This paper examines the impact of architectural decisions on the level of defects in a product. We view products as collections of components linked together to work as an integrated whole. Previous work has established modularity (how decoupled a component is from other product components) as a critical determinant of defects, and we confirm its importance. Yet our study also provides empirical evidence for a relation between product quality and cyclicality (the extent to which a component depends on itself via other product components). We find cyclicality to be a determinant of quality that is distinct from, and no less important than, modularity. Extending this main result, we show how the cyclicality–quality relation is affected by the centrality of a component in a cycle and the distribution of a cycle across product modules. These findings, which are based on analysis of open source software development projects, have implications for the study and design of complex systems.
Effective communication in product development organizations is widely recognized to be a key element of product development performance. Furthermore, management of product architecture knowledge by the development organization provides important competitive advantage for established firms facing architectural innovation. This research studies how the combination of product architecture and organizational structure determines technical communication in development teams. By documenting and analyzing both the design interfaces between the components that comprise a product and the technical interactions between the teams that design each of these components, we learn how the architecture of the product and the layout of the organization drive development team interactions. Several hypotheses are formulated to explain the unexpected cases when: 1) known design interfaces are not matched by team interactions, and 2) observed team interactions are not predicted by design interfaces. We test the hypothesized effects due to organizational and system boundaries, and design interface strength. Hypotheses are tested using both categorical data analysis and log-linear network analysis. The research is conducted using data collected describing a large commercial aircraft engine development process.
Understanding the communication process in product development organizations has been recognized as a key element to improve product development performance. It is particularly interesting to study information exchanges in geographically distributed product development teams because of the highly interdependent nature of design organizations. AAdditionally, the use of electronic-based communication media has changed how development teams communicate. By studying the way product development teams use various communication media (face-to-face, telephone, media), we assess how the process of exchanging technical information is influenced by factors such as geographic dispersion, organizational bonds, and degree of team interdependence. We develop a theoretical framework that allows us to formulate several hypotheses about how these factors influence both communication frequency and media choice. We use empirical evidence from the telecommunications industry to test our hypotheses. We confirm previous results about the obstructive influence of distance on technical communication. However, we found that such negative effects may be mitigated by other factors such as the recognizing of highly interdependent team members, the existence of strong organizational bonds, and the use of electronic communication media.
Complex engineered systems tend to have architectures in which a small subset of components exhibits a disproportional number of linkages. Such components are known as hubs. This paper examines the degree distribution of systems to identify the presence of hubs and quantify the fraction of hub components. We examine how the presence and fraction of hubs relate to a system’s quality. We provide empirical evidence that the presence of hubs in a system’s architecture is associated with a low number of defects. Furthermore, we show that complex engineered systems may have an optimal fraction of hub components with respect to system quality. Our results suggest that architects and managers aiming to improve the quality of complex system designs must proactively identify and manage the use of hubs. Our paper provides a data-driven approach for identifying appropriate target levels of hub usage.