Collaboration with competitors’ product development team

Approximate reading time: 6-8 min. Successful collaboration between competing product development teams requires the use of formal controls. These controls are used in parallel to coordinate the teams’ interdependent development activities, and in parallel to encourage teams to collaborate. However, previous theoretical and empirical research suggests that the formal management control required to improve coordination can also lead to co-operative and opportunistic behavior. Can collaboration with competitors product development team really work?


collaboration with competitors product development team


Collaboration with competitors product development team

One study was conducted to help just the product development team managers, who collaborate with competing teams, to choose appropriate controls. The researchers studied the impact of a partner team’s use of input, process, and output-based control on the partner’s (competing teams) view of the effectiveness of coordination and the behavior of the collaboration.

A scenario-based experiment was conducted with 110 experts. The results show that managers perceive the competing team’s use of input-based controls as malicious and process-based control to help achieve effective coordination. In addition, managers were positive to the competitor’s use of input-based controls. They were also negative to the competitor’s use of output-based controls in collaboration. See Table 1 below.


Table 1 – Result

Typ of formal controls Effect on coordination Effect on collaboration 
Input-based controls Negative Positive
Process-based controls Positive Not significant
Output-based controls Not significant Negative

Overall, the results indicate that no single set of formal controls improves both coordination and collaboration in competing product development co-operation. The use of input-based control results in opposite effects on coordination and collaboration. Product development team managers must very carefully choose the right types of formal controls. This must be done in order for competing product development collaboration to succeed. Below in Table 2 is a tentative model that can be used.


Table 2 – Tentative control matrix

Effect on collaboration 
Low High
Effect on coordination High Process- and input-based controls Process-based controls


Thus, the combination of input-based and process-based control should be done very carefully. The positive effect of process-based coordination must not be offset by the negative effect of input-based control.



Smets, L. P.M., Langerak, F., Tatikonda, M.V., 2015. Collaboration between competitors’ NPD teams: in search of effective modes of management control. R&D Management.

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