Systems Thinking for Service Design: a natural partnership

Authors: John Darzentas and Jenny Darzentas

In the 1930s, nations’ economies broke down their figures into three main sectors. These were, in order of economic importance, Agriculture, Manufacturing, and whatever was not either of these was grouped under the title of Services. Today, the growth of what is traditionally called the ‘‘service sector’’ can be seen in the gross domestic product (GDP) statistics of nations. As currently measured, developed countries have 70–80% of their GDP and employment in the service sector (government, healthcare, education, retail, financial, business and professional, communications, transportation, utilities), with 15–25% in the manufacturing sector, and about 5% in the agricultural sector (Spohrer et al. 2010, Maglio et al, 2009).
Traditionally the academic disciplines that worked on services were those of management and marketing, operations research and engineering, but not only. Information Systems specialists were also active in this area, but with the move to self-services and more recently e-services, the area requires specialists in information systems and computer science. Moreover, it is not an area that can be broken up easily, as it needs this multidisciplinary treatment. Indeed, recently, IBM, understanding that its core business is no longer in hardware manufacture, but in services, has championed the understanding of services as ‘complex systems’ in which specific arrangements of people and technologies take actions that provide value for others.

Designers for the last two decades have been realizing a shift in working practices and output from product to systems design, that is, understanding the wider system in which the designed product is to function. This incorporates, the users, producers, (including the designers themselves) the activities and functions expected, as well as the context of use, and constraints and freedoms offered by technologies used in the product. Such work has recently gone on under other labels, such as interaction design and/or user experience design (UX). Lately, systems have begun to incorporate services, and service design has taken hold, as evidenced by a dedicated conference series and a number of researcher and practitioner networks and courses.

Presentation & paper

Posted: Sep-2014

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