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Science Service Forum 2007

1st Science Service Forum - 2007

The first meeting of the Service Science Forum was held in London in September 2007. The purpose of the forum is to encourage dialogue between representatives of the Business School and professionals from the service industry to develop an agenda for the provision of education in Service Science at Exeter. The meeting, led by Professor Roger Maull, was attended by 13 companies including Vodafone, Lloyds TSB, Reuters and Fidelity.

The development in Service Science as both a researched and taught subject has generally lagged behind the growing dominance of the service sector in developed economies, and has been largely restricted to issues relating to the marketing of services.

The objective of the meeting was to address the challenge of designing appropriate curricula in Service Science which would equip graduates with both a 360 degree knowledge of the service industry and the key skill-sets and disciplines that companies would like to observe in Service Science graduate recruits. Following a brief presentation on the importance of services and an overview of the momentum initiated by IBM on the implications of technological change on the provision of education in management subjects, participants were tasked with outlining their desires for the skill-sets and disciplines that future employees would ideally bring to the workplace.

The breakout groups raised some interesting perspectives, many of which conformed to the need for multi-disciplinary perspectives in management education. The results from each of the breakout groups were tabled and synthesised by the team. Eight key areas emerged from the workshop and subsequent synthesis:

  • People: Participants identified the need for skills in psychology and group dynamics; leadership, particularly differentiating between leadership and management skills; ethics; and an emphasis on individual versus corporate values. Measurement. This was a common issue for the majority of the group which split into three main areas: economics; the ability to undertake rigorous costing analyses; and skills in statistical analysis.
  • Strategy: This was regarded a key issue. Discussion focused upon ‘outside-in’ perspectives, benchmarking and the need to develop skills in decision making.
  • Change Management: Interpersonal skills at both the political and emotional level for managing change were emphasised.
  • Project Management: Project management skills, particularly those associated with large-scale strategic projects were noted by participants. In addition, scenario planning skills were suggested. The latter reflects the participants’ strategic perspective of projects. This initiated discussion around various skill-sets transcending some of the disciplines identified.
  • Systems Thinking: Many of the participants expressed issues associated with the lack of integration, communication, and the insular behaviour engendered in single discipline education. Discussions tended towards skill-sets associated with facilitating inter-departmental integration. This included process modelling. Systems Theory and ‘systemic’ approaches to problem solving were also discussed.
  • Service Lifecycle: Throughout the discussions, participants emphasised the importance of customer centricity. Alignment of service outcomes with market requirements and the ability to comprehend the dynamic and temporal dimension of the service lifecycle was also discussed. Some participants noted the need for a clear definition of ‘service’.
  • General Skills: Participants noted some general skills which would transcend the areas noted above. These included comprehension skills, developing an appreciation of different managerial mindsets, and thinking skills and styles.

It should be noted that while participants emphasised customer centricity, there was little articulation of marketing, although this has been included in the ‘Service lifecycle’ as mentioned above. It should also be noted that there was little discussion around technology and information systems. It is likely that the lack of emphasis in these areas may be attributed to the particular perspective of the participants, the majority of whom hold positions which may be more closely linked to an ‘operations’ viewpoint.

The academic and practitioner groups found the discussions beneficial, with the majority of the thirteen companies represented expressing interest in developing the partnership further. The next meeting of the Forum will take place in Spring 2008.

The Business School and the Exeter Centre for Strategic Processes and Operations (XSPO) will also be hosting a workshop in May 2008 which is being run under the auspices of the European Operations Management Association (Service Operations Management Forum). This workshop will bring together leading figures in the services industries with academics from service operations, service science, and services marketing to discuss the future challenges facing the research community.

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