The involvement of lead‐users in product development has been emphasised as a rewarding method for companies in various industries to strengthen their development efforts. The argument is that these leading edge customers can generate innovative and appealing new product concepts. In some industries, however, companies may not be able to make use of lead‐users. In such situations, a complementor may be a valuable alternative. Complementors may be defined as development partners “whose outputs or functions increase the value” of the company's own innovations. The purpose of this article is to compare and contrast the advantages obtainable from the lead‐user method and complementor involvement respectively in order to determine the interchangeable value from these different approaches.
A typical case is selected as the empirical foundation, describing a Danish food‐producing company's collaboration with a complementor.
The case analysis shows that complementor involvement may lead to output‐related, process‐related, and system‐related advantages comparable with advantages obtainable from the lead‐user method. The findings, however, reveal some variations in these advantages. Compared with the goals set by the Danish food‐manufacturing company, output‐related advantages are achieved, e.g. in terms of higher product novelty, whereas the company's goal for enhancing its market position is not reached. Several process‐related advantages are also accomplished in terms of enhanced internal collaboration and improved cross‐functional communication. However, the company faces challenges related to how close the complementor relation might become.
This research is based on a single case study in the food industry in Denmark.
From this paper, new knowledge and insight into complementor involvement in product development as well as the related advantages and disadvantages can be derived. In academia, this knowledge contributes to deepening understanding of external partnering in product development in general. The managerial implications to be derived are associated with the potential value generated from complementor involvement in product development.
Munksgaard, K. and Freytag, P. (2011), "Complementor involvement in product development", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 286-298. https://doi.org/10.1108/08858621111127027Download as .RIS
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