The following chapter outlines the research´s methodology. The aim is, to support the scholar by providing information on how this study has been conducted. In the first part the main influential factor is presented – the research philosophy. Following that, the methodology guides through the research design and approach that has directed the data collection and analysis. In addition to that, ethical considerations are presented, as well. Finally, a critical reflection on the chosen methodology is given.
“The term research philosophy refers to a system of beliefs and assumptions about the development of knowledge” (Saunders et al., 2016, p. 124). From the authors´ point of view, the debate on whether interpretivism, positivism or any other philosophy has been held as more ‘truthful’ and ‘real’ than the other one, was evaluated as being misleading (Feilzer, 2010; Saunders et al., 2016). To answer the research question at hand, the authors decided not to choose between one position or another. The following paragraphs will present some of the elements that support this belief.
On the one hand, this thesis analyzed the decision to pivot or persevere (Ries, 2011). As decisions and the field of decision making have a strong relationship to psychology (Janis & Mann, 1977), this research could not ignore the importance of humans or so-called ‘social actors’ (Saunders et al. 2016). To live up to the challenge of revealing such subjectively perceived situations, this thesis aimed at showing empathy and profoundly understand what the interview transcripts were trying to reveal. By doing so, it became possible to provide an answer for such complicated matter (Saunders et al., 2016). Furthermore, the research from Unterkalmsteiner et al. (2016) asked for a study with a stronger tendency to an exploratory approach. In such exploratory research, however, it is practically impossible to conduct identical interview procedures as it is not possible to completely standardize the human behavior (Saunders et al., 2016). Hence, this thesis included elements of an interpretive research philosophy.
On the other side, the authors investigated a question that has been deduced from the past literature. Researchers such as Bajwa et al. (2017) and Terho et al. (2015) have identified numerous factors that trigger a pivot. To specify it even further, customer feedback has been the most recurring topic (see Table 1). In addition to that, the authors also found an applicable framework which helped to organize the data – the outcome was a more structured methodology than in the case of a conventional and purely inductive approach (Saunders et al., 2016). To sum this up, also parts of the (post-) positivist research philosophy are represented in this thesis (Bryman & Bell, 2015; Creswell, 1994).
In conclusion, the research at hand “starts with a problem, and aims to contribute practical solutions that inform future practice” (Saunders et al., 2016, p. 143). This implies that multiple interpretations of the world were accepted and, there might coexist multiple realities. Thus, those values are reflected by pragmatism.
“Pragmatism does not require a particular method or methods mix and does not exclude others. It does not expect to find unvarying causal links or truths but aims to interrogate a particular question, theory, or phenomenon with the most appropriate research method” (Feilzer, 2010, p. 13). To finalize this subchapter, the authors were not limiting the research to one of the general philosophies of positivism or interpretivism but used pragmatism instead
Origins of the applied methodology
To paraphrase a few critical points from 2.4. Software Startup, this venture type relates to software development. As pointed out by Carmel (1994), this stressed the relation of Software Startups to the field of software engineering. Software engineering was “the basic method of applying the systems development research methodology” (Nunamaker Jr. et al., 1990, p. 89). In combination with other research methodologies, the integration of such multidimensional approach has contributed to the field of Information Systems (Nunamaker Jr. et al., 1990). At the same time, the topic of having a lean form of startup (chapter 2.3 Lean Startup) has been discussed in many other fields such as business, innovation, or entrepreneurship. To illustrate this, one could have a look at the example of the Harvard Business Review (Blank, 2013) or Leading Innovation Through Design (Mueller & Thoring, 2012).
To put it briefly, software startups are exposed to numerous influencing variables and face multiple factors that have led to a pivot – ranging from software product development to managerial reasons (Ries, 2011; Terho et al., 2015). This emphasizes the relevance of multiple fields, which is why the methodology to investigate the research question was not originated from only one field of study.
Research Approach and Design
In the following section, the authors reason for a strong tendency to a deductive research approach with the goal to add valuable insights. Nevertheless, this research exposes parts of an inductive approach, as well.
As already described, researchers have theoretically positioned themselves by discovering some pivoting factors – or stressing the importance of customer feedback. Thus, it has been possible to deduce first relevant results to answer the research question at hand (Bryman & Bell, 2015).
To organize the received qualitative data, the authors applied the conceptual framework presented in the 2.7 Conceptual Framework (Burnard et al., 2008). At the same time, this allowed splitting a hypothesis into multiple smaller ones. This defragmentation contributed to gain a greater understanding (Saunders et al., 2016).
Some authors, such as Unterkalmsteiner et al. (2016) or Paternoster et al. (2014), have pointed out, that research in the relevant field has been immature. According to Saunders et al. (2016), in such cases, an inductive approach is more adequate. These circumstances ignited the creation of an exploratory study as a crucial part of the research strategy. The overall goal has been to clarify where the nature of the problem lays. To do so, one of the suggestions made by Saunders et al. (2016) was, to collect qualitative data via past literature and interviews. The first has been presented in 2. Theoretical Framework, and, the second, will be stated in 4. Empirical Findings. The interviews were conducted with founders, co-founders or employees who have received in-depth insights into the product development of a software startup.
1.3. Purpose and Research Question
2. Theoretical Framework
2.1. Method of Literature Review
2.2. Customer Development Process
2.3. Lean Startup
2.4. Software Startup
2.6. Pivot Triggering Factors
2.7. Conceptual Framework
3.1. Research Philosophy
3.2. Research Approach and Design
3.3. Data Collection, Analysis, and Ethical Considerations
3.4. Critical Reflection on the Methodology
4. Empirical Findings
4.6. Anonymous Companies
5.7. Company B
8. Future Research
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The Influence of Customer Feedback on Software Startups