The Role of Financial Control in New Product Development: Empirical Insights into Project Managers' Experiences
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This paper explores financial control in new product development (NPD) project managers’ work. To supplement previous literature on controlling innovation activities, the paper focuses on NPD project managers’ versatile role of being under control (about meeting NPD project objectives), in control (about actually fulfilling those objectives by mobilizing the project team), and in a central role in further developing the NPD project management practice. This paper is an exploratory interview study based on in-depth interviews with eight NPD project managers in seven organizations. NPD project managers’ viewpoints need to be acknowledged, as they have a significant influence on NPD project performance; the support of financial control should be designed and utilized accordingly. Examining a versatile managerial role, such as that of an NPD project manager, potentially unveils fundamental questions in management control practices, e.g., how could financial control better support innovation activities. In this paper, we contribute to management control research by (1) highlighting the role of financial control in supporting NPD project managers’ work both in project model execution and wider reflections on the business impacts; (2) identifying the extended list of units of analysis of financial control needed to ensure that NPD objectives are met; and (3) showing that project managers desire a more active role from financial control in NPD project management. If more comprehensive accounting information was provided and used for project management purposes, this would imply new tasks to NPD project managers, controllers, and other parties involved in NPD projects—possibly shifting focus towards more comprehensive, long-term business impacts. Finally, based on our exploratory results, we provide six propositions to inspire future management control studies.