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The Operations & Technology Management PhD pathway

Introduction to Operations & Technology Management

The Operations & Technology Management (OTM) Group has a leading reputation in three areas, in which we recruit, train and place our PhD students: innovation management and new product development, healthcare operations, and managing risk, uncertainty & complexity We cover a broad range of methodological expertise which we apply in our research and in which we train our PhD students, including mathematical modelling, data analytics and econometrics, and behavioural laboratory and field experiments.

Watch Professor Stelios Kavadias talk about the Operations & Technology Management pathway:

Hi, I’m Stelios Kavadias. I’m the Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation and Growth here at Cambridge Judge Business School, and I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about our operations focus of the PhD programme here at Cambridge Judge Business School. A key question that many people have when they start contemplating going into a PhD programme is what’s really in it for them? What’s the idea behind the subject like operations?

Personally, obviously, I would say that the operations is one of the most exciting topics and subjects one could get involved in, simply because it captures the fact that you study how things are made, how things are happening within organisations, especially given the fact that you have to take into account processes, people, strategy, and make sure that all work in sync in order to get stuff done to make things happen, as we would say. We have chosen to make this a central theme within the Operations group here at Cambridge Judge Business School and primarily the work that our PhD students are working on these days with the faculty is focusing on getting relevant problems from actual organisations and trying, then, to obstruct them away into the true, fundamental, theoretical questions that we can source based on those problems.

Eventually, through a rigorous– extremely rigorous– analysis, we’re trying then to turn the answers that we get out of those problems, out of those research projects into insights– fundamental insights– for the organisations, which should be completing the cycle of knowledge creation. With respect to the subjects that we carry some, I would say, special expertise, or if you wish, a competitive advantage just to use a business language. With respect to other business schools, competing PhD programmes out there in the globe, we feel that the Operations group here at Cambridge Judge Business School has tremendous expertise on three key topics.

The first one is strategic management of projects, and this goes beyond the, let’s say, simple perspectives that have been developed over the years, the traditional perspectives that have been supported over the years in terms of project management and focusing a bit more on how risky complex innovation projects should be managed. That’s an open-ended question are there in the corporate business world, and we feel terribly excited by being able to work on certain projects related to that. The second topic relates to services.

One way or another, most of the economies are turning into primarily service economies, especially in the Western world, and services being slightly more complex than the traditional production processes make it extremely hard to deliver and eventually create value for the organisation. So how can we actually take this complex phenomenon that’s called services, which implies corporate using results together with customers, with stakeholders, and so on and so forth and manage it effectively by increasing the bottom line. That’s an open-ended question, and again, one of our perspectives is being deeply involved with certain organisations– service organisations– be it in the financial sector, be it in the health care sector, and trying to drive as much new insights and knowledge creation as possible.

Another topic which is extremely interesting and very important for many of the organisations that we interact with in the globe, I would say, is the issue of decision making and senior management decision making. So how are decisions happening in groups? How are the processes that governed those decisions? How much are those decisions akin to the traditional, let’s say, rational optimisation perspective that the economics tradition have created, and how much do they happen to be influenced by behavioural aspects by psychological effects and conditions that the decision makers are subject to? That’s an open-ended question as well, and this is yet another topic and a domain, where we see quite some tremendous growth in terms of the potential for knowledge creation and there resides enough expertise within the Operations group here at Cambridge Judge Business School in terms of actual research outcomes.

If I would have to summarise the key strengths, I would say, of the PhD programme, I would put it in terms of three Rs just to make it as corporate as possible. It’s relevance, because we want to be working and deeply engaging with organisations; it’s rigour, because we want to be making statements that are supported in hard facts and they have gone through the scrutiny of theoretical analysis; and it’s results. Creating eventually the impact that the organisations can take back and improve their operations or push their understanding and thinking of what they do even more profoundly, which will lead to additional research eventually, but with this, at least it’s happening in a way that is systematic, and it helps them increase their bottom line.

Essential reading

The Operations & Technology Management PhD pathway

Download detailed information about the nine-month + four-year programme structure & content.

To start on the Operations & Technology Management pathway you must take one of the following nine-month masters programmes:

Research areas

A company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for ‘getting things done’ – for organising the firm’s people and resources to achieve organisational goals. Firms that excel at getting desirable things done quickly, efficiently and effectively, while responding to developing technology, changing customer needs and shifts in the competitive and regulatory landscape take a leading position in their industry. 

To achieve operational excellence, companies need reliable internal processes, they need partners and they need to generate and leverage good ideas. These fundamental and interrelated building blocks of the field are also called process management, supply chain management and innovation management. In a nutshell, the academic discipline Operations and Technology Management (OTM) is concerned with the study of the fundamental principles that underlie the effective and efficient design and management of organisational processes, reliable partnerships and intra- and inter-organisational innovation capabilities. 

The field is diverse and inherently multi-disciplinary, drawing on and applying fundamental insights from economics, industrial engineering, psychology and human behaviour. In addition, OTM requires a solid understanding of other organisational functions, especially strategy, marketing and some aspects of finance.

Within the wider academic OTM community, CJBS has a leading reputation in three areas, in which we recruit, train and place our PhD students: 

  • innovation management and new product development
  • healthcare operations,
  • managing risk, uncertainty and complexity

The faculty in the OTM subject group cover a broad range of methodological expertise which they apply in their research and in which they train their PhD students, including mathematical modelling, data analytics and econometrics, and behavioural laboratory and field experiments. 

All faculty members in the OTM subject group are committed to rigorous and impactful research. As an integral part of their research, our faculty members and PhD students leverage long-standing relationships with other research groups at Cambridge Judge Business School and the wider university, with academic partners and PhD students at other universities around the world, as well as with a wide range of organisations in the private and public sectors, with a strong focus on the healthcare, life sciences, insurance and financial services industries. You can find more information on the research in the group on the faculty webpages of the Operations & Technology Management subject group.

What you can expect from the PhD pathway in Operations & Technology Management

During your PhD you will build personal and academic relationships with faculty and fellow PhD students that will last a lifetime. To begin with, the term PhD students is a misnomer. We do not regard you as a student but as a junior colleague – you will be an apprentice in the best sense of the word. A group of OTM faculty (your advisory team) will work with you and train you to become an independent researcher with an exciting research programme and a developing portfolio of academic papers that will help you succeed in the job market and gain a junior faculty position in a leading business school after your PhD. 

You will take a series of courses focused on research methodology and the foundations of the discipline as well as more advanced research seminars, where you will learn to critique recent publications and current working papers. This will enable you to shape and position your own work as a significant contribution to the academic literature. This coursework component will be complemented with practical research training, where you will develop and execute research projects jointly with faculty members. 

We will work with you to develop a coherent and innovative research programme that will form the basis for an interesting and influential academic career. While we expect you to engage with rigorous methods and theoretical arguments at the highest level, we are not interested in ivory tower research but instead expect your research programme to address highly relevant real-world problems and societal challenges. To this end, we will help you engage with organisations directly, for example through summer internships, or by accompanying one of your advisors in their partner organisations. This engagement can lead to teaching case studies on a phenomenon of interest, which open the door to more focused and in-depth academic research and may give you access to unique data, helping you shed new light on ongoing academic debates while, at the same time, gaining a deep understanding of the practical context and relevance of your academic work.

What we expect from our PhD students

We expect applicants to show a high level of commitment to an academic career in a business school as well as the desire to engage with external organisations. You will need to have a bachelors degree from a highly regarded university and have performed within the top five per cent of your class. A masters degree is welcome but not essential. Please see the MPhil in Strategy, Marketing & Operations or Master of Research (MRes) academic requirements for more detail. Most of our students have first degrees in economics, engineering, the sciences or other quantitatively orientated subjects.

We will need to see evidence of excellent writing skills and strong evidence of your quantitative ability, either through results in statistics and calculus courses at university level or through GRE results.

We very much welcome a few years of practical experience following your first degree.

You will be allocated a principal supervisor within your pathway. A senior academic, often a Professor or Associate Professor, they will guide you through the programme, help you to succeed in the job market and assist you in gaining a faculty position at a leading business school. Your principal supervisor will take an active role in your research programme. During the PhD, they will assemble a group of faculty (your advisory committee), and members of this team will co-author papers with you.

For this pathway, view the research interests of these faculty that may serve as principal supervisor:

Feryal Erhun.

Professor Feryal Erhun

Feryal Erhun uses a synthesis of theory and practice-based research, her research focuses on (1) characterising, quantifying and eliminating system-wide inefficiencies in complex systems, such as supply networks and health care delivery, and (2) understanding the challenges of integration and strategic interactions between stakeholders in such complex systems. She holds honorary appointments with Cambridge University Hospitals and Papworth Hospital (the UK’s largest cardiothoracic hospital).

Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat.

Dr Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat

Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat researches the decision processes through which firms can effectively implement their innovation strategy. In particular, the effect that i) resource allocation, ii) organisational structure, and iii) explicit and implicit incentive mechanisms have on a firm’s ability to generate ideas, select initiatives, and execute these initiatives.

Houyuan Jiang.

Professor Houyuan Jiang

Houyuan Jiang researches healthcare operations management, supply chain management and revenue management, for which he builds mathematical models, uncovers managerial insights, and develops computational methods. For healthcare operations management, at the strategic level, he is interested in designing appropriate contracts among healthcare payers and providers who interact, collaborate and compete vertically and horizontally. At the operational level, he is keen to design and analyse systems and processes that can efficiently utilise limited resources such as hospital beds and healthcare professionals.

Stelios Kavadias.

Professor Stelios Kavadias

Stelios Kavadias researches the effectiveness of new product development (NPD) decisions with a particular focus on the decisions that concern: (i) the strategy implementation through the appropriate resource allocation rules and the definition of the “right” portfolio of new projects and products; (ii) the R&D ideation, search and experimentation process both at a firm level and the project team level; (iii) the effects of the organisational design and the associated incentive schemes on the product development outcome. At a broader level, seeking to understand the challenges that arise during the planning and execution phases of the innovation process, always with an operational/managerial perspective.

Christoph Loch.

Professor Christoph Loch

Christoph Loch researches how organisations make innovation happen; this includes innovation in products as well as processes and practices, and it focuses on what happens on the ground rather than just strategising at an aggregate level. The topic is interdisciplinary and stretches from project management and processes (operations), to strategic portfolios and strategy deployment (strategy), to organisational structures and cultural habits (sociology), and to the motivation of educated and autonomous personnel (psychology).

Nektarios (Aris) Oraiopoulos.

Professor Nektarios (Aris) Oraiopoulos

Aris Oraiopoulos researches our understanding of how firms can improve their new product development processes from the creation of new opportunities to the selection process and development. Technology and R&D management, particularly from the perspective of learning through collaborative agreements and joint development.

Daniel Ralph.

Professor Daniel Ralph

Danny Ralph researches risk in business decision making; risk aversion in electricity markets; methods and models for optimisation problems and equilibrium systems.

Kishore Sengupta.

Professor Kishore Sengupta

Kishore Sengupta researches project management; knowledge management; business value of technology.

Stefan Scholtes.

Professor Stefan Scholtes

Stefan Scholtes researches the challenges of organising high-quality and affordable healthcare services, with specific interests in (i) integration challenges in regional health economies, (ii) organisational design and management of hospitals and hospital systems, and (iii) predictive analytics for performance evaluation and comparison, based on routinely collected large datasets. His research is strongly practice-based and builds on long-term relationships with organisations in the local health economy, in particular with Cambridge University Hospitals and Papworth Hospital (the UK’s largest cardiothoracic hospital), where he holds honorary appointments.

Niyazi Taneri.

Dr Niyazi Taneri

Niyazi Taneri uses empirical and game-theoretic models to address two research streams: (i) product and business model innovation – where his research shows how firms should structure R&D, whether such theoretical predictions are followed in practice, and the consequences of deviating from theory; and, (ii) the impact of operations and technology on societal outcomes – where his research shows the critical role of operations on labour malpractice (e.g. child labour) and carbon emissions. Upcoming projects will also explore innovative contracts for R&D, the adoption of new business models, the value impacts of firms’ responses to cyber-attacks, and the effectiveness of police operations against drug trafficking.

Dr Benn Lawson and Dr Jane Davies supervise MPhil individual research projects and MPhil dissertations, and are available to join a PhD advisory team.

Learn more about the faculty that teach on this pathway