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C. About This Issue
This issue of the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT includes twelve research articles. The relevance and usefulness of the articles are summarized below:
“Project Quality: The Achilles Heel of Offshore Technology Projects?” (by Mishra, Sinha, and Thirumalai): This study provides a comparative evaluation of project performance across projects spanning the firm and/or country boundaries. This serves as an important insight in managerial decision-making in the choice of sourcing structure for technology projects. Further, the findings of the study highlight the differential implications of offshoring for adherence to quality goals relative to budget/schedule goals in technology projects. This informs the managerial assessment and goal setting in the execution of technology projects. Also, the study highlights the role of execution capabilities such as agile management and risk management capability in achieving the performance potential of the offshore technology projects. Managers may build on these insights in identifying the relevant project management levers in achieving their project goals.
“A Markov-Based Update Policy for Constantly Changing Database Systems” (by Zong, Fu, and Jiang): In the era of big data, most organizations understand the business value of data and collect an unprecedented amount of data from different sources. For efficient decision support, such data should be kept up-to-date. However, the sheer volume of constantly changing data makes it increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain data timeliness. Therefore, more than ever, an efficient database update policy is critical if organizations want to maximize the value derived from their data assets. This research article addresses this problem by developing a Markov Decision Process based model to help decide when and how frequently an organization should update its database system. The aperiodic update policy derived in this study takes into consideration the tradeoffs between data staleness cost and update cost, outperforming fixed interval policies proposed in the prior literature. As a result, the proposed policy can help maximize the value of organizations’ data assets. Moreover, the data update policy proposed in this research can be adapted to develop cost efficient maintenance policies for a wide range of tangible and intangible assets and help organizations achieve significant financial savings.
“A Risk-Based Comparison of Consolidated and Distributed Satellite Systems” (by Daniels and Pate-Cornell): This research article enables commercial and government leaders to make better choices among system architectures – consolidated or distributed – for major satellite programs in Near-Earth space by analyzing and balancing opportunities and risks, including best launch times. The proposed model allows identification of optimal strategies to manage these satellite systems over the entire lifecycle of a program considering the organization’s risk attitude. The objective is to reduce the risks of lost value from satellite failure and data gaps, and to introduce new technologies if they become available.
“Product Line Design and Outsourcing Strategies in Dyadic Supply Chains” (by Xiao and Qi): Product line (quality and length) design and production outsourcing strategy are critical decisions in engineering management. Motivated by product design and outsourcing industrial practices, the authors develop a game model for a dyadic supply chain to study the decisions on product line design and production outsourcing, with the aim of understanding how outsourcing affects product line design. The authors identify the conditions under which the manufacturer outsources production. In the case of symmetric sourcing, they find: (i) symmetric outsourcing strengthens product differentiation and decreases quality levels; (ii) when a subcontractor’s quality cost factor increases, the manufacturer does not increase product line length under outsourcing; when a non-quality cost increases, the manufacturer does not increase it under insourcing. When allowing asymmetric sourcing, they find that the manufacturer uses asymmetric sourcing when the manufacturer’s non-quality cost is low and uses symmetric outsourcing and the manufacturer’s non-quality cost is sufficiently high. These managerial insights can well explain some widely observed industrial practices in industries such as handset.
“A Capacitated Vehicle Routing Problem with Synchronized Pick-ups and Drop-offs: The Case of Medication Delivery and Supervision in the DR Congo” (by Clarke, Gascon, and Ferland): This article’s mathematical model handles requirements such as activity-wise synchronization, precedence, and two activity frequencies contributing to the theory of mathematical modeling. A novel heuristic procedure is implemented with a geospatially-enabled database to solve the capacitated vehicle routing problem. Results indicate that a synchronized solution allows rural hospitals to increase the accessibility of medical services to rural populations. It provides the technical means for practitioners to plan monthly medication delivery and offer regular supervision at no significant additional cost. The results can be visualized as interactive maps by the administrators using a web-based tool. It combines a heuristic with GIS and interactive optimization techniques by way of commonly available technology and an accessible web-based interface. The proposed formulation, heuristic, and results can help practitioners who work in emergent countries determine new ways to schedule medication deliveries in synchronization with other activities.
“The Emergence and Collapse of Knowledge Boundaries” (by Broniatowski and Magee): The management of cross-functional teams is becoming increasingly important to technological and R&D organizations. In such teams, differences in decision-makers’ interpretations, values, and expertise can lead to the formation of “knowledge boundaries,” preventing group members from learning from one another to achieve agreement regarding issues. In this paper, the authors use a new method to study knowledge boundaries in expert groups. The paper’s analysis technique can be applied to study decision-making groups wherever transcripts of their discussions are available. In such circumstances, knowledge boundaries can be detected, helping managers to identify communication barriers between group members from different communities of practice and, if necessary, to intervene such as by encouraging groups of decision makers to reach a shared understanding of the problem’s structure. Furthermore, the efficacy of these interventions can be directly tested in a quantitative and repeatable manner. Finally, the results can help managers to identify when a given problem may lie beyond the expertise of team members, potentially necessitating the inclusion of new team members.
“Alignment between Internal and External IT Governance and Its Effects on Distinctive Firm Performance: An Extended Resource-Based View” (by Park, Lee, Lee, and Koo): This study is one of the earliest attempts to reconceptualize information technology (IT) governance for the IT outsourcing activities of firms from intra- and inter-firm perspectives. Further understanding the optimized alignments between internal and external IT governance as well as their effects on distinctive aspects of firm performance can help practitioners choose the alignment that can lead to the best organizational performance. Managers can also compare the congruent combinations identified in this study with the current alignments between internal and external IT governance. That is, firms with misfit alignments must identify and implement the most appropriate forms of IT governance alignment to achieve their expected outcomes. This study offers valuable information to managers who seek practical guidance in developing well-aligned internal and external IT governance with their vendors.
“Improving Quality through Integration in a Hospital Setting: A Human Systems Integration Approach” (by Glover, Li, Naveh, and Gross): Organizational leadership often emphasizes the importance of integration in achieving quality performance. However, there are few examples where integrative practices have been successfully implemented to yield improved performance. Moreover, organizations find integrative practices difficult to incorporate because staff, particularly in hospitals, are not necessarily incentivized to implement these cross-unit practices, perhaps perceiving them as yet another additional task that takes away from their primary responsibilities. This study shows that integrative practices are important since they influence quality performance. Further, the study suggests practical implications for the design and implementation of formal integrative practices. Hospital leadership should design formal integrative practices while also providing cross-unit training that helps staff gain an external perspective on inter-unit relations. Such training may be best cocreated by HR departments alongside functional departments to ensure that both the technical and human components of integration are taken into consideration.
“Synergy, Tensions and Smart Power Strategies: How to Effectively Implement a Dual Business Model in Product Management” (by Kuo): Most engineering-oriented product suppliers spend substantial effort designing products in order to maximize profits. However, when selling products, they face various problems, such as selecting channels and complementary business partners to sell through. Furthermore, brand name capital is rare. It takes a very long time to become known as a credible and trustworthy brand among channel resellers and end users. In short, suppliers know how to design good products, but do not know how to sell them under their own brand names. A product supplier’s choice of business model (BM) determines how its product value pairs with its complementary partners. A supplier with few marketing resources tends to choose a brand-and-original equipment manufacturer (OEM) dual BM because it has limited branding capabilities. At the same time, it can do OEM business with famous branded firms, allowing its product to be sold to reachable markets through its own brand and to unreachable markets worldwide through OEM. Many firms have grown large under this dual BM. However, embedded synergy and tensions are unavoidable in dual BMs. Adopting a smart power strategy to increase synergy and reduce tensions is relevant and necessary for implementing a dual BM.
“Crossing the Valley of Death: An Integrated Framework and a Value Chain for Emerging Technologies” (by Islam): Rapid advances in nano-manufacturing technologies have created a dilemma for organizations on whether they should and how they might implement these technologies successfully for innovative applications since they enable flexible and cost-efficient manufacturing of multifunctional products. The results of this study suggest that innovations in nano-manufacturing technologies are complex and would necessitate involvements of different players performing different functions along the end market demand at one end, the advancement of technologies at the other end, and the intermediary functions between those two ends. The author argues that the intermediary roles carried out by players who are crucial in turning opportunities emerged either from a new technology or market demand into a successful innovation. An example of a value network in the context of nano-manufacturing technologies is used to support this argument and to understand the adoption of emerging nano-manufacturing technologies. The same framework can then also be used, in particular by technology policy makers, to identify the gaps that may inhibit successful innovations and to revitalize the important roles that small firms can play in realizing successful nano-manufacturing technology adoption.
“Optimization for the Integrated Operations in an Uncertain Construction Supply Chain” (by Liu, Xu, and Qin): This paper introduces the concept of integrated-operation to purchasing and production planning in Construction Supply Chain (CSC) by developing a multi-objective uncertain optimization model. The authors consider the owner and fabricator’s costs as well as the service level as their main objectives and apply a hybrid genetic algorithm with fuzzy-random method to solve the optimization model. The paper not only carries the theoretical merits to the CSC research by combining the integrated-operation concept with the latest uncertain optimization technique, but also grants a valuable asset to engineering management practice for the civil construction projects. When applied to a billion-dollar hydropower construction, the model delivers an efficient front for the purchasing and production planning decisions, thus exhibiting a great potential for saving millions of dollars with improved service levels. The authors also provide managerial insights for CSC management. For instance, they find that the uncertainty such as rush orders and project delays and construction constraints such as purchasing-quantity limit and production capacity both affect the optimal decisions and influence the costs and service levels adversely. In addition, rush order holds a greater impact over the fabricator’s service level and costs more than any other factors. The proposed optimization framework can effectively mitigate such operational risk and greatly assist CSC decision-making under uncertainties.
“Managing User Diversity in ES Pre-Implementation through Discursive Framing: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis” (by Leong, Pan, Zheng, and Hackney): This study has significant value for top management, information systems (IS) managers, and change leaders who strive to implement an organization-wide strategic IS change. Previous IS studies have largely emphasized shared meaning as the goal of discursive strategy, which could be unrealistic in managing diverse users in the implementation of an enterprise system (ES). Rejecting the assumption that all users are homogenously resistant to change, the authors provide a categorization of users based on their local IS context. Moreover, the study provides guiding principles regarding discursive framing in managing the different categories of users. Based on an in-depth understanding of the users’ background and concerns, managers could then tailor their communication narratives in line with the perspective of the users as recipients such that the users have a clear position of themselves in the IS initiatives and that they are more receptive to the subsequent change. Therefore, the findings can serve as a tool to help change agents such as IS managers in anticipating and managing possible reactions from diverse users.