INSEAD Working Paper 2011/60/TOM revised version of 2010/53/TOM
Defining the appropriate product architecture enables organizations to cope with the managerial challenges of designing high-quality products. This paper integrates two formerly unrelated but complementary views of product architecture to uncover architectural characteristics that harm quality. First, taking a structural view (by which products are networks of interlinked components), we identify the components involved in cyclical dependencies. We show empirically that these components exhibit a higher level of defects than all other components. This challenges the assumption that all connectivity patterns are detrimental to quality. Then, we complement the structural view with a hierarchical view (by which components are organized into hierarchical modules) to examine how the interplay of cycles and modules affects quality. We show empirically: (a) components in cycles are even more defect-prone when cycles span hierarchical modules; (b) there are spill-over effects from components in cycles to certain other components due to associations introduced by hierarchical modules.