Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Business Research
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jbusres
Stage-gate and agile development in the digital age: Promises, perils, and
, David Antons, Malte Brettel, Christian Hopp, Torsten-Oliver Salge, Frank Piller,
School of Business and Economics, TIME Research Area, RWTH Aachen University, Kackertstr. 7, 52072 Aachen, Germany
Some artists begin with careful plans, sketches, preliminary draw-
ings and even paintings before settling on one particular direction.
Claude Monet, for example, carefully planned and prepared his work to
coincide with speciﬁc natural light, timing his activity according to
when and how daylight touched his canvas (House, 2004). His work
was revolutionary: masterpieces such as his famous Impressions,Sunrise
and subsequent Water Lilies series were intended to capture the feelings
initiated by observation and interpretation; they exceeded the mere
recording of scenery details. Other artists seemed to obtain their in-
spiration internally, beginning with little formal preparation. They
approached the canvas experientially. Jackson Pollock adopted this
style with his famous drip paintings - action pieces that were acclaimed
to show motion, depicting accidents and energy.
Like artists, organizations striving for innovation seek to ﬁnd unique
combinations of resources with the goal of creating something new –be
it new products, services, business models, or any combination thereof.
Importantly, though, organizations are multi-agent systems, with dif-
fering individual goals and with each agent's eﬀort contributing to-
wards the overall purpose (Weick, 1974). Yet, organizing is a process
that is starkly diﬀerent to (and should not be mistaken for) organiza-
tions themselves and is thought to diﬀer widely depending on context
and across temporal dimensions.
Early work on organizing was inextricably linked to economic
production of material goods. Currently, and corresponding to our
dominant current driver of value creation today, a growing perspective
on organization looks into information technology (IT) and its role for
organizing, but also how actors in the IT industry are organizing
(Puranam, Alexy, & Reitzig, 2014).
“If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you're going
to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company.”This is
how JeﬀImmelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE), sum-
marized the disruptive changes triggered by the digital transformation
that hit virtually all companies. GE responded by creating GE Digital
and redeﬁning itself as a “digital industrial company”with a focus on
digitally enabled products (Rigby, Sutherland, & Takeuchi, 2016). In
today's digital age, product development at GE and many other com-
panies around the globe increasingly involves - and indeed resembles -
software development. Over the last decades, the process of software
development has been shaped by the adoption of so-called agile de-
velopment methods such as scrum, extreme programming, or lean de-
velopment (Cram & Newell, 2016). These agile approaches take the
inherent unpredictability of software development into account and
advocate highly iterative, time-boxed development cycles owned by
self-organizing cross-functional teams that actively solicit and in-
corporate customer feedback at each iteration to improve the working
software as the dominant measure of progress (Beck et al., 2001).
It is against this backdrop that this Special Issue (SI) on “Innovation
in the Digital Age: From Stage-Gate to an Agile Development
Paradigm?”explores whether traditional product development models
such as Stage-Gate (Cooper, 1986, 2008) are still ﬁt for purpose in to-
day's digital age or whether they are set to be widely replaced by agile
approaches even in more traditional contexts. The basic idea of con-
ventional models to organize innovation is that they see innovation as a
deterministic process that can be planned ex-ante and then be executed
and controlled. The idea is to de-risk the innovation process by in-
cluding a number of go-or-kill decision gates, where projects are vetted
against predeﬁned performance indicators. In contrast, agile ap-
proaches are stochastic. They follow the understanding of an iterative
planning cycle where the outcomes of one short phase of execution
inform the design of the following stage, and so on. Uncertainty is
discovered and addressed continuously during the execution process.
Stage-gate aims at controlling uncertainty upfront, thus avoiding sub-
sequent changes, whereas agile development focuses on adaptation and
the accommodation of change throughout the development processes.
Table 1 provides a stylized comparison of the two development models
at the center of this Special Issue.
This Special Issue presents six research papers that address the
promises, perils and boundary conditions associated with agile product
E-mail addresses: email@example.com (S. Paluch), firstname.lastname@example.org (D. Antons), email@example.com (M. Brettel),
firstname.lastname@example.org (C. Hopp), email@example.com (T.-O. Salge), firstname.lastname@example.org (F. Piller),
email@example.com (D. Wentzel).
Journal of Business Research xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
0148-2963/ © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license
Please cite this article as: Stefanie Paluch, et al., Journal of Business Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.01.063