Monday, October 4, 2010

SDM thesis roundup - SDM Pulse Fall 2010

This sampling of SDM thesis research illustrates the range of systems questions SDM students tackle. To read these theses in full, contact Lois Slavin, SDM communications director, at

Andrei Akaikine, SDM ’09
Title: The Impact of Software Design Structure on Product Maintenance Costs and Measurement of Economic Benefits of Product Redesign
Fixing software bugs can be extremely costly, both in terms of time and money. It has been estimated that for most software products, the cost of maintenance activities exceeds the initial cost of development and can reach up to 90 percent of total life cycle cost. Yet, most research on software products economics focuses on cost management during the development phase of the software life cycle. This study focuses on software complexity as one of the main drivers of maintenance costs. To measure the complexity of software systems under investigation, Akaikine designed a complexity measure, based on the design structure matrix, suitable for use in the maintenance phase of software lifecycle. He presents an empirical analysis of the effects of software complexity on costs associated with maintenance tasks within a large-scale commercial software product organization. The study found that with reduction of propagation cost from 38 percent to 11 percent, the productivity of engineers working on similar maintenance tasks improved by more than 10 percent.
Akshat Mathur, SDM ’08
Title: The Evolution of Business Ecosystems: Interspecies Competition in the Steel Industry
This thesis builds on the work of Theodore F. Piepenbrock, whose 2009 MIT doctoral thesis, “Towards a Theory of Evolution of Business Ecosystems,” proposed that firms in the same industry vary systematically in performance over time as a result of differences in architecture. Piepenbrock defines architecture in terms of the strength, closeness, and the specific morphology of relationships that exist between the core firm and the four markets that are its key stakeholders—product markets, capital markets, supplier markets, and labor markets. Mathur extends Piepenbrock’s model to examine its validity in commodity industries, specifically the steel industry from the 1860s to the present. He finds the theory is consistentlysupported by the steel industry data, and he concludes that the evolution of business ecosystems is a reasonably robust theoretical framework.
Mario Montoya Jr., SDM ’09
Title: On Developing Business Architectures: A Multi-Framework Evaluation of an Early-Stage Enterprise
Montoya examines the efficiency and effectiveness of using multiple frameworks to analyze an early-stage enterprise within the medical technology industry, Lentesco Luminarium. The company faces a critical choice between two growth strategies: vertical penetration within existing modalities or horizontal growth into new modalities, and Montoya explores what tools might inform and guide the executive team to make the right decision for Lentesco’s particular industry, maturity, and size. In addition to the standard Lean Advancement Initiative suite of tools, he uses Nightingale and Rhodes’ eight Enterprise Architecture views, Kaplan’s Balanced Scorecard, McKinsey’s 7S framework, and Grave’s Spiral Dynamics. He concludes that Lentesco needs to improve transparency and communication, and he suggests the use of the McKinsey 7S framework to put concepts into perspective as simply as possible. For a multiple perspective evaluation, he suggests the EA 8 Views framework.
Shailendra Yadav, SDM ’08
Title: Analysis of Value Creation and Value Capture in Microfluidics Market
In the last two decades, microfluidics has been changing the shape of genomics, drug discovery, proteomics, and point-of-care diagnostics. Advances in the technology have resulted in faster analysis time, increased throughput, and reduced cost, among other important benefits. Yet, in this thesis Yadav reports that the life sciences end-users and the microfluidics players themselves are far from fully capturing the value of these advances. As an immature technology, microfluidics is to date still only in the hands of innovators and early adopters, who are academic laboratories and research institutes. Yadav analyzes the current state of the market and finds genomics and point-of-care diagnostics have captured the most value from the technology, while drug discovery has seen the least. He then proceeds to recommend short- and long-term strategies for increasing value capture and accelerating the adoption of microfluidics.
To learn more about SDM thesis research, contact Pat Hale, director of SDM fellows program, at

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