Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Challenges for Service Science

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Challenges for Service Science

Article excerpt


Service science is still in a formative stage, with many basic ideas still in flux and significant disagreements about definitions and implications of basic concepts. This paper suggests directions for progress in relation to eight problematic areas within service science. It uses five typical medical services to question typical definitions of service and service system. It suggests that service science should not privilege servitizing over productizing; that a series of design dimensions whose endpoints are often associated with products or with services are more useful than yes/no distinctions between products and services; that the concept of "the customer" should be replaced with clearer identification of different groups and types of customers; that value co-production by customers and co-creation by providers are optional characteristics of services; that assumptions about the importance of the intentions and variability of service system participants should be clarified; and that better balance between analytical rigor and the spirit of service is often needed. As a starting point for addressing these challenges, the concluding section identifies premises underlying an integrated view of service marketing, service operations, and service computing.

Keywords: service science, definition of service, service system, dimensions of service, productization, servitization, coproduction of value, co-creation of value


Although it is less than ten years old, service science has already become the focus of substantial research and attention. The research and attention is deserved because of the continually increasing economic significance of services. In its current state, however, there is little clarity about what service science is about. Consider, for example, the joint sense of the following three quotations, and their joint implications for service science.

In order to differentiate from competitors, those organizations frequently expand their offerings (Becker and Krcmar 2008; Böhmann et al. 2008). ... product-oriented organizations follow the notion of servitization and develop and market product-related services (Vandermerwe and Rada 1988), while service-oriented organizations apply the idea of productization to include products in their services or market services as products (Baines et al. 2007).

Herzfeldt et al. 2010

The servitization of processes, architectures and technologies (e.g. service-oriented organizations, service-oriented architectures, service-oriented computing and service-oriented infrastructures) have evolved as a new paradigm for enterprise systems development, supporting intra-enterprise and inter-enterprise collaboration through access to autonomous, implementation-independent interfaces to data, software and infrastructure services.

Demirkan and Spohrer 2010

Services account for 75% of the U.S. gross domestic product (Pal and Zimmerie 2005) and 80% of private sector employment in the U.S. (Karmarkar 2004).

Demirkan and Spohrer 2010

According to these quotations, product firms can servitize their offerings, service firms can productize their offerings, and 75 percent of U.S. GDP is in services. Across both product firms and service firms, it is possible to servitize processes, architectures, and technologies through service orientation. In combination, the above quotations and other parts of the service science literature, such as IfM and IBM (2008), seem to say that service science is a general umbrella that covers:

* things ranging from totally automated computer-to-computer interactions (e.g., client/server computing and service-oriented architectures) to personal services produced by providers for customers through direct person-to-person interaction (e.g., tutoring and physical therapy)

* things ranging from locally situated service activities (queuing systems in banks and grocery stores) through gigantic service systems such as entire governments, water and electricity systems, international monetary systems, and systems for policing large populations

* things ranging from the classification of industrial enterprises (as service, industrial, or agricultural) through the operational details of specific service systems within organizations that produce services and/or industrial or agricultural products

During its infancy as a new discipline, there is nothing wrong with treating service science as an umbrella term encompassing everything that has the term service in its name. …

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