Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Services Not All Like Laundry

In my post on the Laundry Metaphor of Services, I said that all services are a bit like laundry, and some services are very much like laundry, but few services are totally like laundry.

We need a notion of business services that covers at least five types of service (plus composites, hybrids and cross-overs).

Product Service: "I give/get you something"
Examples: Catering, Information, Certificate

Typically the service is fulfilled in the form of one or more deliveries (events). A product service is typically triggered by a specific request by the service user, and fulfilled by a response by the service provider. The right to trigger product services may sometimes be delegated to the service provider - either by defining some business rules, or by delegating authority as part of a challenge-based service (see below). Charging is typically per product or per delivery. Or it may be governed by a prior access service (such as subscription).

Transformation Service: "I do something to your something"
Examples: Car Repair, Laundry, Haircut,

The service provider takes temporary charge of something that belongs to the service user, and returns it in an improved state (e.g. mended, cleaner, tidier, more fashionable).

Responsibility Service: "I take care of something for you"
Examples: Office Cleaning, Track Inspection & Maintenance

Typically the service provider takes ongoing responsibility for a defined entity or outcome over a defined time period. Beside the core service, the service provider may provide regular or adhoc reports about the state of the entity to the service user. Charging will often be based on a flat fee. An alternative form of charging may be based on time and materials, but this demands a higher degree of trust between the service provider and the service user.

Access Service: "I allow you to do something" Permit/Enable/Empower
Examples: Subscription, Licence, Fishing Permit, Rail Use / Landing Slot

The service is typically delivered in the form of a message that contains a key and/or allocates a resource. Access rights and allocations typically expire if not used. Access is typically tied to a specific identity (e.g. user, machine) and is not normally tradeable or transferable. May also include traded options and the like, which confer a defined right to some other service or trade.

Challenge Service: "I solve a problem for you."
Example: Diagnostics, Develop Software, Adapt Business On-Demand.

The service provider often (but not always) specifies the solution. The service provider may also specify the problem. This entails a high degree of trust. This may also involve some shared risk and professional indemnity. Charging is typically problematic, unless it can be done within an arbitrary “professional” fee structure.

Each type of service requires different kinds of charging and service level agreement, and relies on different forms of quality assurance and trust. In my post on the Business Service Architecture (Railway Edition), I mentioned the difficulty faced by the company in the UK with primary responsibility for the railway network (originally Railtrack, now Network Rail). Railtrack was delegating maintenance work (Responsibility Services) to engineering companies and subcontractors, while selling rail availability (Access Services) to train operating companies. Railtrack seriously miscalculated the complex algebraic relationship between two different kinds of service level agreement, resulting in a serious rail accident in Hatfield.

Not all like laundry then.

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