Seeing service consumers in

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2004-12-13 Print this article Print

different roles"> That said, a development team then has an opportunity to assist the enterprise in strengthening customer loyalty beyond the point thats achieved by providing even top-tier goods alone. Services build on themselves; an application can use customer history to improve the accuracy of future service suggestions. In-house IT teams are needed to identify these opportunities, to evaluate and monitor outside services partners, and to maximize flexibility to adopt enhanced or alternative service offerings by properly using loosely coupled integration technologies.

Those who build services must see service consumers in many different roles, said Almaden conference speaker Scott Sampson, associate professor of business management at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. "The customer may be a supplier," said Sampson, providing important input to the process—but that input may be unreliable, he warned, in timeliness and quality. The service delivery process must either absorb the resulting cost or find a way to help the customer do a better job.

The customer may be labor, Sampson continued, "but the customer-labor may ignore, avoid or reject technologies or process improvements." Achieving buy-in from customer-labor is even more important, therefore, than achieving it from the kind of labor that can be fired if it wont do as its told. User interface design, ease of access to help systems and live support are all key IT contributions to this role.

In a service operation, the customer is also inventory—and expensive inventory at that. A doctors waiting room and the waiting line at a theme park ride are visible examples of the idea and should serve to warn a service designer of the need to manage queues with care. Mere averages are not an acceptable figure of merit: A more sophisticated model of peak-to-average ratios in waiting times and service times is needed.

With services the key to continued economic growth, the Almaden conference participants agreed that service creators need to move beyond the hunter-gatherer stage—and figure out where, and how, to drive a plow.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

Seeking a science of services
IT pros and educators join in seeking productivity growth for changing economies
  • Continued competitive differentiation demands a growing services component
  • Service-sector productivity improvement often depends on software
  • Application developers must consider roles of the customer in service transactions
  • Customer as supplier—services must make it easy for the customer to provide the right input at the right time
  • Customer as labor—services must invite and create buy-in to process improvements
  • Customer as inventory—service delivery models must minimize wait times
  • Service architects must consider and address issues of trust with service providers
  • Avoid commoditization as competitors adopt the same third-party offerings
  • Control disclosure of intellectual property during service development Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIO Insight.

    Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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