process, which includes;
1. Making sure that the selected project is appropriate to the organization’s values and culture.
2. The project can directly or indirectly contribute to cash flow.
3. The project selected can efficiently use its resources, including its capital, human resources, and physical resources.
4. Projects contribute to the short-term business and the long-term development of the organization.
The current study proposes to use a qualitative research approach to investigate the frameworks/models used in selecting projects for new product development. Qualitative research is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe a variety of techniques and philosophies.
Hennink et al. (2010) define it as an approach that allows researchers to examine experiences of people in detail using a specific set of research methods such as discussions, observations, focus groups, interviews, content analysis, visual methods, and life histories.
However, the research approach is not limited to just applying qualitative methods. The current study also proposes the use of an interpretive approach to guide the development of research design.
Denzin and Lincoln (2008) argue that qualitative research involves an interpretive or naturalistic approach to the world, which means researchers need to study phenomena in their natural setting to try and make sense of or interpret it in terms of meaning individuals bring to them.
Based on the research question stated previously and the objectives that have been outlined, the qualitative approach is bested suited for the current study.
Stemming from the qualitative research approach, the current study will take a case study design. The primary reason for this is access to information and participants, limited to the researcher’s own workplace.
Hence the reason the current research will be designed as a case study. Siggelkow (2007) argues that a single case study analysis can be a powerful example and can fill in gaps in existing theories.
Also, Roshan and Deeptee (2009) argue that case studies are useful for studying rare or complex phenomena. The current study is looking to research a complex phenomenon which is the process with which new projects are selected in engineering companies.
For the proposed study to achieve its aim and objectives, it needs to rely on primary and secondary research. That is why for primary research, an engineering company will be selected to conduct interviews with project managers and R&D executives.
The proposed study is choosing a qualitative design in constructing the study. Creswell (2013) argues that a particular strength of qualitative research is that it allows one to explore issues in-depth in an unstructured manner. The research instrument that will be used to collect primary data is semi-structured interviews.
To construct a solid study, it is essential to examine previously published literature about the topic. For this reason, a systematic literature review will be conducted that gathers and analyses available data present. Using electronic databases such as Emerald Insight, Elsevier, Springer, and Google Scholar, peer-reviewed articles will be searched for appropriate for the proposed study.
These searches will then go through rigorous selection using inclusion and exclusion criteria to be analyzed and placed in the literature review. It is essential to examine literature that analyses the current frameworks and methods available for selection a project, especially for those in the engineering industry.
Specific circumstances are quite understandable in conducting research. One of the foreseen limitations associated with the current research is a restricted amount of time. The research will have to be conducted in a concentrated time. This would be mean that the sampling strategy will use a small sample to conduct research.
The smaller sample size will limit the amount of data obtained for the current study. However, even a small data sample can hold a great deal of importance with the case study method.
It will provide detailed and in-depth insight into the models used to select projects for new product development. Another key limitation that is foreseen is access to data. The current study can only access data in the form of respondents within the company that the researcher is employed with. Again this is due to restrictions with time and funds to access other engineering companies.
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