by: Idris Mootee

There were lots of talks around Software as a Service and it is actually becoming part of a major transformation of the software industry, and yet many still don’t fully understand what it takes to capture these opportunities.

Service activities (both digital and non-digital) are essential for value creation not only in software-based businesses but also other industries, from Telco to Financial Services and Business Services. With IP Telephony going mainstream and further convergence of data and voice, this is happening fast. Every bite of data has the the potential of becoming part of the delivery of a service.

Service Design is still an emerging discipline that lacks common methodology, tools and definitions. In the face of Web 2.0 empowered customers and a push for transparency; companies are facing a crisis in customer interaction and relationship management. Service Design is part of front-office revolution as described by Rayport who authored the book “Best Face Forward”, Service Design is the core driver of any customer experiences.

The NY Times has an interview with a social psychologist Daniel Gilbert who talks about the difference between experiences and products (At Harvard, he is known as Professor Happiness). According to Gilber, "Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t." I think this is such an un-American or un-Canadian notion but it may be changing.

Service design is an emerging field that includes different design disciplines (graphic, product, information, interaction, brand, customer service, interior) working together to create the tangible and intangible artifacts of service…sort of Hotel School meets Design School. I don’t think Service Design belongs to traditional service design as in retail and hospitality industries, it goes beyond that. It is fair to say that “Service Design” is multi-disciplinary in nature. I don’t think it is like the service design as in retail or hospitality industries. I think it is more multi-disciplinary in nature. It is important to look at the boundaries of “Service Design” from the following lens:

The first lens is information design and visualization. Web 2.0 brings many interesting challenges to information design. Think about it, today many Web 2.0 services are based on participation and that usually comprises content created by these conversations and these conversations create content. These contents are part of service design and the community is in fact the service platform, not the technology.

The second lens is product design. Many of today’s products are either informational products or they are products that serve as nodes to a system. Industrial design uses a lot of artifacts and these artifacts start to develop context and consequences. How does these artifacts establish relationships among people within a virtual community? How do we use these artifacts to build on these conversations to create a service?

The third lens is business management. I am not sure where I am going on this one. Does good service design simply mean good common sense and good business design? I first came across “service management” during my Operations Management Courses taught by Kim Warren at London Business School, which focused a lot on operational design. I also remember sitting in Jeffrey Rayport’s “Service Management” classes at Harvard Business School, where he put a lot of focus in customer service design as part of marketing strategy. Both were drastically different from the “Service Design” we are talking here. Both put an emphasis on service redesign and closing the gap between the demand chain and the supply chain, examining the difference between a factory and a custom job shop. Should “Service Design” simply need to be a part of business? Should business strategy itself become just another kind of multi-disciplinary design activity?

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