A successful product must satisfy customer requirements and preferences. As this bundle of market needs has many facets and is highly complex in its nature, it is called external complexity here. To comply with these diverse demands, companies design their product portfolios accordingly, i.e. they introduce variety to their products. This, in turn, increases not only the product’s complexity but affects the complexity within the entire company. This enterprise-internal complexity spreads to all functional areas (product development, logistics, production, and sales, to name a few) and is called internal complexity.2 The products of an enterprise are exposed to external complexity and cause internal complexity. Therefore, products must be designed to cope with the implications of both external and internal complexity because they are a very important instrument for achieving sustained profits and assuring long-term survival.


Case Study Research Product Portfolio Product Architecture Internal Complexity Complexity Cost 
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  1. 1.
    As cited in Klir and Elias (2003, p. 1)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The terms of external and internal complexity are widely used in literature about complexity management. A sample of sources is given here. Schuh and Schwenk (2001, pp. 13–17) emphasized the effects of excessive customer orientation (i.e. responding to external complexity) on internal complexity and complexity costs. Kaiser (1995) used the terms external (exogenous) and operative (endogenous) complexity (pp. 16–18) as well as external and internal complexity (pp. 100–101). Bliss (2000, pp. 5–7) introduced exogenous and endogenous complexity drivers.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Robertson and Ulrich (1998, p. 21) gave an excellent overview of how the product architecture influences the trade-off between commonality and distinctiveness.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    See Dyllick and Probst (1984, pp. 10–11) for an introduction to the system-oriented concept of management science.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    As an example of combining action research and case studies, see the cases presented by Greenwood and Levin (1998, pp. 33–49 and pp. 129–148), which they termed “action research cases.”Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Punch (2005, p. 158) argued that while the primary objective of grounded theory is to create a theory, “it is not long into the theorizing process before we are also wanting to test theoretical ideas which are emerging.”Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Developed from Eisenhardt (1989, pp. 546–547).Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    When considering case studies, it must be distinguished between case studies for research purposes and case studies as teaching devices (Yin, 2003, p. 2 and p. 10). Leenders and Erskine (1989) give an introduction of the case method used for teaching purposes.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Case study research can be classified either as single-case or multiple-case design (Yin, 2003, pp. 39–40).Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Eisenhardt (1989, pp. 534–535) distinguishes qualitative (e.g. words) and quantitative (e.g. numbers) evidence.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    The respective steps are: getting started, selecting cases, crafting instruments and protocols, entering the field, analyzing data, shaping hypotheses, enfolding literature, and reaching closure (Eisenhardt, 1989, p. 533).Google Scholar

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