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July 14, 2005


Vincenzo Graziano

I like this expression: “flattening of the world”. As marketing student attending an International course I have classmates coming from all over the world. We often use the Internet to communicate with each other. Technology will help us stay in touch with each other and reduce the geographical distances that will arise when at the end of the course many of us will go back to their countries. Thus I agree when we say that technology can “flatten the world”. Nevertheless I would like to add a few words with regards to the relationship building process prior to communication. When people come from different countries, cultures, religions and socio-economic backgrounds much effort is required to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. I can remember all the discussions had with my fellow colleagues and the compromises that on both sides have been accepted in order to enjoy each other’s company. Irving, as you said “there is probably no more powerful agent for innovation -- in any field -- than an open mind”. I think that the extent to which technology will enable us to get closer to each other and ease the information exchange process will depend on our willingness to accept diversity. I can have a real conversation on messenger with my Libyan friend Jamal only if we have already stretched and open our minds towards each other’s point of views.

When it comes to service marketing I think that nothing really changes. Let’s take for instance Singapore Airlines (SIA), an extraordinary service company. SIA is famous for its heavy investments in technology which enables the company to deliver outstanding services. What has to be notice is that this company comes from the Republic of Singapore which has always been a multi-racial society and therefore SIA is not scared by cultural diversity and employs people coming from anywhere in the world looking only at their talent. SIA has turned the “hassle factor” of cultural diversity into “productive friction” by creating flexible structures of work where people change working environments periodically and adapt themselves to succeed. In a nutshell, they have created an environment where changing is a way of living. The reason why SIA can adapt technology to different customer needs depends much on its employees’ capacity to interpret and respect the cultural differences among customers.

I think that whether or not technology will enable us to face the challenges of the future, in society as well as in business, will also depend on our capacity to understand and leverage diversity.

Jim Spohrer

The shift in the world's workforce from agriculture to manufacturing to services over the past two hundred years is truly astounding. Especially, considering the world's population has gone from one billion to six billion people during that period -- productivity gains in agriculture and manufacturing have played a key role. Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat" does a good job of exploring the shift and its implications.

The SSME website at http://www.research.ibm.com/ssme is one good place to get information about how IBM is interacting with academics, industry, and government to coproduce an SSME research agenda and curriculum. Let's be clear, this work will take a lot of stakeholders working together over multiple years to accomplish the ambitious goal.

What will be the breakthroughs that allow systematic approaches to investing in service innovation and then to get predictable returns? For example in manufacturing of semiconductors, Moore's Law provided the basis of an investment strategy to shrink transistors and get predictable capability and cost improvements, year after year. What understanding of services might allow predictable service productivity and service quality gains? An understanding of outsourcing and its relationship to Coase's Law is one piece of the puzzle. There are many other pieces to the puzzle, and this will be an exciting frontier for IBM Research to explore with IGS and the other divisions, as well as academic, industry, and government stakeholders.

To capitalize on these advances in knowledge will mean gaining a better understanding of the relationship of technology innovation, business model innovation, social-organizational innovation, and demand innovation (new needs from the clients). Service innovations are about new models of work sharing (with other countries or automation and technology) and risk sharing (with clients, partners, and employees).

Historically, IBM was a partner with academics, industry, and government in establishing the discipline of Computer Science, more than a half century ago. Now, IBM can play a role in helping to establish SSME, especially in the area of Knowledge-Intensive Business Services (KIBS) that impact Business Performance Transformation Services (BPTS).

These are exciting times!

Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah

Brad Cox's prescient 1990 article Planning the Software Industrial Revolution was on my mind recently:


"The possibility of a software industrial revolution, in which programmers stop coding everything from scratch and begin assembling applications from well-stocked catalogs of reusable software components, is an enduring dream that continues to elude our grasp. Although object-oriented programming has brought the software industrial revolution a step closer, common-sense organizational principles like reusability and interchangeability are still the exception rather than the rule."

We need to get out of Deadwood.


Stuart Oliver

I very much enjoyed reading this blog entry, in particular the last paragraph. I think that many are still in denial regarding globalisation.

The efforts you are making in universities around the world are exactly what is required to ensure that, at the very least, we are prepared for the near future.

Globalisation and the rise of the "portfolio worker" are key interests and pursuits of mine and I look forward to sharing blog entries with you in the future.


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