New Consortium Aims to Fund Research on IT Services

The SRII creates an online community and symposiums to provide a forum for research, discussion and shared ideas around services innovation.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—A new IT consortium dedicated to raising public awareness of the need for service innovation and increasing the level of funding for services research was launched here May 30, and it immediately introduced a strategic supporter at the federal government level to help find some funding sources.

The Services Research and Innovation Initiative, or SRII, is a Los Gatos, Calif.-based consortium of technology companies—including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, EMC and a number of others—and universities dedicated to funding and promoting advancements in service research.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., was on hand for the SRIIs first symposium here at the Santa Clara Convention Center—a gathering of about 200 IT professionals—and promised, as a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, to do what he can from Washington, D.C. to help the organization get federal funding.

"Im a schoolteacher by trade," Honda told the symposium audience, "and I believe that whatever progress we make as a nation with regards to improving our business culture rests with us now—along with our future generations. Its up to us to find and supply the tools and support necessary to keep improving our services businesses in all sectors."

Honda was joined by several other speakers at the symposium, including author Geoffrey Moore ("Crossing the Chasm," "Dealing with Darwin"); Sophie Vandebroek, president of Xerox Innovation; John Seely Brown, author of "The Only Sustainable Edge"; and Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of Technical Strategy and Innovation for IBM.

Key issue: keep improving services

Over the last eight years, the U.S. IT sector has become significantly more service-oriented, rather than product-oriented, said J.B. Wood, president and CEO of the Technology Professional Services Association, one of the key sponsors of SRII.

"It could be that this year, in the 50 largest [U.S.] enterprise technology companies, services becomes 51 percent of their total revenues," Wood told the symposium audience. "Thats a startling fact in an industry that has been 100 percent product-focused for decades and decades."

IT services-related revenue now entails about $200 billion per year, Wood said.

"Thats a very, very significant total in revenue. Its also a very important management challenge to these companies," Wood said.

"We understand the product business; we understand how to invest in it; we understand how to manage development. But the services business is a somewhat new discipline to a lot of senior management inside the industry."

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The United States faces long-term competition from Far East countries such as China and India, which are determined to change their IT economies from those of manufacturing products designed elsewhere to a sector that is more creative and innovative.

New online forum established

The organization also launched an online forum for discussion and collaboration on service research topics and plans to raise awareness of service research issues through regular meetings, symposiums and a community-based Web site called SRIINet. SRIINet can be accessed by going to the RSII Web site and clicking on "Join the Community."

"As the convergence of technologies takes place, complexities increase at both the consumer and enterprise levels," said Tom Pridham, executive director of the SRII.

"It is time now for the technology industry to invest R&D dollars into services that will make these technologies easier for consumers and enterprises, or we risk losing the opportunities these technologies afford. The SRIINet provides a community for companies, universities, research institutes and governments to use their collective brainpower to address concerns and opportunities around technology services."

The SRIINet provides interested parties with a forum to explore community interests. In addition, members can work together to pool funding and resources for joint research projects as well as share discoveries. Participants can also collaborate through blogs and special topic forums, an SRII spokesperson said.

Communities of interest include: Customers, Service Markets and Marketing; Technology, Automation and Supportability; Management of Service Innovation; Service Strategy; Operations; People, Organizations and Sourcing; and Governance and Financial Accountability.

In the future, the SRII Web site will include a listing of published research relevant to services innovation as well as a directory of conferences, publications and universities with programs covering services and service innovation.

The powers behind it

SRII was jointly founded in March 2007 by IBM, Oracle, TPSA and the Service & Support Professionals Association and comprises a number of technology companies, government agencies and universities dedicated to fostering advancements in service research.

Members include the Association For Services Management International, Cisco, EMC, HP, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Unisys and Xerox. Academic participants include top researchers from UCLA, the Cranfield School of Management, the Indian Institute of Management, the Wharton School of Business, Arizona State University, University of Maryland and University of California Silicon Valley Center at Santa Cruz.

Government and research institutions include the European Commission and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...