Multi-actor-network-service lifetime knowledge flow
I have been researching knowledge transfer in service creation projects that involve a network of service producers who are needed for service implementation. In those projects, the knowledge flow requirements between the actors are of interest. What information is needed at which point and by whom to make the service a reality and to generate value for the customers and network alike? While I’m doing academic research on the subject I also want to communicate some of my thinking about this issue in a free format, because I’m not a master of academic expression yet and those articles have a lifecycle of their own. This post represents my knowledge about the issue at this point in time, including speculation and framework — hypothesis if you will.
Multi-actor service creation projects begin with an initiation phase where the concept and the network of the service start to form. The planning phase starts when the network starts to see value potential in the service. Implementation begins from early experiments and ends in large scale release. Some innovation frameworks call this phase development, some focus only on this one phase and discuss it as a iterative process. From a larger perspective, the implementation phase is still part of a linear “lifecycle” of a service. At the operation phase, the development has stopped or the development has a different stream as the upkeep requires different actions from development. Major changes might happen for the service. Termination of the service lies in the end.
I will walk you through the knowledge flow inside and between these 6 phases. The knowledge flow in my opinion can be separated into at least 13 streams:
- Network organization, orchestration information
- Strategy, the purpose of the network
- Inter-organizational social relationship formulation
- Network money flow, business value information
- Service implementation planning
- Customer value and experience planning (A)
- Service sales and marketing activities
- Service implementation
- Value and experience design (B)
- Customer information, customer relationship management
- Service operations, operation data flow
- Service monitoring
- Customer value and experience emergence monitoring (C)
The initiation of a networked service can start for example similarly to other innovation from ideas, customer insight, business or technology, but more likely the network structure requires a different ignition. Maybe this can come from a previous network that evolves or as a completely new network emerging from research projects with an outsider incentive. Whatever is the starting point, the network requires meta work to keep it connected. The network might have an orchestrator role or it might have a hub, making it centralised. This organising work (1.) is required to plan how different organizations work together when they meet, what is the innovation process that they follow and general scheduling. In research programs this role might be partly a separate actor in the beginning, but the network actors need to pick this role in order to continue network actions.
During the initiation, the strategy of the network (2.) starts to formulate. The strategy is interconnected to
- i) Service implementation capabilities of the individual actors and network as a whole that are revealed during planning (5.) and
- ii) Customer value and experience planning (6.)
that together describe how value will be emerging from the service, “value creation mechanism”. The third component for the strategy is deciding value sharing scheme for the network (4.). The market context is also an embedded part of the strategy. For simplicity, a blue ocean situation is assumed with a new service.
Information flow for the service strategy and vision happens by some degree of transparency between actors in the network while they are trying to gather enough information on implementation capabilities and costs, customer needs and their own benefitting opportunities. An assumption is that more transparency at this stage about these issues would improve the strategy quality, but also that because of lack of trust between actors at this stage, the sharing is very limited.
During the initiation, Social relationships (3.) between actors start forming. Both inter-organizational links and personal relationships form. This enables trust between organizations on a large scale. These connections accumulate during the planning phase and implementation phase further still and they carry over to the rest of the lifecycle. Personnel changes in teams or organizations change the social dynamic of the service organizers. New people don’t inherit the gravitas and social connections by default if they take over a role. In an inter-organizational service creation network, these social graphs are also subject to organizational restructures. These social graphs should be bolstered with also formal practices and connections between organizations that are not relying on individuals.
From the initiation to the planning information transfers in a form of a concept. At its barest, it is an idea, a slide in a presentation, a narrated story. It contains the value creation mechanism that still needs validation. This concept starts to act as a vision for the network, but the motivation is still questionable and very person-specific.
Planning focuses on validating the concept and iterating it until it really is capable of producing value. Prototypes are the results of this stage.
Service design (6.)(A) starts to show the customer requirements for the service, customer insight is used to plan and scope the service components. Some features are dropped and some prioritised.
The service implementation (5.) is also tried and tested.
Inter-organizational personal relationships grow and when the prototypes show results the network gains purpose. At this point also revenue streams start (4.), even though they might be research and development investments at this point. Service marketing and sales (7.) are also part of planned
During the implementation and development of the service, value and experience design (9.)(B) is faced with even more customer context and only reality shows which plans for value creation are possible. In customer-centred innovation, this would be the prime mover of the process. In technology-oriented innovation, the main driver is technological feasibility. And that feasibility is resolved in Service implementation (8.). In any case, the information needs to flow between implementation and customer-focused streams and neither can be overlooked.
During the operation phase, service operations produce a data flow (11.) that needs to be managed and it produces also an opportunity to monitor the service (12.). Customer value and experience emergence monitoring (13.)(C.) is, or can, or maybe should be separated from this information stream, as it reveals a different perspective on the service future. It also connects to the planned (A) customer value from the networked service and the design (B) of the service value and experience. This stream connects the customer-centred information stream in the service creation project.
In a major change situation, the structure of the service network changes and the purpose is re-evaluated. This starts a macro level iteration of the service. Service strategy (2), money flow (4.), sales and marketing (7.), implementation (8.), customer value design (9.), customer relations (10.), operations (11.), monitoring (12.), and customer value monitoring (13.) are effected.
Reduction of money flow is the most used indicator to determine the reduction of customer value and changes in the market environment. Like during change, the purpose of the service and the whole network is evaluated, but now is determined obsolete. Dissolution of the service network is total.