Managing design projects in small and medium sized firms

Roy, Robin and Potter, Stephen (1990). Managing design projects in small and medium sized firms. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 2(3) pp. 321–336.



This paper presents initial results of a major study of the benefits and costs of investment in design in small and medium sized manufacturers. It shows that UK manufacturers which received a government subsidy to employ a professional design consultant for product, engineering, packaging and graphic design projects recovered their total investment in an average of fifteen months, as well as gaining other indirect benefits. However, problems in using and managing the design consultants was a factor in a quarter of the projects that were not implemented or produced disappointing commercial results. The problems most associated with project failure was inadequate briefing of the consultant and internal disagreements about the aims or value of the projects. Severe design management problems were most common in firms with under fifty employees and especially affected firms with under ten employees. Thus, while small firms often lack in-house specialist skills such as design, such firms require additional help and advice if they are to use external resources effectively.

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