Category Archives: Books

The service concept revisited #2: service name and organising idea

Much has been written about the importance of selecting good names for things so that I probably don’t have to write much here. Just keep in my mind that the service name will be used very frequently, so taking time to find a good name or even changing an existing name to something better will pay of quickly.

The organising idea is the briefest meaningful summary of what constitutes the service under discussion. It is our first opportunity to communicate intent. A single sentence, perhaps even only a phrase, will often be sufficient.

To Johnston & Clark (2005), the organising idea is “The essence of the service bought, or used, by the customer.”

I’ve written about explicitly stating intent on my old blog before. First and foremost, it allows others to make independent progress toward a larger objective.

Live tweeting from London Lean Kanban Days 2019, Tobbe Gyllebring shared this:

That’s much nicer and much more powerful than what I used to say. Going forward, I’ll just borrow this:

Clarity of intent enables autonomous aligned action.

— Karl Scotland (paraphrased) via Tobbe Gyllebring

I like the notion of an organising idea: What is the fundamental idea that we should organise everything else around? Or even better, that we should let everything else (and everyone) organise around?


See The service concept revisited for context and for links to related posts. Interested in exploring this further? Please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!


References

Johnston, R. & Clark, G. (2005) Service operations management: improving service delivery. 2nd ed., Pearson.

The service concept revisited

Yesterday

My discussion of The structure of the service concept is the most popular post on my old blog On Service Design. When I wrote it almost six years ago the topic didn’t seem to get much attention. Academic services marketing and service operations literature mentioned the term frequently, but almost no-one bothered to define it or describe its structure or content.

The Service operations management textbook by Johnston & Clark (the recent edition is by Johnston, Clark & Shulver) is by far the most thorough discussion I was able to find.

Today

I still like the idea of a service concept very much, in particular for its effectiveness. A well-written service concept can communicate a wealth of information in a very small space.

I typically use the service concept in a fairly casual form when exploring initial ideas for digital services with clients and colleagues. Interestingly, I’m back to the earlier (2005) version of the concept’s structure (although the differences aren’t huge).

Tomorrow

It’s useful for me to revisit the fundamentals and relate it to other relevant concepts, including some of the popular design canvases. Furthermore, I want to dig into its elements in more detail. I’ll be doing this in a series of future posts.

I look forward to discussing how the service concept works nicely with the things Tom Graves is doing (see his Toolsets for enterprise architecture overview) and, particularly, his Enterprise Canvas.

 Watch this space for updates…but don’t hold your breath.

Interested in the idea of a well-defined service concept? Let’s talk, please!

Other posts in this series


Related older posts

References

Johnston, R., Clark, G. & Shulver, M. (2012) Service operations management: improving service delivery. 4th ed., Pearson.

Johnston, R. & Clark, G. (2005) Service operations management: improving service delivery. 2nd ed., Pearson.

“Designing Delivery: Rethinking IT in the Digital Service Economy” by Jeff Sussna

When I recommended Designing Delivery: Rethinking IT in the Digital Service Economy on Twitter, Jeff asked me to explain why I thought it was valuable. Jeff’s book deals with a complex subject matter and he considers a broad range of different aspects. While this makes this book valuable, it makes writing a meaningful review difficult. For what it’s worth, here we go:

Confirmation bias — well, an ego boost

From a very superficial perspective, Designing Delivery makes me feel good as it confirms a few things I’ve been having hunches about for a while. This includes a broader and more proactive role for testing & quality assurance in lean & agile initiatives and organizations, a focus on product management rather than project management, an extension of devops ideas to business operations, an emphasis on designing & managing services (or service-dominant logic) and, more recently, seeking to combine agile development and design thinking.

Unfortunately, my thinking hasn’t been as thorough, consistent and coherent as Jeff’s. I haven’t foreseen all of this years ago — on the contrary, compared to this book, my thinking barely scratched the surface…if you look really hard, you can even see some marks.

Cybernetics

Cybernetics form the backbone of Jeff’s work in this book. I finally got the memo on cybernetics earlier this year and worked through Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Yes, I know I’m late to the party…

Jeff introduces fundamental cybernetic concepts and applies them to software and, more generally, digital services in a very practical and approachable way. These cybernetic concepts helped me to talk and reason about behaviours I’ve seen at work and elsewhere in life. This, in turn, provides a basis for effecting change in these systems.

No software is an island

While software undoubtedly is essential to most businesses today, discussing software in isolation is insufficient: software needs to be considered in the context of the services it helps to deliver. Jeff provides a good introduction to service-dominant logic and how it applies to the digital service economy. In addition to customer-related concerns, Jeff discusses other people in the enterprise (especially employees and service providers) as well as organisational concerns. It is unsurprising that Dave Gray’s The Connected Company has a guest apperance.

It all comes together

Jeff brings together several schools of thoughts or practices that are hugely important today. In particular, Jeff shows that cybernetics (or systems thinking) and design thinking cannot only coexist peacefully but can actually be combined to yield even greater value. Furthermore, he shows how design thinking has an essential role to play in the fuzzy front-end of lean & agile software development processes. Jeff brings devops into the mix and shows how it can be relevant beyond software (i.e. service operations, business operations). He calls for operations to become an input to the design process and thereby completes the loop of designing, developing, delivering and operating software-supported services.

A crucial point in this book is Jeff’s call for a broader and more pro-active role of quality assurance in this context. He calls for a quality advocacy role that needs to go far beyond software development: indeed, quality advocacy needs to help the entire organization to deliver the right services to the right people — both inside and outside the company.

Many IT organizations are facing formidable challenges today. In Designing Delivery Jeff Sussna envisages a future for them in the digital service economy and shares his thoughts on how they can develop toward this new role.

That’s it for now

This blog post is only a start and is necessarily biased. It certainly doesn’t do Jeff’s book justice. As my thinking becomes clearer, I might update it in the future.

 

 

The end of service encounters and customer relationships

I’m currently reading Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience by Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie and Melvin Brand Flu of Livework. I’m enjoying the book so far and am convinced that it will make the field of service design much more accessible to a wider business audience.

The authors have extended the traditional three-stage model of service consumption (pre-purchase/pre-encounter, encounter, post-encounter stages) by another stage (begin) yielding these four stages: before, begin, during, after. Their reasoning for adding this stage is sound:

How customers begin their relationship with a service is critical to success…A good beginning helps to avoid dissatisfaction and makes customers more disposed to do more business with you later. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu

In their takeaway messages for this chapter they conclude:

The beginning sets the tone for the relationship. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu

Symmetry suggests we also take a closer look at how service encounters or entire customer relationships end. Thinking about our own experiences as service customers it becomes clear that the end stage of an individual service encounter or a relationship with a service provider can have significant impact on our evaluation of the overall service experience and the service provider.

For example, being rushed out of a restaurant after a nice meal with our partner (or having to wait too long for the bill) may well spoil an otherwise excellent experience on the finishing line. Similarly, if the service provider makes it difficult for me to leave a service after my needs have changed, my overall evaluation of a satisfactory service experience up to that point will be diminished.

In both cases, my readiness to re-purchase the service will be severely reduced as will be my readiness to recommend the service to others. On the contrary, I’ll probably complain about the service failure to anyone who cares to listen.

The authors seem to recognize this without highlighting the end of a service encounter or customer relationship as a distinct stage:

Past customers are also potential future customers–and are therefore always worth attention. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu

In conclusion I suggest extending the discussion by considering referrals & recommendations by current and former customers, and by adding an explicit end stage to the model, thereby yielding these five service stages: before, begin, during, end, after.