Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME): A Next Frontier in Education, Innovation and Economic Growth


Date Thursday November 16th 2006
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

A brief overview of IBM’s efforts to work with collaborators from academics, industry, government, and foundations to establish academic programs that focus on Service Science, Management, and Engineering (SSME) is provided. SSME, a frontier field, is defined as the application of scientific, management, and engineering disciplines to tasks that one organization beneficially performs for and with another (“services.”)

There are many reasons for focusing on services and interdisciplinary approaches to it. First, the economies of most developed countries are dominated by services (70% of the labor, GDP, etc.). China, in their 2006-2011 Five-Year Plan, has made the “transition to a modern service economy” a national priority, and India is well along on this path as well. Second, even traditional manufacturing companies such as GE (70% services revenue) and IBM (50% services revenue) need to add high values services to grow their businesses. Third, information services and business services are two of the fastest growing segments of the service economy. The growth of B2B and B2C web services, service oriented architectures, and self-service systems suggest a strong relationship between SSME and the more established discipline of computer science. IBM worked to establish the first computer science department at Columbia University in the 1940’s, and now to meet the skill needs of a growing service innovation business is working to establish SSME in a number of universities ( Finally, improving productivity, quality, compliance, and innovation in service often requires combining technical, social, and business innovations, which is formally very difficult, but of great practical value.

The origins of new service innovations are as ancient as division of labor and as modern as internet-enabled off shoring. The multi-disciplinary nature of service creates many challenging research problems. For example, from an operations research and industrial engineering perspective, how can people be modeled in people-intensive business service systems? From a computer science and IT systems perspective, how can service delivery systems be designed to evolve rapidly and in tune with shifting strategy, regulatory, and demand drivers? From an economics and business strategy perspective, how can service systems grow and achieve economies of scale or increasing gains lock-in? From a complex systems perspective, how is the robustness and fragility of service systems, which include people and technology, similar to and different from naturally occurring physical, chemical, and biological complex systems? The exciting thing about services science is that all existing disciplines have something to contribute. What remains daunting is the lack of a linguistic and empirical foundation for integrating across the required multi-disciplinary perspectives.

The goal is to encourage research aimed at solving unique problems of services businesses and society, and to encourage development of courses and programs aimed at producing graduates who are ready to work in the service sector, particularly in areas of knowledge-intensive business services.

The PowerPoint slide stack used in Dr. Spohrer’s presentation can be accessed by clicking here.


Dr. Jim Spohrer is the director of Almaden Services Research, with the mission of creating and deploying service innovations that matter and scale well both internally at IBM and externally as offerings to IBM clients ("double win " service innovations). Innovating service is a multi-disciplinary endeavor, integrating technology, business model, social-organizational and demand innovation. Prior to joining IBM, Spohrer was at Apple Computer, attaining the role of Distinguished Scientist, engineer, and technologist for his pioneering work on intelligent multimedia learning systems, next generation authoring tools, on-line learning communities, and augmented reality learning systems. He has published in the areas of speech recognition, artificial intelligence, empirical studies of programmers, next generation learning systems and service science. Spohrer graduated with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Yale University (specializing in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science) in 1989 and a B.S. in Physics from MIT in 1978.

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