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Services Science

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IBM is pushing for creating a new academic discipline called Services science. For a company that gets most of its revenues from services business this is a logical step. For India which is currently riding the services boom, there is a need to look deeper into the service ecosystem.  What is fundamentally behind the current services boom and will this be sustained?July issue of the Communications of ACM (http://acm.org/cacm/toc/2006/july_toc.html – sadly magazine not online) is dedicated to this topic.  It makes a strong case for services science and the need to invest more in understanding the ecosystem of services and emerging service revolution.  I will try to express my key takeaways. 

In a increasingly global world, knowledge and ability to apply it is the fundamental differentiator. The knowledge to provide goods or services (without going into the syntax or semantics of what a service is) is being increasingly digitalized. If one considers the Industrial age, machines automated manual work leading to mass production be it of cars, consumer goods, in the current knowledge age the ability to provide services is being increasingly automated. Any new information available (be it a trade show, product offering, news…) is digitally available online in near real-time. IT innovations accelerated by the Internet era have made a whole new world of services possible.  While this on one hand has disrupted the old way of doing things on the other created whole new opportunities.  To take Internet banking for example – this has on one hand made branch offices redundant but on the other with online investing options created a market for whole new kind of investment banking services. This example can be seen across multiple service/manufacturing domains.  Even as the global supply chain for manufacturing goods become increasingly integrated it creates a need for new kind of procurement services – EBay and the many online marketplaces are good examples of what services science is about and why we need more academic understanding and service innovation into increasingly information driven economy. 

The ongoing innovations in mobile communications, VoIP, IPTV, RFID, Social networks, user generated content (ala Twiki)… is adding fuel to the fire.  What iPod/apple did with online music distribution is fundamentally redefine the music industry (off course Napster and co started this but apple took this to the next level).  The web2.0 applications (be it maps, news, photos,…) with its open api and service reuse ability make it possible to provide information in entirely new usage contexts (be it mobile blogging….). The increasing ‘Service orientation’ of applications will mean more semantically rich services will be available which can be used in innovate usage contexts. Expect the next killer apps to combine innovations in mobile/VoIP and IPTV.  This will for one accelerate the current rate of product innovation – thanks to leveraging the new services, be it taking real time end-user input (adaptive products if you like) or collaborative innovation.  On the other end ability like online gambling, massively interconnected online games, video chat,…. make time and place irrelevant on one hand and make it possible to create value using the ‘long tail’ for the other.  The new marketing mantra ‘do not sell more of less but sell less of more’ echo’s this.  In a globally connected world there are millions of micro markets which need to targeted in a focused way.  IT is here that the services science can help us to understand the ‘globally connected customer’ and help serve him better.  Its not about mass production (the Henry ford way!) its about mass customization on internet scale. As the emerging back office of the world we currently handle exception events in a automated service offering. As a service innovator we will need to create/define new services targeting the ‘long tail. Google with its ‘ad words’ concept shows how one can innovatively go after the long tail (advertisers in this case).

I personally think (as Bill Gates would say) the real service revolution has not arrived. The ‘flat world’ theory is ahead of its time but we are getting there and ‘Indian developer’ will do well to focus on the customer to reach the top of the economic summit.

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Written by srinivasreddy

September 12, 2006 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Technology

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