The success of NPD projects of high-cost, engineering-intensive, and customized development products is largely dependent on information sharing with actors from customers regarding their specific requirements (Von Hippel, 1986). But information sharing is also necessary among actors from different departments within the organisation (Song and Swink, 2009) and sometimes also with external suppliers (Knudsen, 2007) regarding such topics as available technical options. Project managers (PMs) are at the heart of this process and plays an essential role in orchestrating the information sharing among various intra-organisational actors (e.g. among actors within the NPD organisation) and inter-organisational actors (across organisational borders, among actors for example from a department within the NPD organisation and a supplier) (Clark and Fujimoto, 1991a). Consequently, the PM ensures that varied expertise and critical information are integrated in a timely fashion into the development process (Edmondson and Nembhard, 2009). However, prior research has not simultaneously studied and addressed the differences in intra- and inter-organisational information sharing during the various phases of the NPD project (Kivimaki and Lansisalmi, 2000). Furthermore, relative to intra- or inter-organisational information sharing, comparatively less research has been conducted to investigate the role of the project manager (PM) in orchestrating the information sharing among various intra- and inter-organisational actors (Clark and Fujimoto, 1991a). There have only been a few attempts to investigate intra- and inter-organisational information sharing during an NPD project (Jepsen et al., 2012; Jepsen and Dietrich, 2012). Jepsen and Dietrich (2012) focus on intra- and inter-organisational information sharing and the role of technology uncertainty whereas Jepsen et al. (2012) investigate the project manager’s brokerage of information sharing between actors inside and outside of the developer company. Research has shown that heavily burdened PMs require assistance in the information sharing process not only from project team members (Sarin & O'connor, 2009) but also from other intra-organisational actors e.g. from a specific department within the NPD organisation (Clark & Fujimoto, 1991a). However, research on so-called core intra- organisational actors’ relationships with whom the PM establishes relationships with during the NPD phases remains quite limited, and to my knowledge, no other research has studied the role of the inter-organisational actors from this perspective. Therefore, aim of this paper is to provide additional theoretical insights into how the PM through relationships with core actors orchestrates information sharing among other intra- or inter-organisational actors during the progression of an NPD project. In other words, this study emphasises the importance of the PM’s relationships on a day-to-day basis in information sharing among intra- and inter-organisational actors during the phases of an NPD project. The research question addressed in this study is as follows: Which core actors support the PM in orchestrating information sharing at which specific phases during the NPD project. This study is an analysis of longitudinal objective email data, and is based on the email exchange (consisting of 4658 emails) to and from intra-organisational actors during the progression of a large NPD project lasting more than two years. The email data were analysed using UCINET software (Borgatti et al., 2002) and builds on the number of emails and not the contents, in other words there is no knowledge on what the information sharing is about. However, by analysing how the emails are sent out and received directly or as ‘cc’ by relevant employees (16 actors) of the developer company it is possible to explore what actually took place. Normally, such data regarding development projects are quite difficult to access because such projects extend over long periods of time and involve highly complex and sensitive information. Thus, by building on email data that represent the activities that have actually occurred, this paper contributes to the existing literature by exploring the day-to-day practices of both the PM and other core actors during a NPD project. The main conclusion of the study is that the information sharing process during an NPD project is a complex, dynamic process, involving the integration of a large number of actors (in this case 373 actors) of diverse functions from different organisations. Further, the findings show that to orchestrate the information sharing during the NPD project, the PM relies on relationships with several core intra-organisational actors who are particularly important to the orchestrating of information sharing during the early phases of the NPD project. Unexpectedly, the study found that the PM also receives assistance from core inter-organisational actors from the customer company when orchestrating the intra- and inter-organisational information sharing, especially during the later phases of the NPD project. The findings show that support from both intra- and inter-organisational core actors is crucial to NPD project managers, because these core actors orchestrate the information sharing with peripheral intra- or inter-organisational actors with whom the PM does not have contact. Thus, to improve the information sharing process, the PM should reach outside the project team to contact and establish relations with well-positioned core intra- and inter-organisational actors to ensure a successful information sharing process. Especially, the PM must identify external core actors from the customer with whom he/she can initiate a useful relationship with already in the early phases of the NPD project. These core external actors act as intermediaries who can guide and promote the information sharing to other core actors within their organisation. This behaviour enables a better interaction among intra- and inter-organisational actors and ensures a successful information sharing process during the NPD phases. Additionally, the results regarding the importance of various core actors across the life cycle of the NPD project can be used to identify relationship requirements when planning stakeholder management activities across the phases of a project.
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20th International Product Development Management Conference, 2013