Management tools and techniques such as roadmapping, portfolio management methods and scenario planning are considered useful for a variety of business issues.
Practitioners are confused by the increasing number of management tools and techniques available as scholars, managers and consultants develop ever newer ways to support firms.
Academics have long been interested in understanding the nature of management tools and to derive guidance on how they should be used – a typical approach has been proposing rules and classifications, however none are universally recognised.
The trouble is that everyone has a different view of what tools are and what they could or could not do. There is not yet a map to help practitioners identify tools which could be integrated to create toolkits. There is a need for a more stable platform to treat management tools so that opportunities to configure and combine as well as integrate methods might become easier and to help practitioners with the configuration of toolkits (e.g. how do we know whether we have covered all that is needed? How do we know whether the current configuration of this roadmap is exhaustive? What other tools do we need/we could to add? How should we configure them?).
This paper proposes a map, derived from the characterisations of instances of tools implementation, according to five key dimensions which can help design and understand toolkits whilst in action.
These five dimensions are:
- Application Domain
- Implementation Techniques
- Business Aspects Considered
- Implementation metrics.
For each dimension, the paper describes the possible variations (for example, the implementation techniques of tools vary from workshop-based to interviews, to numerical simulations, modelling, role-playing, statistical analysis etc…) and shows how a toolkit could be fingerprinted.
A route is proposed in the paper which has its roots in the concept of ‘family resemblances.’ Accordingly five dimensions are derived from the analysis of extant literature which, the authors argue, provide the basis for a ‘general’ template for the analysis of each individual ‘tool-in-action’ which could help both practitioners in the configuration in the management tools/toolkits and academics in the analysis of trends in their use.
The new proposed approach is introduced and applied to an existing toolkit to show how this characterisation scheme can be employed both to assess existing tools and toolkits and to identify ways to improve and complement them with other tools.
The authors say: “We think this approach can also be particularly helpful for practitioners. By using the tool-in-action approach, discussions could be avoided regarding what is meant by the words ‘roadmapping’ or ‘portfolio management’.
“Similarly, speculations and assumptions with regards to what tools are meant to do could be avoided. Clearly seeing the fingerprint of each tool provides strong foundation for configuring and planning of toolkits and for communicating their benefits and characteristics.”
The paper concludes by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of this approach for researchers and managers and areas for future research.
Taken from Tool Fingerprinting: Characterising Management Tools by L Mortara, R Phaal, C Kerr, C Farrukh and D Probert, Centre for Technology Management, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge.