Aaron J. Shenhar, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA, and R. Max Wideman.

A paper presented to the PICMET'97 conference "Innovation in Technology Management: The Key to Global Leadership", Portland, Oregon, USA, July 1997 (Updated for web 2002). Presented here as the third in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here February 2002.

Abstract | Introduction | Purpose | Background
Product | Work | Matrix | Style | Conclusion

The Nature of the Product

The first indication of a potential project is in the expression of a need to be fulfilled, an opportunity to be captured, or even a crisis to be averted or mitigated. If it is determined that a project should therefore be undertaken, initial planning centers around gaining an understanding of the nature and extent of the product of this effort. More often than not, the result of this effort is some form of tangible artifact, and examples include such items as new physical plant, infrastructure, or new product such as an automobile or appliance. Based on these types of product, we may label the project as tangible.

However, the underlying purpose of any project is to add value in some way. This value may well be vested in the tangible artifact itself, as in the examples quoted. On the other hand, the real value of the projectīs product may not be in the physical artifact but in its intellectual property value. Some examples include software, a new system, administrative plan, reorganization, book, poem and so on. Based on these types of product, we may label the project as intangible.

We may now arrive at the following definitions.

A. "Tangible" Product

A tangible product is one in which the primary value is in the physical artifact. It is the value of the artifact that distinguishes it from other products. A new building is a well-recognized example of this type of product.

B. "Intangible" Product

An intangible product is one in which the value is in its intellectual property. Although there is some physical result, this is not the essence of the product. The essential feature is new information and its physical aspect is only a vehicle for its conveyance and transformation. Software is a prime example.

Background  Background

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