On integration and adaptation in complex service systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The services sector employs a large and growing proportion of workers in the industrialized nations, and it is increasingly dependent on information and communication technologies. While the interdependences, similarities and complementarities of manufacturing and services are significant, there are considerable differences between goods and services, including the shift in focus from mass production to mass customization (whereby a service is produced and delivered in response to a customer's stated or imputed needs). In general, services can be considered to be knowledge-intensive agents or components which work together as providers and consumers to create or co-produce value. Like manufacturing systems, an efficient service system must be an integrated system of systems, leading to greater connectivity and interdependence. Integration must occur over the physical, temporal, organizational and functional dimensions, and must include methods concerned with the component, the management, and the system. Moreover, an effective service system must also be an adaptable system, leading to greater value and responsiveness. Adaptation must occur over the dimensions of monitoring, feedback, cybernetics and learning, and must include methods concerned with space, time, and system. In sum, service systems are indeed complex, especially due to the uncertainties associated with the human-centered aspects of such systems. Moreover, the system complexities can only be dealt with methods that enhance system integration and adaptation. The paper concludes with several insights, including a plea to shift the current misplaced focus on developing a science or discipline for services to further developing a systems engineering approach to services, an approach based on the integration and adaptation of a host of sciences or disciplines (e.g., physics, mathematics, statistics, psychology, sociology, etc.). In fact, what is required is a services-related transdisciplinary - beyond a single disciplinary - ontology or taxonomy as a basis for disciplinary integration and adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-415
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Systems Science and Systems Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Decision informatics
  • Real-time decision making
  • Service system
  • Services
  • System adaptation
  • System components
  • System integration
  • System of systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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