2007 NSF Workshop on Service Science

August 27-29, 2007, Philadelphia, USA




Robin G. Qiu, Ph.D.



Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, except those in the goods-producing sectors -- agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing, the service sector encompasses all other industries including transportation, logistics, communication, wholesale and retail, trade, education, finance, insurance, real estate, healthcare, criminal justice, postal operations, government, and a variety of public utilities. The service industry has grown to dominate developed economies. In the US 80% of GDP in 2005 was derived from the service sector. However, according to [1], "[t]he service sector accounts for most of the world's economic activity, but it's the least-studied part of the economy." In 2003, US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) reported this important finding when "The Impact of Academic Research on Industrial Performance " project was completed.

According to the NAE project report [2], the service industry employs a large and growing share of national workforce (about 80% in 2005), and is the primary users of information technology. Even in most manufacturing industries, the service functions (e.g., sales, logistics, distribution, and customer service) focusing on increasing customer values have become leading sources for improved business competitiveness. Although it is well understood that the rate of innovations and level of productivity in the services infrastructure (e.g., finance, transportation, communication, and healthcare) have an enormous impact on the productivity and performance of all other segments of the economy, the research and education in both academics and industries are not focused on or organized to meet the needs of service businesses. It was suggested that universities and industries should immediately and appropriately address the challenges by "(1) adapting and applying systems and industrial-engineering concepts, methodologies, and quality-control processes to service functions and businesses; (2) integrating technological research with research in social sciences, management, and public policy; and (3) educating and training engineering and science graduates to deal with management, policy, and social issues."

Service is typically considered as an application of specialized knowledge, skills, and experiences, performed for the benefit of another [1, 3]. Service is perishable, heterogeneous, and intangible, commonly provided for either individuals or businesses to create desirable value to satisfy their needs [4, 5]. Although a significant portion of the services provided by the services industry is consumed by individuals, such as medical, education, insurance, legal, financial, and retailing services, recently business services that serve different business units or organizations are growing quite rapidly [4]. For example, technical support, enterprise resource planning, call center operations, sales management, IT implementation, logistics, and business investment and transformation consulting are well recognized as a business service [6].

Driven by today's new business environment that includes advanced telecommunications, accelerated business globalization, increased automation, and rapid technology innovations, emphasis in the service sector has evolved from a traditional labor-based business to sources of innovations, collaboration, and value co-creation, driving the emergence of service-value networks at a pace never before seen in history [7]. It is obviously a trend that leading and competitive services are all remarkably delineated with information-driven, customer-centric, e-oriented, and satisfaction-focused characteristics.

A variety of services enabled through service-value networks in the high value areas have been emerging recently, such as online information and knowledge service, IT outsourcing to post-sales training, on demand innovations consulting (e.g., work helping customers reengineer products, automate business processes, improve goods and services delivery efficiency, and design and deploy supportive IT systems). In evidence, IBM Global Consulting, Accentric, Google, eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo, and online distance education well represent these emerging services. Note that traditional services providers (e.g., UPS, Wal-Mart, etc.) are also transforming themselves into service-value networks. It is well understood that the quality of their provided services largely depends on very large-scale public information infrastructures and complex services systems in order to satisfy the diverse needs of worldwide customers.

However, there lack of full-fledged sciences that could systematically guide the plan, design, marketing, engineering, and delivery of services to meet the needs of today's changing, complicated, and dynamic global service-led economy [1, 4]. To address the needs, Figure 1 proposes perspectives of uncharted services science by illustrating that: (a) the development of service-oriented science and engineering is the key to the success of the conduct of competitive service practices (i.e., production/consumption), and (b) service systems must be people-centric, IT-powered, and market-driven , consisting of people, technology, infrastructures, and processes of performance [1, 8, 9].

Figure 1: Services Science: Service and Service Systems

This research workshop is dedicated to this emerging area of services science, management, and engineering. It essentially aims at creating and supporting an effective venue for a group of leading scholars from academics and industries to exchange points of view Services Science so as to gain better insights of services science, management, and engineering in general. Three sessions (Industry Perspective, Academia Perspective, and Roundtable Discussion) will be organized at the workshop. By exploring the current US services industrial needs, research areas will be explored and corresponding priorities identified, which could be potentially used as a reference for NSF and US service enterprises to create their next research agenda. In addition, this sponsored group will communicate with other worldwide leading scholars by delivering keynotes and panel sessions at SOLI'2007. (more ...)

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Visiting Philadelphia

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