Alan D. MacCormack

MBA Class of 1949 Adjunct Professor of Business Administration

Alan MacCormack is the MBA Class of 1949 Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. His research examines the management of innovation and product development in high-technology industries, with a focus on the computer software sector. Alan's research has been published in a variety of leading journals including Management Science, Research Policy and Harvard Business Review. In addition, he has written over 50 cases and notes that explore how organizations like Intel, Microsoft and NASA manage new product and service innovation efforts. Alan is currently teaching FIELD, a new MBA Required-Curriculum course that develops students’ teamwork and leadership abilities by helping them to solve real world problems in small teams. In 2011, he received the Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching for his role in designing this course. Alan holds a DBA from Harvard Business School, an MSc from MIT's Sloan School of Management and a BSc from the University of Bath in England.

  1. Managing Product Development in Rapidly Changing Environments

    A consistent finding in many studies of innovation is the repeated failure of established firms when faced with radical changes in their core markets or technologies. Professor MacCormack's research takes the view that many of these failures can be attributed to the design of the new product development process within these firms, and specifically, a process which can deal effectively with radical change. His work explores how successful firms manage the product development process in environments like internet software and computer workstations, industries in which rapidly changing technologies and customer needs are a fact of life. MacCormack's results suggest that in these types of environment, a more "adaptive" approach to developing products is required, based upon the ability to respond to new information throughout a development cycle. His work identifies the underlying mechanisms through which such an approach can be built. At a broader level, MacCormack's research begins to explore the elements of a contingent view of product development process design. With such a view, the concept of product development "best practice" is no longer as relevant. Instead, the process that is most appropriate for a given project must be designed to reflect the realities of the environment which that project faces. The challenge for researchers is therefore to identify the mediating factors which dictate the fit between environment and process. MacCormack's current work focuses on exploring these relationships in greater depth.