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Professor Roger Maull

Professor Roger Maull

Professor of Management Systems - ISR


Level 2
Building:One, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4ST, UK

Roger Maull is a Professor of Management in the University of Exeter Business School. He has a BA in Economics, and an MSc in Management Information Systems. He gained his PhD in 1986 in the use of systems modelling (IDEF0)  in manufacturing. His  research interests are in applying systems thinking to the management and design of service organisations, in particular those problems that are at the nexus of marketing, operations, IT and HR. At the centre of his research is the question "how do we design service systems?"

Service processes occur because of the introduction of the "customer into the works" (Frei 2006). They are open systems often with high variety sometimes with known unknowns or even unknown unknowns. These processes provide fundamentally different problems from those in manufacturing where modelling is often deterministic or probabilistic. Roger is particularly interested in the characteristics of service variety and his dominant theoretical lens is Ashby's law of requisite variety which states that the regulator must be able to match the variety in the disturbance in order for the system to be viable. A strong personal ambition is to use these concepts to complete a service systems book.

In April 2012 he was awarded an RCUK Network grant to lead research into the issues surrounding the impact of the digital economy on new economic models (NEMODE). This places the questions of service design within the context of a rapidly changing technological landscape. For example, a FitBit is a small accelerometer which can be used to track a person’s daily physical activity. The data this produces is being used to develop improved customer profiles for health and life insurance. This is now challenging the distribution of returns with some insurance markets.

Since the launch of NEMODE Roger has become increasingly interested in the opportunities for service design arising from ‘big data’. He conceptualises this research domain into three areas: collecting the data eg sensors and mobiles; analysing the data through new statistical methods; using the analysis to inform new business models. The third stream is of particular interest  and he has been successful as part of a large consortium of researchers in bidding for on-going DE funding (£928k, 112k for Exeter) in looking at how ‘big data’ might transform individuals ability to use their own data in the ‘HAT’ project.

Roger has developed and delivered a wide range of systems modelling courses for companies such as Vodafone, Woolwich, IBM, ICL, Rank Xerox, GKN/Westland Aerospace, Lloyds Banking Group, Scottish Amicable Scottish Power, British Aerospace, Motability Finance Ltd, DuPont, Fujitsu, Prudential and Sprint PCS. He has been awarded international grants to work with industry in the USA, Australia, Germany and Italy and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Australian Business School at UNSW. He has successfully supervised 18 PhD students and examined 19 PhDs.

Nationality: British

Administrative responsibilities

  • Co-director of the Institute of Service Research.


  • BA Econ
  • MSc MIS
  • PhD Systems Modelling.


Research interests

  • Service and service systems
  • Systems thinking (see below for specific examples)
  • Systems design
  • Business Process Management
  • Complex systems as in messy/wicked problems
  • Systems thinking for the NHS, specifically relating to admissions and patient safety
  • Issues in identifying the risks of fire. For the last five years, Professor Maull has been working on research with Devon and Somerset fire rescue services. This is underpinned by a systems model developed as part of the Devon and Somerset risk management plan
  • Systems thinking for local government partnerships. Professor Maull has worked with the Safer Sutton partnership and Sutton Borough Council in Greater London, to develop a systems model for reducing crime and the fear of crime

Professor Maull’s current research interests are in two fields. The first is the nature of service (as in co-creation of value) and its implications for service design. The second is in systems thinking and its tradition of dealing with a whole, not just the component parts. These naturally come together in service systems, which can be differentiated from manufacturing systems by the role of the customer. As Sampson points out, without the customer we do not have a service system. This has huge implications for service systems and service process design. One of the major theoretical foundations for understanding this challenge is Ashby's law of requisite variety. Professor Maull believes that variety can provide a significant insight into how we design service systems. He is currently looking at how to operationalise variety through a number of research projects and work with PhD students.

A closely related interest is the topic of service supply chains. Again Professor Maull believes systems thinking can provide valuable insights into this topic. He is currently developing a theoretical model and looking at the challenges of managing service supply chains from a customer perspective (in conjunction with Bob Johnston at Warwick) and from the service provider perspective.

Research projects

Professor Maull currently has four research students who are working on the following projects:

  • Phil Godsiff is looking at the nature of wicked problems and their implications for systems design. Phil is using a case study methodology based on a 12-month study of a government organisation.
  • Vikas Kumar is looking at the links between operations performance, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Vikas is using a variety of statistical tools including structural equation modelling and meta-analysis.
  • Mike Williams is developing a systems dynamics model of patient safety. He is using qualitative techniques and the concept of resilience to underpin his research.
  • Steve Pearce is considering the use of Little's law in understanding systems design.

Professor Maull is also working on a joint research project with Professor Irene Ng, looking at service systems design with Rolls-Royce; and is involved in ongoing research into the causes and demographics of fire, specifically relating to the Devon and Somerset fire rescue services.

External positions

  • Co-editor of the International Journal of Operations and Production Management
  • Visiting Professor, University of Adelaide
  • Member, EPSRC's College of Peers
  • Member, ESRC Studentships Committee
  • Referee, British Academy of Management
  • Member of the Standing Committee of Engineering Professors
  • Reviewer for European Science Foundation
  • Reviewer for IJOPM Outstanding Doctoral Award

Professor Maull has two complementary teaching interests. The first is standard Operations Management, which he teaches to MBA, Masters and undergraduate students. The second is systems and service systems teaching, which he undertakes for MBA students and executive education programmes.

Modules taught



Information not currently available