Due to the advancing digitization and increasing complexity of products, companies face the challenge of adapting their IT tool stacks flexibly to changing conditions in order to succeed in collaborating with other businesses. In this context, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies can play a crucial role. Through cloud-based solutions, they enable a rapid and cost-effective adaptation of IT systems as well as providing entirely new possibilities to enhance processes and facilitate the development of products. The utilization of SaaS technologies is particularly beneficial for small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) as they can access existing collaborative systems that meet their requirements, without having to establish their own.
Ultimately, a systematic methodology is required for the effective configuration of IT tools stacks to be able to evaluate, select and implement suitable options for collaborative product development, starting at the initiation phase of the collaboration life cycle. In addition, the method must be feasible for SMEs in order to increase their collaboration capability and thus the process and product quality in the development, despite potential resource and expertise constraints. Therefore, the intended objective of the research project “METIS” (Methodical configuration of information technology to enhance the collaboration capability of SMEs in distributed product development) is the development and utilization of a low-threshold method for context-based analysis, evaluation and configuration of IT tool stacks for collaborative product creation while considering SaaS technologies.
To be considered a valuable development partner for other companies, especially SMEs must be capable of mastering a broad range of IT tools. Consequently, they can adapt to their partners' distinct technical requirements and thereby foster close collaboration. However, nowadays SMEs frequently rely on various individual solutions that are purchased as standard software. While these reliably support current procedures, they do not take advantage of the flexibility and innovativeness of new solutions. Traditionally, SMEs have been reluctant to adopt new software solutions due to the great implementation efforts that are commonly associated with them. In particular, concerns regarding system compatibility need to be taken into account. Furthermore, engineers must be able to work effectively with different systems. This might imply challenges related to both the integration of data and the capability of users to interact and navigate between systems if these are based on divergent concepts. Hence, the optimal selection and combination of novel solutions for the respective context of an SME can represent a barrier to fully exploit their potential in virtual product development.
The project focuses on investigating the current state of IT tool stacks and the determinants that lead to typical project archetypes. Subsequently, the impact of these IT tool stacks and SaaS technologies on the collaborative capabilities of SMEs will be examined. Finally, an evaluation heuristic will be developed that enables companies to effectively configure their IT tool stocks according to the requirements of the collaboration initiation. This methodology will be incorporated into a dashboard, serving as an assistance system, that will provide effortless access to the insights gained.
The IGF project 22534 N, conducted by the Research Association of Quality ("Forschungsgemeinschaft Qualität e.V.", FQS), was supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) via the AiF as part of its Industrial Collective Research ("Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung", IGF) funding program on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag.