Is Integration Enough for Fast Product Development? An Empirical Investigation of the Contextual Effects of Product Vision


  • *The author appreciates the many helpful suggestions by JPIM editor Anthony Di Benedetto and two anonymous reviewers. The author is also grateful for the comments made by Roberto Filippini of University of Padova on a preliminary version of this article.

Address correspondence to: Paolo Tessarolo, University of Padova, Department of Management and Engineering, Stradella S. Nicola, 3, 36100 Vicenza, Italy. E-mail:


Research into development time performance has suggested that integration—both internal, adopting cross-functional organizational structures for development, and external, involving customers and suppliers in the process—can be a powerful driver when it comes to compressing cycle times and enhancing development punctuality. Some recent studies have also highlighted the compelling role of product vision to obtain high performances with product development. What these studies seem to suggest is that product vision guarantees the right goals and clarity of direction that integration mechanisms need to quickly develop new products and to stay on the development schedule. However, past studies have rarely considered or measured product vision as a construct and explicitly tested whether or not product vision acts as a contingent factor in determining the relationships between the aforementioned organizational drivers and development time. This research study maintains that product vision is crucial to pushing organizational drivers toward increased development efficiency. To find theoretical support for this position and to define a reference framework for the study, previous literature was analyzed. In the framework, both internal and external development integration are assumed to be positively related to time performance; however, these relationships are moderated by product vision. The model was then tested empirically on an international sample of 157 firms to verify and to obtain empirical support for the hypothesized relationships. The results confirm the importance of external integration in achieving better time performance. However, the influence of this driver on cycle time can also be increased by the presence of a very well-defined product vision. The relationship between internal integration and time performance is more complex. Though it seems to slow down the process as a single factor, its interaction effect with product vision is in fact positive. These results have several managerial implications. First, externally integrated development can greatly improve time performance; however, the best results in terms of acceleration can be obtained when there is a well-defined product vision. Furthermore, product vision is essential in the case of internal integration: A cross-functional process alone would not be enough for development acceleration in the absence of product vision. Hence, managers interested in obtaining high time performances should accompany the adoption of integration mechanisms with increased attention to sharing clear objectives and directions with all those—both inside the firm (i.e., team members and functional representatives) and outside the firm (i.e., customers and suppliers)—involved in development and as well as throughout the firm.