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Mobilizing resources in product development by organizational interfaces across firms, units and functions

Viktoria Sundquist (Department of Architectural and Civil Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Lisa Melander (Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 13 October 2020

Issue publication date: 8 February 2021




This paper aims to investigate how various organizational interfaces between firms, units and functions, and the interplay between them, are developed and mobilized in product development processes.


The theoretical framework is based on the industrial network approach, including interactive resource development and the concept of organizational interfaces. A single case study is conducted at a world-leading industrial tool manufacturer, illustrating how resources are combined over time, crossing boundaries of firms, units and functions in the development of a hand-held digitalized tool for quality assurance in the production of cars. Data have been collected through semi-structured interviews, with additional data in the form of project reports, internal documents and practices for external collaboration.


In addition to inter-organizational interfaces, the study identifies a typology of scouting, embarking and integration interfaces at unit level (geographically spread units of one multinational corporation) and interpretation and reciprocal interfaces at function level. The conclusions show that these interfaces affect the outcome of three aspects of the product development process: product characteristics and functionality features, system integration and organizational network extent. Existing interfaces serve as a platform for developing interaction further and provide the interfaces with new content, thus moving between different types of interfaces. Product development processes also involve new interfaces where there was no previous interaction between the parties.

Research limitations/implications

This research has implications for the interplay between interfaces in cases involving multiple external and internal actors in resource combining efforts.

Practical implications

External interactions between firms influence and impact internal activities and resources. Managers need to be aware of the complex interdependencies between external and internal interfaces and resources. Managing organizational interfaces is about both exploiting established interfaces and developing new ones. Consequently, existing interfaces may be activated differently to align with new interaction purposes, which, in turn, requires efforts to combine resources according to the new conditions.


Previous research contains a typology of organizational interfaces between customers and suppliers. The study expands on this research by identifying internal interfaces between units and functions.



Sundquist, V. and Melander, L. (2021), "Mobilizing resources in product development by organizational interfaces across firms, units and functions", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 307-323.



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