| 28.11.2022

Doctoral thesis: Project concept design produces impactful projects

Many projects are doomed from the onset by insufficient attention to project concept design. As a result, projects – even when on time, within budget and according to specifications – can fail to meet the needs of buyers, end-users or contractors.

In his doctoral thesis, Pekka Buttler investigates project concepts – the fundamental ideas that projects are intended to make real – and project concept design – the process through which those ideas are created, developed and refined.

“Projects make up roughly one third of GDP in developed nations, and in many industries, the share of projects is even higher. At the same time, projects fail way too often for comfort”, Buttler explains the background to his dissertation.

There are two ways in which a project may fail: On the one hand, projects may be finished late, or cost more than expected, or the result’s functionality may also leave something to be desired. In short: the project was not done right.

On the other hand, projects may produce exactly what was specified, on time and within budget, only for it to turn out that the result is not what was needed, or that a different solution might have served everyone’s needs better. In short: not the right project was done.

Pekka Buttler’s research points to that project concept design plays a central role in designing the right project. Buttler explains the relationship:

“Projects are commenced in the hope of making the central, founding ideas for a project come true. So, the question of doing the right project is essentially a question of designing the right project concepts.”

However, understanding that project concept design is important is not the same as knowing how to design the right project concepts, and in his thesis Buttler addresses this area both regarding practice and also with future research in mind:

Industry will be especially interested in the five core functions (alignment, meshing, articulation, consideration, evaluation) through which project concept design can contribute to doing the right project. Practitioners will likewise appreciate the research’s findings regarding environmental factors that contribute to or inhibit successful project concept design.
The dissertation also lays a foundation for future research by describing project concepts, by highlighting the process and practice of project concept design, and by offering concrete tools for researching project concept design.

“And as the icing on the cake, while project concept design primarily supports doing the right project, it also contributes to doing the project right, leading to savings in both time and money.”, Buttler sums up.

You can read the whole thesis here.
Pekka Buttler will defend his doctoral thesis “Project concepts, project concept design, and other topics affecting the front-end of projects” on Wednesday, 30 November at 12:00 EEST at Hanken School of Economics (Arkadiankatu 22, 00100 Helsinki, Finland), as well as remotely.
You can attend the defence online by clicking on this Teams-link
Opponent: Professor Bjørn Sørskot Andersen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Custos: Professor Frank den Hond, Hanken School of Economics