Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recent Personal Observations about a Specific Service System

Several years ago, when I was working at IBM, I enjoyed a video of Linda Sanford (IBM Senior VP – at the time she was the most senior woman VP at IBM and perhaps she still is) talking about turning enterprises on their sides (transforming enterprises). She is responsible for IBMs internal transformation. Her talk was actually about SSME (Service Science, Management, and Engineering), innovation and IBM’s jams and ThinkPlace (an interesting idea-generation collaborative tool through which I participated but which is now “retired”) but one of the points she made was about moving from a view of functional units within an enterprise to a client-view across an enterprise. The example she gave was banks. Banks have silo’d functions (mortgage, investment, chequing accounts, etc.) that work very well but clients want a view that cuts across the bank horizontally. The business processes are set up vertically within the functional units or silos instead of horizontally across all service offerings of the bank.

The bank example clicked with me and, not long ago, I experienced this silo perspective first hand. I withdrew money from an ATM which was inside my bank branch. The money came out but was short by $20. I walked no more than 5 metres to the customer service desk (did I mention this was my bank branch?) and explained what happened. I was told that the ATMs were a on different system and the person at the service desk couldn’t give me the $20 but would notify the ATM part of the bank about what had happened and the ATM part of the bank would contact me after they had reviewed the money-in / money-out of the ATM in question. From a customer perspective, this is a tad messed up. The bank service system should be one service system that allows me to withdraw the correct amount of money regardless of the channel I’m using (teller, ATM, Internet, etc.).

I recently encountered another more complex example. Before I start, I should say that this isn’t a rant but an observation (as a service science researcher) that there continues to be opportunities for fairly basic innovation in service systems. In December, I had surgery to replace a torn tendon in my ankle which involved breaking my heel and repositioning it with screws. This procedure required and will continue to require several service interactions with medical professionals and medical facilities (service systems). I had MRIs in the MRI section of the hospital and the way in which my surgeon is notified that I’ve had the MRI is by my calling his admin office to let him know. I also have appointments with my surgeon in his Orthopedic office in the hospital. I interface with his Orthopedic office through his assistant (via the phone) for surgery date information and follow up appointments in his Orthopedic office. I had a pre-op appointment with another unit in the hospital (the pre-op unit). They weren’t sure exactly what kind of surgery I was having done and had trouble reading my surgeon’s writing (on the paper requisition form). After the surgery, while my bone is still healing, I have a couple of visits with my surgeon in the Fracture Clinic part of the hospital. To set up and confirm appointments in the Fracture Clinic, I must speak with the Fracture Clinic appointment desk (which is not connected with his Orthopedic office). In another week or two, I will require physio-therapy in another medical facility (maybe also at the hospital, maybe somewhere else) but I don’t know yet because that information is not available anywhere.

From my perspective, I would like to interact with an “ankle surgery” service system that cuts across the different functional units in the hospital. Instead I have had to learn about the different individual functional units (service systems) and how they interconnect and work together. In some cases, they don’t. In order to change my appointment date with my surgeon (in the Fracture Clinic), I have to phone the Fracture Clinic unit instead of his Orthopedic office.

And speaking of phoning, it would be wonderful to be able to interact with the ankle surgery service system through channels that are more intuitive and convenient (such as booking appointments via the web or email, getting general surgical information online instead of on a paper pamphlet which I’ve already lost, etc.). Perhaps that’s a topic for a future blog post.

I want to restate that I’m not meaning this to be a rant. I couldn’t be happier with the quality of care I’ve received and the tremendous skill and talent of everyone I’ve encountered (especially my surgeon). This is simply an observation that there continues to be room for seemingly simple innovations and implementations within common and important (even critical) service systems.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Honour of Ada Lovelace Day -- A Technical Woman I Admire

It is Ada Lovelace Day so I'm blogging about a technical woman I admire. First, there are many technical women I admire: some are my students, my University of Toronto Computer Science colleagues, my former classmates and professors (at Queen's University), my former IBM colleagues, my mentors, my ACM-W colleagues ... you know who you are :-)

I have been fortunate to be part of a strong network of very smart, technical women -- even though we are smaller in proportion within the technical community, we are large in our voices, our contributions, and our support for one another.

I have decided to blog about one person I admire because she has been particularly supportive and helpful for me in my transition from industry to academia. That person is Eleni Stroulia at the University of Alberta. I admire many things about Eleni and have been striving to learn from her and emulate her as an academic. I admire the kind of supervisor and mentor she is to her students. Check out the advice document she prepared for her graduate students. I admire her many accomplishments and successful grant applications. I admire the tremendous amount of service she provides to the computer science community in Canada and around the world. I admire her professionalism and ability in building relationships with industry partners. I very much enjoyed working with her in that capacity when I was at IBM CAS. I admire her breadth of research and her ability and desire to build research collaborations across disciplines. I admire her sense of humour and love listening to her stories. Finally, I admire her as a person, a parent, a friend .. and, even though she is younger than I am, I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Thank you to the organizers of Ada Lovelace Day for reminding us to think about and be thankful for the incredible technical women that have inspired us in our careers and our lives.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


CASCON is one of my favourite annual events. I've been to every one! There are so many smart people here to interact with and learn from. The workshops are fantastic! Monday, I attended the Development Intelligence workshop which is of great interest to me, particularly how the connections among people in development projects can help improve productivity and work for software developers.

I'm impressed with the Twitter and Facebook discussion about CASCON. I just found out via Twitter that the high school where my sister teaches is sending a team to the High School Programming Contest at CASCON! I recommend following CASon Twitter.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Social Event for KLAAG!!

One of the best parts of my job as a faculty member is interacting and engaging with students. This year, there are a large number of Masters of Information students who have been assigned to me as their advisor. It is difficult at the best of times to provide hands-on one-on-one advice to students and when there are so many, it becomes very hard to schedule. I have tried to meet with these students in groups partly because of the time issue but also because I am a firm believer in peer mentoring and network building. I benefited from peer mentoring in my many years at IBM and I also set up time for the people I mentored to get together in groups once in a while so they could get to know each other. I also believe that one of the most important aspects of graduate school is building a network of people who will become friends and long-time colleagues.

Recently, one of the students in my group of advisees, Jackie Michalchuk, organized a potluck dinner and games night for our group. She even gave us a name: KLAAG: Kelly Lyons’ Academic Advisees Group. We had delicious food, got to know more about each other in an informal setting, and had fun! I applaud the efforts of Jackie and the group of students who came out, participated, and had fun! I am looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Advice for in-coming Masters Students

Each incoming student in the Faculty of Information is assigned to a faculty advisor before they arrive. Last year, I prepared an "advice" document to share with each of the students who were assigned to me. I also shared it with some of my colleagues. Admissions Officer Laura Jantek suggested that I write a blog post with my advice so here it is!

Embarking on a Masters program is an exciting opportunity for life-long learning and professional and personal development. As a faculty member, I am looking forward to working with you to help fulfill your personal goals in this journey. We are here to provide advice and guidance but ultimately you are responsible for your success and attainment of your goals. You will be faced with several decisions during your program and your advisor may be able to help you learn how to think through the various choices and learn from making those decisions.

If you haven’t already done this, it is important for you to understand what motivates you. Take some time to explicitly articulate your personal and professional goals within this program. Doing this will help guide your decisions and the choices you make. Think about the following:
  • Why you are here in the program
  • What you hope to learn and accomplish
  • What kinds of situations make you feel satisfied, frustrated, anxious, proud
  • What are your preferred learning styles
  • What are your short-term goals
  • What are your long-term goals and aspirations
  • What are your areas of strength and where you wish to gain experience
  • How you define success

There are resources available to you to help you learn these things about yourself:
  • There is a temperament study you can do (the basic one is free).
  • There is a portfolio requirement for the Masters of Library and Information Science program at the University of Washington. The requirements of their portfolio program might be a good guide for you in determining your areas of strength and areas where you wish to gain experience.
  • Your friends and family.
If you feel comfortable, share your goals and motivations with your advisor so he/she can help you achieve them during your time in the Faculty of Information. You may wish to keep a journal where you can keep track of different situations and experiences, what you did, and how things worked out. A word document, a blog, or locally-kept html document would work well.

There are many ways your advisor can provide advice throughout your time in the Faculty of Information. Here are some examples but there may be others that will be useful to you:
  • Helping you reach decisions by listening to alternatives you’ve identified
  • Broadening your network of people and organizations by introducing you to people and groups
  • Sharing their experiences from their own work/academic life
  • Helping you balance your school with the rest of your life activities (‘work/life balance’) by sharing strategies learned over the years
  • Identifying opportunities for career development, leadership, projects outside your class work that will help you achieve your goals
  • Providing advice for job interviews and finding a job
Think about where you would like your advisor to help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself. In general, as an advisor, I expect students to investigate issues and think about them before coming to me. Bring me various alternatives that you have discovered yourself and then ask for advice and guidance on the different alternatives.

There are many questions and issues you will come across where your advisor will not be able to help directly. For example, we will not help you complete assignments for your classes and will not intervene between you and your class instructors. In those cases, your advisor can provide general advice and strategies that will help you manage the issues yourself. And remember, advisors will not have all the answers!

Finally, each of us advise many students, teach courses, conduct research, and participate in conferences, etc. And you are also busy. Time is critical for all of us—so make (and keep) appointments with your advisor, decide on the best ways of communicating and meeting, and come prepared for your discussion in order to make the best of our time together.

We all look forward to getting to know you and sharing in your graduate school success!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Plans: Research Project 1

For an academic, summer really starts when the marks are all submitted after the end of classes. So, my summer has already started. In fact I’m two months in (almost half-way). This is not a comforting thought. There was (is) so much I want to (need to) do this summer.

I started by (finally) writing up the service science research landscape I blogged about last year. It has been submitted as a book chapter to the theme: “Service Systems Implementation”, a Volume in “Service Science: Research and Innovations (SSRI) in the Service Economy” Book Series, Springer.

I’m also working on three fun research projects with smart people this summer. I will briefly introduce each of them in the next few posts.

The first is a project on the decision-making needs of future knowledge-workers. I’m working with PhD student John Peco in the Faculty of Information who is studying how young people use social networking sites and other online tools to help them engage with information and people for decision-making. A survey will be out soon to help us learn more. I'm also working with soon-to-be masters student in Computer Science, Fan Dong, who is looking into collaborative decision making in cross-site software engineering groups. Fan is conducting a literature review looking at research into what are key decisions that are made in software engineering, how those decisions are made (in what ways using what methods), when various decisions are made (at what stages of software engineering), with whom (when / why do they engage with others) and using which tools or models.

Fan and I are also compiling a list of the kinds of decisions that are made during a software development effort, whether during design and requirements gathering, coding, testing, release planning, deployment, configuration, maintenance, etc.

So, my question to all the software people out there is:

What are some of the decisions you make (or made) in your software development work?

Please respond as comments to this post or to me directly and I’ll summarize and post back.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Teaching Introduction to Service Science

I really should be given a “bad blogger” award. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t deserve to be referred to as a “blogger” at all. I haven’t posted in a while. I have, on the other hand, composed many blog posts. I do it all the time while: standing waiting for a bus, riding the subway, swimming lengths, and while trying to concentrate on my breath as I lie in savasana. These in-my-head posts rarely receive comments.

I have a lot to blog about. I’m teaching FIS2306 Introduction to Service Science again this year. I’m enjoying it even more this time around. I have 14 students and each bring very different backgrounds and insights into the discussion. They are currently working on their first assignment (or will be soon). They have been asked to select a service system and analyze it according to various criteria and definitions presented in some of the papers we’ve read (see below). I think it is a fun exercise and would like to go through it for several different diverse kinds of service systems. In cases where they feel that the terms or concepts asked for in the analysis do not fit their chosen service system or some aspects of their service system, I’ve asked them to discuss why that is the case and provide supporting examples to argue their points. At the end, I ask them to summarize by discussing how well the analysis fit or did not fit their service system.

I include the assignment information here. If anyone reading would like to analyze a service system in this way and post it here, I promise not to grade it, but I will enjoy reading it!

1. Give a brief overview of your service system. Provide the type or class of service systems to which your service system belongs.

2. Describe and discuss your service system in terms of the following definition from [1]:
... we define a service system as a dynamic value co-creation configuration of resources, including people, organizations, shared information (language, laws, measures, methods), and technology, all connected internally and externally to other service systems by value propositions.

Consider all aspects of this definition giving examples from your service system for each concept included in the definition. Discuss how well the definition fits with your specific service system and identify any relevant concepts in your service system that may not be included in this definition.

3. Given one of the points of view (or perspectives) in your service system, identify 5 resources. Discuss whether they are operand or operant resources and why. For each resource, determine if they are conceptual or physical, have legal rights or are treated as property.

4. Discuss the notion of value in your service system. Consider how value is judged in your service system and the possible frames of reference for judging that value.

5. Identify and describe 2 key service processes* in your service system and discuss why you feel those are key processes.

Consider the primary service processes* in your service system:

1. Select one service process in your service system and describe it briefly. Then, for that service process:
  • Identify the client (customer) of the chosen service process based on the definition in [2]: “the individual or entities who determine whether or not the service provided shall be compensated for production”. Discuss any assumptions you made about the term “compensation”. If applicable, differentiate between direct and indirect customers as defined in [2].
  • Given the 3 general kinds of customer inputs from [2] (customer self-inputs, tangible belongings, customer-provided information), which does the client (customer) in your chosen service process provide to the service process? (Give examples)
2. In [2], five “supposed” characteristics of services are given: heterogeneity, simultaneity, perishability, intangibility, and customer participation. Choose two of these and discuss one or more service processes in your service system in the context of these characteristics. Discuss how these two characteristics might (or might not) be “symptoms” of the customer inputs in your service processes.

3. Consider the definition of service interactions in [1]:
Value co-creation interactions between service systems are termed service interactions. Each service system engages in three main activities that make up as service interaction: (1) proposing a value co-creation interaction to another service system (proposal), (2) agreeing to a proposal (agreement), and (3) realizing the proposal (realization). ...

Discuss and compare service interactions and non-service interactions in your service system. Consider how you define value co-creation and the three activities that make up a service interaction given in [1].

4. Consider the ISPAR model of service system interactions presented in [1]. Select two interactions in your service system and discuss two possible outcomes for each as defined in the ISPAR model.

5. Identify a high-intensity service process in your service system as defined by the amount of information exchanged [3]. Discuss why you feel the information exchanged makes it a high-intensity process in your service system.

*The term “process” is used in [2] but you can consider this to be similar to “interactions” in [1] and “encounters” or “experiences” in [3].

[1] Jim Spohrer, Stephen L. Vargo, Nathan Caswell, Paul P. Maglio, “The Service System is the Basic Abstraction of Service Science”, Proceedings of the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2008, 10 pages
[2] Scott E. Sampson, Craig M. Froehle, “Foundations and Implications of a Proposed Unified Services Theory,” Production and Operations Management, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 329-343, Summer 2006
[3] R. J. Glushko and L. Tabas, "Bridging the 'Front Stage' and 'Back Stage' in Service System Design", Proceedings of the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2008