Service Science

Service Systems and Service Science

Services are a fundamental contribution to a modern economy. Services contribute over 70% of value-add to OECD economies [1]. These services are not only in the services sector, but also form a major part of the profitability of manufacturers and primary producers. For example, almost all of the growth in sales at IBM since 1992 is in sales of services rather than goods [2]. Further, services are a major contributor to labour productivity. In Australia, the contribution of services to labour productivity is more than the contribution of capital [1].

Research into service management has been carried out for over 20 years [3], however it is relatively recently that a cross-disciplinary approach called Services Sciences (also dubbed Services Sciences, Management and Engineering (SSME) by IBM) has emerged as a distinct academic discipline [4]. This approach highlights the philosophy that services must be considered from many viewpoints, including engineering, business and human factors.

Service systems are value-co-creation configurations of people, technology, value propositions connecting internal and external service systems, and shared information (e.g., language, laws, measures, and methods). Service Science is the study of service systems, aiming to create a basis for systematic service innovation. Service science combines organization and human understanding with business and technological understanding to categorize and explain the many types of service systems that exist as well as how service systems interact and evolve to co-create value [4].

This definitions highlights many of the key concepts that form the basis of this research – benefit or value, work (or activities), person / group / organisation, connection / interaction / shared information, innovation and evolution, human understanding, business, technology, categorisation, interaction.

This definition also highlights this researcher’s belief that the research topic for information systems is work systems rather than IT systems, after [5], and that the key driver for services research is how services, service systems and resources can be combined to best create value-in-use, that is value as realised by the consumer.

Services science is widely seen as being cross discipline, but the specific disciplines are often expressed differently. Abe [2] includes information technology, management and behavioural sciences. Chesbrough & Spohrer [6] describes the disciplines as management, engineering and computer science. Paulson [7] stresses the combination of technology and understanding of human behaviour. Lusch & Vargo [8] would see the major contribution from marketing being Service-Dominant logic, or the change of business operations focus from transactional interactions with customers for tangible goods, to co-production of value with customers of intangible services. As Lusch, Vargo & Wessels [9], they go on to highlight service delivery as involving dynamic resources (knowledge and skills), rather than static resources (such as natural resources).

There is a need to look to synthesise ideas in disciplines more commonly divided into separate streams of research – business, engineering, science, psychology, law and information technology. This synthesis is a reflection of the challenge of creating and delivering services – combining resources from multiple cultures to deliver value.

Related Material

1. Queensland Government 2007, 'What Are Services?' viewed 2-May-2008 (
2. Abe, T. 2006, 'The development of service science', Japanese Economy, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 55-74.
3. Spohrer, J. & Riecken, D. 2006, 'Services science', Communications of the ACM, vol. 49, no. 7, pp. 30-32.
4. Maglio, P.P. & Spohrer, J. 2007, 'Fundamentals of service science', Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 18-20.
5. Alter, S. 2003, '18 reasons why IT reliant work systems should replace "The IT arctifact"as the core subject matter of the IS field', Communications of the Association for Information Systems, vol. 12, pp. 365-394.
6. Chesbrough, H. & Spohrer, J. 2006, 'A research manifesto for services science', Communications of the ACM, vol. 49, no. 7 (July 2006), pp. 35-40.
7. Paulson, L.D. 2006, 'Services science: A new field for today's economy', Computer, vol. 39, no. 8, pp. 18-21.
8. Lusch, R.F. & Vargo, S.L. 2006, 'The Service-Dominant Mindset', (
9. Lusch, R.F., Vargo, S.L. & Wessels, G. 2008, 'Toward a conceptual foundation for service science: Contributions from service-dominant logic', IBM Systems Journal, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 5-14.
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