E-Service, Innovation, and Scope
In this chapter the word “service” is understood in three different meanings as (1) facility supplying some public demand, (2) the process of producing an intangible commodity, and (3) an administrative division in an organization. The case thus discusses the planning, implementation, organizational integration, and wider perspectives of a number of information and communication technologies (ICT) designed for facilitating work processes. These work processes may be distinguished according to purpose into: administration, communication, education, and integration.
The prefixed “e” specifies that a service is mediated in a particular way (electronically). The fact that “new media” are involved implicitly suggests that the service represents something new in terms of quality and maybe even in nature. “e”-ing a service means introducing technological innovations. An innovation may either remediate existing practice or enable an entirely new activity. Either way, the innovation—e-service, in the present context—is not guaranteed to “supply a demand” both from the point of view of management and from that of the employees.
A notable aspect of the Roskilde University case, however, is that by and large adoption of e-services has been voluntary. Thus, in this instance, one may expect a close correlation between the adoption of an e-service and its perceived usefulness. Therefore, the case would seem suitable for considering not just how, but also why innovations are adopted. To help bring out this aspect, the discussion of the various examples on the following pages will draw on the so-called perceived attributes of innovations. These five qualities have been identified as the key characteristics when it comes to explaining the rate of adoption of innovations (Rogers, 2003). Rephrasing Rogers slightly, to be adopted an innovation has to represent a relative advantage (be perceived to be an improvement), has to be compatible with the experience, values, and needs of the users, has to decrease rather than increase complexity, has to be clearly visible (offer “observability,” in Roger’s terminology) and to be available for trying out (afford trialability).
Faculty, students, administrators, government, suppliers, and the general public all are target groups for university e-services. Some of these groups use the same e-services, maybe in different roles. Other services are specific to just one group. In the present context we will focus on intramural e-services, excluding, for example, electronic invoicing and general information Web sites. We will also exclude from our discussion general management tools such as finance and human resource systems that are operated only by specialists in the central university administration, and where the service consists only in automation of routines (e.g., payment of salaries) or easier access to information (e.g. statistics on sick-days, or number of holidays spent).