Variability Decision Conceptual Framework

1 Variability decision conceptual framework

1.1 Concept definition

The variability decision conceptual framework (Figure 1) shows in more detail how the concepts of variability drivers and variability decisions are connected. It also shows that variability decisions can affect different stakeholders. Variability decision stakeholders affected by the outcome of a variability decision may as a result induce new variability decisions.

Figure 1: Enhanced conceptual framework defined in deliverable D3.3 (Biot, et al., 2014)

Figure 1: Enhanced conceptual framework defined in deliverable D3.3 (Biot, et al., 2014)

The concepts of Figure 1 are defined below:

  • Variability is the ability of a product to be adapted to serve a certain purpose
  • Variety is the set of variants that exists at a certain point in time
  • Variability decisions are decisions that affects variability in one or another way. They do not necessarily always add extra variety to the portfolio as they can also restrict variety; in essence they manipulate the degree of variety.
  • Variability drivers are external factors that drive variability decisions. They are reasons behind variability decisions.
  • Variability decision stakeholders are stakeholder affected by a variability decision
  • A variability decision maker is the stakeholder taking a variability decision (deciding on the outcome).

1.2 Variability decision stakeholders

One can subdivide variability decision stakeholders into internal (within the organization) and external stakeholders. Depending on the context, the stakeholders either represent a person or department that is impacted by the variability decision.

It is important to realize that the decision maker is in fact a special decision stakeholder that has the authority to decide on the outcome of the variability decision. As such, the decision maker can be significantly affected by the outcome of the decision, as can all other decision stakeholders be.

1.2.1 Internal variability decision stakeholders

These stakeholders are internal to the organization and represent people, business units and departments. A subset of this stakeholder list can play a key role in the decision process depending on the scope of the decision and the scope of the variability driver.

  1. Business
  2. IP department
  3. Legal department
  4. Product management
  5. Product development
    • R&D
    • Development team
    • Product development team
  6. Product Engineering
  7. Quality management
    • QA, Testing and Certification
  8. Manufacturing
  9. Maintenance
    • Product maintenance
    • Service department
    • Service
  10. Sales & Marketing
    • Sales
    • Marketing
  11. Standardisation department
  12. Supply chain
    • Purchaser
    • Purchasing
    • Procurement

1.2.2 External variability decision stakeholders

These stakeholders are not directly taking part in the decision process. However they are either the source of a variability driver affecting the decision or they are directly or indirectly affected by the outcome of the variability decision.

  1. Customer
    • Customers not using the technology anymore
    • New customer
  2. Supplier
    • Technology provider
  3. Competition
    • Competitor
    • Competitors inventing the emerging technology or offering the emerging component
  4. External entity or company
    • Other purchasers buying all available inventory
    • Other companies using the same technology
    • Regulatory or Certification body
    • Research centres
    • Notified bodies
    • Non-competing organization that claimed a patent in a market we serve
    • IP / Legal department of external entity
  5. Market
    • Markets
    • Players in fast evolving technology domains
  6. Worldwide consumers of resources necessary for the technology

1.3 Variability drivers

Variability drivers are a key concept in the VARIES project. They explain why organizations have to make decisions that may affect product variability. It is important to realize that these variability drivers are defined as external factors. Over the course of the VARIES research activities in WP3, it has been observed that internal factors seem to always be a result of external factors (e.g., a new technology appears, a customer requests something new, the market situation changes…).

Variability drivers have been identified in 3 big clusters:

  1. Compliance related variability drivers can be subdivided in 2 sub clusters:
    1. Compliance to standardization, regulation, legislation
    2. Compliance to IPR (patents)
  2. Technology related variability drivers can be subdivided in:
    1. Technology maturity lifecycle
    2. Technology cost
    3. Technology performance
  3. Market related variability drivers can be subdivided in:
    1. Competition
    2. Changes in market / customer
    3. New markets / customers

Variability decisions are typically affected by one or more variability drivers.

1.4 Impact of variability decisions

Another way of looking at the variability decision conceptual framework is by means of the resulting impact (e.g. in terms of cost, product quality, service level to customers, …), see Figure 3.

Figure 3. Variability drivers, variability decisions and their impact

Figure 3. Variability drivers, variability decisions and their impact

The impact can be expressed in different ways (e.g. costs, quality, flexibility, time to market…).

1.5 Making informed variability decisions

To help organizations make informed variability decisions, all of the previous can be combined. A structured methodology has been developed by Sirris in the VARIES project and can help organizations in their variability decisions. It has been validated in 9 cases during the VARIES project, and can now be applied to other organizations.

For more information, please contact the CoIE: