Sunday, March 30, 2008

Modular Design for the Extended Enterprise

A "MILK" desk with embedded aquarium module

The Danes are so closely associated with clean, modular, functional furniture design that the term "Scandinavian Design" conjures immediate images of Danish furniture. The website demonstrates in 3D (requires Adobe Flash Player) that a beautiful and functional desk can be created modularly from a platform, by which we mean:

  • A module is a self-contained unit that is designed to interact with other units
  • The platform is a design solution composed of a core module and a collection of related modules that can be attached to form a complete design
  • A finished design has more value to the user than the sum of the values of the modules
A platform manager creates a set of clearly articulated rules that governs the design of the modules, including:
  • Market intent
  • Product functionality and aesthetics
  • Specifications for interoperability of modules
  • Time frames, milestones and deadlines
  • Infrastructure for collaboration
  • Governance of market collaborators
When the platform manager executes contracts to interact with suppliers of services related to the provisioning or fabrication of modules or the assembly, distribution, or sale of completed designs, the manager creates an extended enterprise, sometimes called a value chain.

Participants in this extended enterprise of collaborating suppliers of products and services may be:
  • Owned and operated by the platform designer (internal) or owned by a third party (external)
  • Selling solely to the platform designer (exclusive) or selling to many others (non-exclusive)
  • Co-located with the platform design (on-site) or geographically distinct
  • Strategically aligned with the business of the platform designer or independently operated
Whereas the design of the product platform is critical to the success of its product family, the design of the extended enterprise determines the success of the business itself.

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