Service Science and Practice

Service Science and Practice

Adamantios Koumpis (ALTEC Information & Communication Systems S.A., Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-683-9.ch001
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Abstract

This introductory chapter aims to make clear the holistic nature of services to our lives linking the science part to the practice matters. Bringing examples for service successes and failures, this chapter shall help the reader position him or herself with the field under examination. We present and discuss the collaborative approach towards service design and the contextualisation of services as leverage for attaining competitive advantage. Critical factors are listed that concern relationship management in business service contexts and which are considered in terms of the collaboration dimension. The chapter closes with an examination of power dependencies and trust in collaborative service arrangements.
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Collaborative Versus Competitive Paradigm: Business Drivers And Theoretical Context For Collaborative Service Activities

The corporate community pursues collaboration in order to share risks, share costs, gain economies of scale, gain technical and market knowledge, conduct research and jointly develop standards. This implies that collaboration can also be seen as a strategy to improve the flexibility and responsiveness of organisations to emerging opportunities and that through collaborative relationships a company can absorb knowledge from partners and thus increase its organisational competencies.

Such a type of intelligent collaboration through the introduction of advanced service infrastructures for relationship management with suppliers, customers and partners in ways that add value to product and services is of extreme importance and should be regarded by companies and in general all types of organisations as a natural place for long-term investments even in periods of financial – and social structures and values – crises. Such organisational learning is concerned with all processes in the organisation that lead to the assimilation of new knowledge and its application to a service setting.

We all see that the standard model of innovation as a linear process, from research through to design, development and then manufacturing, is often now carried out concurrently and collaboratively through networks of organisations exchanging information through e-service technologies. Collaboration may also be tactical and may change with time and firms can adopt positions in networks, rather than ‘monogamous’ collaborations. There is one way, for example, to differentiate between value networks and dynamic markets where the former is characterised by a limited number of long term relationships while the latter involves many relationships over shorter time scales in order to maximise product, price or delivery configurations by selecting appropriate business partners.

One path to follow is to try find advice and recommendations or even guidelines to follow for collaborative service design and implementation projects to succeed. Such guidelines should include the need for all partners to perceive themselves to be benefiting from the collaboration and for a participative ethos with wide consultation among participants and within partner organisations. This emphasis on equal bargaining power, consultation and power sharing also needs to be supplemented with a learning and change orientation.

Trial and error learning appears to be a prominent feature of most collaborative projects involving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because many lack expertise in emergent technologies and their applications. However, trust, a common culture between participants and the stability of the participating organisations combined with their continuing commitment, plays an important part in the success of such collaborative projects.

In general it is easy to see that networks that turn their suppliers, subcontractors and even competitors into close collaborators share common characteristics, including successful uniform standards for exchange of information, rigorous performance standards, sharing of benefits with all partners, an on-line presence for all key business processes and the development and testing of new opportunities with network partners. and though no clear theory of collaboration has emerged (at least till now…), the theories and dominant themes identified with collaboration as approached by different schools of thought and researchers include several approaches which would not have been regarded as parts of the same Weltanschauung – at least in traditional non holistic terms – such as new institutional economics, strategic competitive analysis, innovation networks and organisational learning.

And though we have found no single theoretical perspective that provides the foundation for a general theory of collaboration there is plenty of room to suggest a range of theories that may fit together to form the basis of such a theory. For example, strategic management theory in relation to how partners regulate their behaviours for collective gains, economic theory concerned with overcoming impediments to efficiencies in transactions, political theory in terms of who has access to power and resources and also resource dependency theory concerned with circumstances under which stakeholders will adopt collaborative alliances are elements of such an approach that would aim to set the foundations for a new service science discipline.

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