IBM and Oracle, more often rivals than partners, have joined in creating an industry consortium focused on establishing what it calls "service science" as both a key area for investment by companies and governments and as a full-blown academic discipline.
The vendors along with two services organizations -- the Technology Professional Services Association (TPSA) and the Service & Support Professionals Association (SSPA) -- and other IT companies and universities launched the Service Research & Innovation (SRI) Initiative Wednesday.
The group's main goal is to increase the amount of money spent on service research and development in the IT industry. Its members also hope that evangelizing service science to the corporate world, government and academia will eventually result in the area achieving the same status as computer science.
One of the key issues the SRI Initiative will work on is how to achieve year-over-year improvements in IT services, according to Jim Spohrer, director, service research at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.
The technology industry has become very good at improving engineered products like computers on an annual basis, but has yet to determine how to make similar achievements in service. "We're looking into how to make service productivity, compliance and innovation more predictable," he said. The Initiative is also keen to discover better ways to scale service businesses.
The founding members of the SRI Initiative have formed an advisory board with members including services providers Accenture and Computer Sciences as well as Cisco Systems, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Xerox. Missing from the list so far are the two other leading services providers Cap Gemini and Electronic Data Systems.
The board also includes researchers from a variety of academic institutions including Arizona State University, Cranfield School of Management, the University of California, Los Angeles and the Wharton School of Business.
So far, there are 39 programs underway teaching service science in universities in 22 countries, Spohrer said. The institutions include the University of California, Berkeley, North Carolina State University, Helsinki University of Technology in Finland, Beijing University in China and Tokyo University in Japan.
The organization will be actively soliciting new members at its first symposium due to take place in Santa Clara, California, on May 30. The group also hopes to work closely with other organizations already focused on the service science field, particularly the Networked European Software and Services Initiative (NESSI), Spohrer said. "Our goal is to get every industry, university and government to plan more investment research into services," he added.