Guest article by Professor Andy Neely and Dr. Mohamed Zaki
About the Cambridge Service Alliance
The Cambridge Service Alliance was founded in 2010 by BAE Systems, IBM and the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing and Judge Business School. Since its inception industrial members have also included Caterpillar, GEA, Pearson and Zoetis. The Alliance is a unique global partnership between businesses and universities. It brings together the world’s leading firms and academics, all of whom are devoted to delivering today the research, tools, and education needed for the complex service solutions of tomorrow. In particular, our industrial members have an active interest in the shift to services, in order to:
- Conduct insightful, yet practical, research to improve the design and deployment of high-performance complex service systems.
- Create and develop industrially applicable tools and techniques that deliver competitive advantage.
- Provide an unparalleled network of academics and industrialists that share experience, knowledge, and insight in how better to design and deploy high-performance complex service systems.
- Develop and deliver public and member-only education programs to raise the skill levels of organisations.
Cambridge Service Alliance Research team
In the Cambridge Service Alliance we have internationally leading researchers, who are working closely with our industrial partners to understand these challenges, and how firms can respond to them. The team is seeking to uncover and communicate the deep insights of designing and delivering world-class service and solutions. Furthermore, we have many publications in highly ranked journals, such as; The Journal of Service Research; International Journal of Operations and Production Management; California Management Review; Journal of Service Management; Journal of Service Marketing; Journal of Product Innovation Management; Industrial Marketing Management; American Journal of Medical Research, and PloS One Journal.
Why complex services?
Complex service provision is becoming increasingly essential for manufacturers, as new business models become more service and solution oriented. This allows manufacturers to maintain their competitive advantage, and provides greater value for customers. For example, an asset heavy company which makes, sells and leases its products and also provides maintenance and repair services for them. Its products contain sensors which collect vast amounts of data, allowing the company to monitor them remotely and diagnose any problems. If this data is combined with existing operational data, advanced engineering analytics and forward-looking business intelligence, the company can offer a ‘condition-based monitoring service’, able to analyse and predict equipment faults. For the customer, unexpected downtime becomes a thing of the past, repair costs are reduced and the intervals between services increased. Intelligent analytics can even show them how to use the equipment at optimum efficiency. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and dealers see this as a way of growing their parts and repairs business and increasing the sales of spare parts. It also strengthens relationships with existing customers and attracts new ones looking for a service maintenance contract.
What have we learned and contributed so far?
Making the shift to services journey is a challenge and requires an innovative and progressive approach. Through our research, we have learned a great deal, and we understand more about:
- risks of service contracts: and how these risks can be better identified, managed and mitigated.
- performance management: outcome-based contracts, in which suppliers are rewarded for results delivered.
- customer dependencies: knowing where and when the organisation’s capability to deliver outcomes is affected by customers’ actions.
- shift to services and solutions: we have identified seven critical success factors that underline the successful shift to services. Also, we have investigated how firms can pilot and scale up their services to successfully grow firms’ service businesses.
- business models: we have studied business models and ecosystems, identifying what capabilities firms need to successfully deliver excellent services in partnership with firms. Also, how firms can innovate and coordinate across ecosystem – networks of organisations that are pooling their capabilities to deliver service excellence.
- data analytics for services: we studied how firms can capitalise on the new digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, machine learning and cognitive computing to enhance service experience and design better services. In particular, we have developed new text mining methods to analyse customer experience data, so we can better identify critical customers’ pain-points, extracting employee evaluations and the customer–buyer relationship and providing a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, including subsequent customer responses to organisational attempts to improve the customer experience.
What is our current research?
Each year the Alliance partners agree on a program of research which reflects their most pressing challenges. In 2017, we will focus our research activities on the following research questions:
- Business Model: What disruption could new technologies such as ‘Digital Twins’ bring to business models?
- Business Ecosystems: How can we design a firm that integrates optimally in a business ecosystem?
- Customer Experience Analytics: How can new machine learning techniques be used to analyse the consumer purchase journey to identify opportunities for intervention and influence customer experiences?
What are our other activities?
Research outputs: while developing a rigorous programme of research and investigation, we make our materials more widely available in our:
Executive education programmes: we are running a series of executive education programmes – both public and in-house. The service design programme: Making the Shift to Services is the University accredited two-day course which helps organisations understand how to make successful transitions to services.
Cambridge Service Week: each year, the Alliance holds its annual week of events aimed at bringing together leading academic, industrialists and policy maker to address the challenges facing service education, research, practice and policy.
Partner Engagements – Community of Interest: we regularly invite our partner firms to an open forum where delegates can share experience and ideas about services, learning directly from one another and the researchers.