Background Information

Background Information: Rationale of the SSMEnetUK

In recent years service industries have become a fast growing sector in world economies [1][4][8][20]. Services now accounts for more than 50 percent of the labour force in Brazil, Russia, Japan and Germany, as well as 75 percent of the labour force in the United States and the United Kingdom. IT services in particular have risen rapidly and the worldwide IT service industry is expected to increase in value from US$ 635 billion in 2005 to US$ 780 billion in 2008 [16].

While recent decades have witnessed the ‘industrialization’ of services, and increasing awareness that services are often far more innovative than the misleading ‘supplier-driven’ categorization suggests, it is clear that the business processes of many services are poorly understood, and there remains a great deal of craft-like organization in some service industries. Increasing numbers of commentators suggest that the services industry lacks the rigor of traditional manufacturing and engineering disciplines [29]. The growth in services is changing the way companies organize themselves, creating a skills gap which requires people to have knowledge in business and information technology, as well as the human factors that go into a successful services operation.

These two driving forces—the need for new service skills and more scientific rigor to the practices of services—have led some leading universities and thought leaders in the business world to propose a new academic discipline in services [5],[21]. Significantly, such an idea has recently received substantial backing from IBM and a number of other major IT corporations, but the idea extends beyond IT systems services and encompasses general notion of services and business. Various titles have been used to capture this new discipline, including IBM’s Services Sciences, Management and Engineering (SSME) and HP’s Systems and Services Sciences. The network will use the SSME title to refer to this new, pioneering field without prejudice against other names and will focus on two substantive issues in this field—research and education.