have also developed the capability to integrate a competitor's equipment if this is requested by their customers. An involvement in technology development enables these firms to benefit from dynamic feedback loops so that knowledge of operational performance can be used to make technical improvements in current and future product generations.
On the other hand, starting from a base in services, WS Atkins and C&W have recently strengthened their systems integration capabilities to provide their customers with optimal solutions using equipment supplied by external manufacturers. Unlike Alstom and Ericsson, however, these service providers rely on external manufacturers to initiate improvements to products and technologies. Whereas C&W offers solutions to one customer segment—business users—within a single industry, WS Atkins is developing solutions for similar types of customers operating in many industries.
As the chapter is based on a limited sample of case study firms, it is not feasible to speculate on whether the trend towards integrated solutions is reflected in a wider change in CoPS industries. The misfortunes of firms moving into services and integrated solutions provision over the past couple of years raises some doubts about whether firms will continue to venture down this road. For example, recent accounts in the business press describe the problems integrated-solutions pioneers like IBM are currently experiencing with their service divisions and the difficulties service support firms like WS Atkins, Serco, and others are having in making money from PFI and PPP contracts. In response to this less favourable environment, firms that have recently moved into solutions provision may revise their strategies or even consider retreating back to their original centre-of-gravity positions in manufacturing or services.
Thanks to Mike Hobday, Andrea prencipe, Ammon Salter, David Gann, Paul Nightingale, and Willem Hulsink for useful comments.