Thursday, February 14, 2008

What is Service Science?

So, I’ve arrived here (at the University of Toronto) to embark on my scholarly and academic career. “So, what area are you in?” I’m asked. My first thought is, “I’m a computer scientist. I came from IBM. I’m interested in Service Science.” So, the next question is, “What’s Service Science?” Below I summarize what I think it is, why I’m interested, and briefly what (I think) I’m going to do next.

Service science (I am using this term – others may say “service science, management and engineering (SSME)” or simply “services”) is being called an emerging discipline. There is a big push in IBM and other companies to address this area and engage with academia to do so because the services sector (vs. manufacturing and agriculture) is the fastest growing segment of the economy in most if not all nations. Because of this significant economic shift and human labour migration, there is a claim that there is a need for organizations to be more systematic about services and services delivery; therefore, there is a need for research and innovation in services and for service science research and teaching programs to emerge (See Communications of the ACM July 2006 and IBM Systems Journal January 2008.

Programs are emerging in business schools, computer science and engineering schools, and through new multidisciplinary institutions. There are a host of others.

Establishing a research and teaching program in service science requires a multidisciplinary approach. It must combine knowledge about computing and technology with the social and cultural implications of how technology will be used in a specific business or societal service domain (or service system). I’m a computer scientist at heart and a proud member of the computer science community. I am very interested in how research advances in computer science can be made in order to impact something of importance (perhaps even change the world). I am fascinated by how these advances require understanding of and participation by people and society. Therefore, service science (as I understand it) is a very exciting area for me.

Most research to date has focused on service science with an underlying assumption that the service system or service is a business / profit service. Very broadly, I’m interested in service science in which the “business” domains are not-for-profit or community organizations. Most literature today assumes the services business is a profit-making entity. I will focus on the not-for-profit and community services organizations such as libraries, museums, healthcare facilities, etc. My initial investigations show that there are many interesting problems that come up in these contexts that are not prevalent in business environments.

So, that’s a start … within this framework, I’ve identified several interesting problems that I will blog about in future posts.

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