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Differential Potency Of Factors Affecting Innovation Performance In Manufacturing And Services Firms In Australia

Kwaku Atuahene-Gima
Published 1996 · Business

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Whether or not industrialized nations are experiencing a fundamental shift from a manufacturing- to a service-based economy may be a matter of debate. However, the service sector is clearly growing at an explosive rate, particularly in comparison with manufacturing. With this in mind, we need to better understand how the successful development of new services differs from that of new products. Such understanding requires identifying the critical success factors for new service development (NSD), as well as contrasting them with the factors underlying successful new product development (NPD). Kwaku Atuahene-Gima describes the results of a study comparing the innovation activities of Australian services firms and manufacturers. The study explores managers' perceptions of the factors necessary for successful NSD and NPD. In addition to comparing the differing perceptions of managers of services firms and manufacturers, the study highlights implications of these differences for managers striving for improved NSD. Services and manufacturing firms focus on similar factors for improving innovation performance. However, the relative importance of those factors depends on the type of firm. The critical factor for services—the importance accorded to innovation activity in the firm's human resource strategy—ranks third in importance for manufacturers. Manufacturers focus primarily on product innovation advantage and quality. In contrast, service innovation advantage and quality ranks third in importance for service firms. Surprisingly, technology synergy is found to have a negative effect on new service performance. If a new service is a close fit with a firm's current technologies, competitors will likely be able to quickly imitate the new service. As a result, NSD efforts based on technology synergy will not provide a competitive advantage. Compared to manufacturers, successful service firms must place greater emphasis on the selection, development, and management of employees who work directly with the customer. Through effective self management, these contact personnel shape the quality of the customer relationship. In addition, their close contact and potentially long-term relationships with customers make such employees an important source of new ideas in the firm's NSD process. Such relationships also cast contact personnel in a make-or-break role in the launching of new services.
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