Naples Forum – Emerging nature of value

“Service has arrived in a new and better shape, more prepared to deal with the contemporary economy. Still this is a starting point: Service deserves more attention on our research agenda!”  (clip of Reasoning for Naples Forum on Service)

We had a great opportunity take part to the third Naples Forum on Service, which is conference focusing on three research pillars: service-dominant logic, service science and network and systems theory. The conference was located in beautiful island of Ischia in close distance from city of Naples in Italy. In addition to thrilling views, sunny sky and bright blue oceans, conference offered us many research related experiences and insights, which have notable future value potential. Instead of explaining what we found valuable for us during the conference, in the following we debate how and when value of conferences can be actualized.

Conference as a platform for co-creating value

When sitting on an airplane on my way back to home from the conference I started to think about the value of Naples forum for me and for VTT. The probable reason for my thoughts was that this question is often asked after conference (to justify the made investment). On the other hand, another apparent reason was that during the conference we had many interesting presentations and informal discussions about the concept of value and value co-creation. After short puzzling, I realized that this type of conference does not create value per se, but enables opportunities for value co-creation among the participants. Thereby, conference should be seen as a platform for value co-creation, which enables researchers all over the world to present and discuss their ideas, take ideas to next level by challenging them, plant seeds for new ideas, co-operation and joint projects, create new relationships to other academics or even build life-long friendship to other like-minded people.

But how is my subjective value experience in the end created? When going through many unforgettable experiences from the conference I realized that my subjective value during the conference emerged through various types of incidents that I had experienced (e.g. inspiring presentations, feedback to my work, gala dinner with amazing people). However, because value is context specific, the value of these incidents change in time depending, for example, on where I will be, what will I do, and how I can complement these experiences with other things. Therefore, importance of certain incident at the conference may seem today irrelevant (low value), but future may reveal this incident highly valuable.

Furthermore, conference presented us numerous opportunities to co-create value in the future. Firstly, the conference is so full of interesting presentations and discussions, that you need some time on your own to process these ideas and insights. In addition, the value of the conference may be revealed later on when insights from the conference are combined with insights from other sources (e.g. resulting in to a finding of original idea for PhD. thesis). Secondly, I would argue that the most of the value for me and especially for the VTT will be actualized after the conference through realizing numerous opportunities that this type of collaboration enables (e.g research exchange, joint projects).  Thereby, if someone would ask what was the value of Naples Forum, I would explain that it was very educative, inspiring, fun, warm and warm-hearted conference, but in order to understand full value of conference we will have to see what the future reveals.

What is Naples Forum on Service?

The Naples Forum on Service is mostly academic conference, which built around three scientific pilars which are service-dominant logic, networks & systems theory and service science. First Naples Forum was organised in 2009 at the small island of Capri. The idea of the conference was to overcame geographical constrains and bring researchers interested in service research together to share ideas and discuss informally with each other. This year Naples Forum was organised for the third time, and the forum is nowadays recognized as a conference where most influential service academics are present, but at the same time the atmosphere has remained very open and relaxed. Next Naples forum is scheduled to be organised in 2015.


Digitized service system design contexts

In my earlier post, ”Digitality in service design thinking”, I mentioned digital touchpoints as points of interaction between the service provider and customer. I recently ran into an interesting article by Robert J. Glushko [1], where the interactions were divided into seven service system design contexts. Service system is the basic concept in service science and is defined to be a ”value co-production configuration of people, technology, other internal and external service systems, and shared information” [2]. A service system can be and include a part of other systems. The design contexts presented in Glushko’s paper can be used as building blocks for service systems:

Service system design contexts

Glushko’s contexts are an interesting way to consider the wide spread use of digital components in services. Only one of these seven contexts – the first one – does not include technology. The others by default do, though whether technology is always present in self-service is arguable.

Glushko also uses the concepts of front and back stage; front stage meaning interactions between the customer and service provider that are part of the service encounter, and back stage meaning activities that support the service encounter and make it possible [3]. There are often conflicting views between these designer groups. The back stage designers seek efficiency, robustness and scalability, whereas the front stage designers want to create enjoyable, unique and responsive services.

Glushko’s contexts are an interesting and practical way to look at service and its possibilities when designing service systems. As technologies develop so might the contexts; e.g. the seventh context has become a hot topic due to generalization of mobile devices.

The design contexts are useful in the interaction between a service provider and an end user but could also be utilized when designing for B2B or internal services. Creating a holistic view of a service system and concentrating on its design can help the communication of design options both between the back and front stage designers as well as with customers. It must be understood that a service system that is able to deliver is a result of both back and front stage and so its design requires co-operation.

Are there any more contexts that come to your mind?


[1]  Glushko, R.J. (2010) Seven contexts for service system design. In: P.P. Maglio et al. (ed.) Handbook of service science: Research and innovations in the service economy. Springer Science+Business Media, pp. 219-249.

[2]  Spohrer, J., Maglio, P., Bailey, J. and Gruhl,  D. (2007) Steps toward a science of service systems. IEEE Computer society: Volume 40, Issue 1, pp. 71–77.
[3]  Glushko, R.J. and Tabas, L. (2009) “Designing service systems by bridging the “front stage” and “back stage””. Information systems and E-business management: Volume 7, pp. 407-427.

Quest for service science

During the last 60 years we have been witnessing stunning growth of what the traditional economists refer to as the service sector. Service activities account for about 70-80 percent of all economic activity in most advanced industrial economies. Moreover, many service activities are hidden from the economic statistics, since those often describe only the services exchanged between economic actors. Thereby, when imagining all of those hidden service activities within our society (e.g. service activities within organisations or between individual people), you may begin to understand the fundamental role of service as a means of exchange and its massive significance to our well-being, jobs, society and economic growth.

Although service activities are increasingly understood as a basis for modern society, scientific understanding has been lacking holistic perspective into service phenomenon [1]. Main reason for this is the heavily siloed research by different academic disciplines that have viewed the service phenomenon from different – sometimes even conflicting – perspectives. To overcome this challenge, Chesbrough and Spohrer outlined a research manifesto for service science in 2006, where they call academics to unite their efforts to create a more holistic understanding about service phenomenon. They also vision that this multi-disciplinary effort could eventually become new transdisciplinary academic area called service science. The following figure illustrates some academic disciplines that have already contributed to the emergence of service science [2]. Nevertheless, many other scientific disciplines (such as psychology and law) may have important contribution to the future development of this area.

Service science
Figure 1. Examples of academic disciplines that have had important contribution to the emergence of service science.

The main objective of service science is to advance ability to design, improve and scale service systems and to create service innovations [3]. Based on its multi-disciplinary nature, service science aims to achieve these objectives by combining organization and human understanding with technological and business understanding. Our quest for service science relies heavily on VTT’s technological expertise that is acknowledged and well-known throughout the world. Yet our team especially aims to integrate these different perspectives (human, organization, technology and business) by studying value co-creation phenomenon within service systems. It means that we have to understand, for example:

  • how individual customer experiences service,
  • how organizations co-create value with their customers and partners,
  • how technologies are utilized to improve and scale service systems, and
  • how profitable business can be created and sustained within complex service networks and ecosystems.

Even though this kind of broad understanding is more and more needed in order to understand the increasing complexity of service systems, we also need deep understanding that helps to solve specific problems. Therefore, the success of our journey to service science is dependent of our ability to co-operate with people who have deeper knowledge of specific disciplines and industries (especially VTT’s top-level experts in technology and engineering) and to inspire them to pursue towards the same direction with us in their own journeys.


[1] Chesbrough, H. & Spohrer, J. (2006) A Research Manifesto for Services Science. Communications of the ACM, 49(7), pp.33-40.
[2] Spohrer, J. & Maglio, P. (2008) The Emergence of Service Science: Toward Systematic Service Innovations to Accelerate Co-Creation of Value, International Journal of Production and Operations Management, 17(3), pp. 238-246.
[3] Maglio, P. & Spohrer, J. (2008) Fundamentals of service science. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36(1), pp.18-20.

Service Science Odyssey – Why and by whom?

This is the first blog entry on our odyssey to the world of service research. Our journey’s goal is to become renowned throughout the world for our research. Even though our vision is high above in the skies, we start our journey by acknowledging that we are still far away from the top and admitting that the path we have chosen is still very foggy. That is the reason why we call this an odyssey. This blog will share our experiences on the odyssey and we try to describe our journey realistically. However, before continuing it is good to look back at the starting point and the reasoning behind this goal.

In 2011, ICT sector in Finland was going through some dramatic changes, and it was realized in VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland that also the ICT research has to adapt to the changes in business environment. At the same time service research had gained stronger foothold from VTT’s research portfolio and service-oriented thinking had started to spread to the business world. VTT saw this development as an opportunity and decided that there is a need to reorganize research in ICT cluster. By the end of June 2012 a new knowledge center focusing on digital service research was born. Our team is part of this new knowledge center.

Teams within the new knowledge center were organized in a fast phase, and our team was formed on the competencies from four different previous teams. We had researchers who had focused on a wide range of topics outside service and business research. Hence, in our new team we have a good mix of people representing various disciplines and studying various phenomena in the ICT context. As a joint effort, we managed to identify two common research areas related to digital services: 1) business effects and transformation, and 2) customer value and understanding. Hence, the new team was named as value-driven service business, and our journey was ready to start.

The key driver on our journey is that we are dedicated towards becoming a top research team, and our versatile experiences and backgrounds provide excellent starting points for that. We believe that multidisciplinary background (e.g. marketing, economics, information processing, information networks, software and industrial engineering, information security and strategic management) of our team members is our biggest strength which helps us to find our spot for contribution in the field of service science. At the same time we understand that our biggest strength is one of the biggest challenges on the journey, since multidisciplinarity makes it much more difficult to find common ground for the research. However, we are motivated, dedicated and ready to work hard on the journey. Above all, we are passionate to find new ways how research can make world better place.

In forthcoming posts we will present you insights into our journey. Since we don’t yet have a clear plan where our journey is taking us, we don’t know what future posts will cover. However, we promise that this blog will:

  • shed light to latest research topics of the field (hopefully in easy to read format), and
  • describe our team’s way of working towards the top position in the scientific field.

Some of the posts will be more like personal opinions, whereas others describe our teams joint effort and challenges. We also aim to introduce you interesting blog posts from other professionals at VTT who are researching similar or complementary topics.

Embark on this journey with us and enjoy!