The Duality of Modular and Integral Design: Exploring Product-service-software Configuration Strategies for Servitization

Juliana Hsuan, Viktor Avlonitis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


System design can gravitate between different degrees of modularity. While modular systems can be decomposed and recombined thereby minimizing the propagation of interdependences, integral systems interact in complex ways and are difficult to decompose without any loss of functionality. Despite the breadth and depth of empirical work concerned with the power of modularity, the underlying principles that inform modularity and integrality as distinct system properties have not been explicitly articulated. Hence, there is an opportunity to theorize the relationship between modular and integral design and explain how firms make architectural choices over time. Through a critical review and synthesis across streams of literature, modularity and integrality are framed as a duality around three principles: 1) composition vs. decomposition, 2) tight vs. loose coupling, and 3) function vs. structure. Our study contends that modular and integral designs are counterparts whose underlying dynamics entail episodes of temporal co-existence, manifested when both modular and integral design principles are used in the same architecture, which further consider the management of mixed architectures. To explore modularity and integrality duality in practice, a conceptual framework is developed and operationalized as a tool to communicate with companies and to collect empirical data. The exploratory multiple case studies of servitization strategies of 49 sets of responses from fifteen Danish manufacturers show the nuances and tensions related to modularity-integrality co-existence in their configurations of product, service and software architectures over time. The results show the importance of considering the configurations of modularity and integrality in tandem. Based on our findings, two propositions are posed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event13th EDSI Annual Conference: Building Resilience for Sustainable Transition - Audencia Business School, Nantes, France
Duration: 4 Jun 20237 Jun 2023
Conference number: 13


Conference13th EDSI Annual Conference
LocationAudencia Business School
Internet address

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