Research Question

Proposed research question:

Do Service Systems exist as Modules within an Organisation?


One definition of service system is "A group of interacting, interrelating, or interdependent components that form a unified whole, operating together to deliver a service." [adapted from 1]

The definition as "unified whole" almost implies modularity, but is this true in practice?

If service systems exist as modules, their structure is self-reinforcing, and so effort in delivering services can focus on making services work better and co-ordinate better between service system modules. A service architecture will be a valid module architecture, and can seperate the interactions between service system modules from the activities within the modules. However, if service systems are not modules are if modules are only poorly defined, effort may need to create modularity aligned to service systems boundaries, or service system approach may be impossible to actually deliver.

Unit of Analysis

The research question has "Service Systems" as the unit of analysis. Context is within an organisation (rather than between organisations).


The first steps are to:

  • identify services
  • identify components which operate together to deliver that service (i.e. question of boundary)
  • identify how they interact, are interrelated and/or are interdependent

Need to define the characteristics of a "module", and specify a method for detecting if the service system boundary corresponds to a module boundary. Suggest a "module" has an identity, and activities which are intended to create the boundary between "self" and "non-self". Suggest organisational units are only approximately module boundaries, and exceptions and overlaps are common.

If modules exist, under the System Science models, modules will not be exclusive - resources (particularly people) exist as part of more than one module. This would weaken modules (compared to strict excusion) but does not invalidate module structure. In fact, part of the model is that people, rather than information, are the most important interfaces between modules.

  • identify activities which re-inforce the boundary of "self".

Note: This research takes a critical reaslism philosophical stance.

1. van Bon, J., de Jong, A., Kolthof, A., Peieper, M., Tjassing, R., van der Veen, A. & Verheijen, T. 2008, Service Strategy based on ITIL v3 - A Management Guide, Van Haren.
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