We have reached a defining moment in the pursuit of economic value. The commercial imperative that transitioned from the exchange of goods to the revolution of services is now settling on the goal of delivering transformational experiences. Within that context, I have a simple message for senior line-of-business executives kept awake at night worrying about remaining competitive, avoiding irrelevance and finding that ever-elusive differentiator. The time for service innovation is now.

This optimistic outlook for ambitious businesses willing to catch the zeitgeist is based on my personal thesis for success in digital services. Admittedly, it has the benefit of being shaped by daily inspiration here at Cambridge Consultants. Bolstered by one of the world’s largest independent wireless and digital teams, we are already helping clients to servitise not just for the sake of being digital – but to deliver truly game changing experiences for their users, customers and organisations.

Why now for service innovation? Let’s start with some timeless insight from legendary broadcast journalist Edward R Murrow. “Just once in a while,” he said, “let us exalt in the importance of ideas and information.” That statement has sharp relevance today because ideas express the importance of innovation. To endure, it must escape the effects of the Kano Model – where an excitement factor quickly degrades to a performance factor.

Information is the fuel for the AI that is making services smart. But we need to go beyond delivering a smart interaction and be smart enough to constantly learn from interactions. Then we can inform the evolution of a service that really lands, because it understands the preferences of the user and the performance of the relevant business metrics.

User primacy must always come first

Page one of a workable manifesto for service innovation must start with the premise of user primacy based on design thinking, which is a common substrate for our digital services engagement with clients. The objective of the service should be for users to achieve everything about their goal. That might mean a logistics shipping company providing transparency on the carbon footprint of goods in transit. The imperative would be for users to see – via scanned data in an app – the justification of the carbon offset price of the goods based on raw materials, distribution miles and future recycling costs, all held in a blockchain.

In agriculture, it could be ensuring that an operation undertaking crop treatments with remote surveillance and robotic application delivers optimised crop yields for the farmer. Ultimately, it might be that the innovation itself is not apparent to the user. What matters is that the service benefit is obvious and well balanced with the payment model.

At Cambridge Consultants, we look for service innovation in many dimensions – in the overall user experience, in the business model and in the technology both physical and digital. Mastering that interface is vital. There are ever-increasing ways for the digital world to meet the physical one as we move from simple interfaces such as screen, gesture and sensor to more sophisticated tactile, sentiment, intuitive and psychological connections.

The virtues of being ‘network native’

The real power of 5G

We have deep experience in network technologies such as 5G, so we are well placed to exploit the potential of connected services. Our whitepaper – The real power of 5G – explains the virtues of being ‘network native’ by using the characteristics of the network to serve the needs of the service.

That might mean moving machine learning to the edge of the network to power smarter interactions such as face recognition with very low latency. Or it could be using network slicing to provide the necessary quality of service. Both aspects come together in the Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), where the availability of sensors and connected devices are fused with the potency of 5G and machine learning. Our collaboration with Hitachi (shown in the video below) is a case in point, as it features an IoT innovation platform which gathers valuable industry data to inform future services.

Execution, measurement and learning

From where I’m sitting, the service innovation landscape is rich in opportunity. But successful players will need to be bold, and ready to maximise the agile, iterative nature of service innovation with a cycle of execution, measurement and learning. If you’d like to explore these themes in more detail, don’t hesitate to email me. 

Author
Martin Cookson
Director of Service Innovation