Purchasing concept design services

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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International Design Business Management
Design consultancies have started to expand the range of their offering to more intangible services. However, they have found it hard to sell these intangible aspects of their services, furthermore the clients of the consultancies often find it difficult and laborious to purchase such complex services. This research study was commissioned by a design consultancy looking to provide a better service for their clients and ease the challenges they might face in purchasing design services. This study focuses specifically on concept design services; it aims to gain a deep understanding of the purchasing processes and practices of clients buying these services. This qualitative research was conducted as a multiple case study. Primary data for the research included 15 individual interviews, with nine client interviewees and three consultancy interviewees across six different cases. The cases included six projects done with six large Finnish companies, from various industries. The cases were selected based on the fact that they all had a strong concept design aspect. Project documents as well as academic and industry literature were used as secondary data. The literature was used to construct a theoretical framework through which the subject was empirically studied. The interview guides were formulated based on the previous literature and the data was analysed with the theoretical framework. The research aimed to explore how the purchasing of concept design services are organized in client organizations, what kind of challenges the buyers face and which are the key factors influencing the purchasing of these service. The findings show that concept design services are typically purchased following a standard process, which consists of identifying and defining the need for the service, scouting and selecting potential suppliers, briefing these suppliers, hearing the offers or proposals of these suppliers, and deciding and contracting the selected supplier. Concept projects could also be initiated without a clear purchasing process, through personal contacts and discussions about possible collaboration. The decisions in these purchasing scenarios were mainly based on three factors: the references of the consultancy, the content of the offered service and the people involved from the consultancy. The purchasing was generally done by the project manager and/or another key person directly involved in the project, these people would typically sit in the middle management of the client organization. The main challenges of purchasing concept design services identified in this study were: clearly defining and understanding the content and outcome of the service, trusting the capabilities of the consultancy and selling the project internally. The key factors influencing the purchasing of concept design services identified in this study were: the schedule of the client, the scale of the project, the nature of the service, the level of design expertise of the client, and the nature of the client-supplier relationship.
Thesis advisor
Person, Oscar
Lehtonen, Miikka
design, design consultancy, design services, concept design, purchasing
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