Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Service research: crossing the Valley of Death

I was talking to an acquaintance recently about the research he was doing on service delivery. The company he was doing the work for had invested heavily in research on services. Part of his job was to apply the research to the way new services were developed within his company's own business units. This turned out to be very difficult, more so than he had expected.

"All the business units want are just some software tool, not the process behind the tool. Not a new approach to service." His team would deliver a software tool, then were placed in the position of having to support it -- not the place you want to be if you're trying to do leading edge research in a new field.

The scenario is familiar to scientists who perform basic research on products. The new service research was falling into the Valley of Death, the space between great ideas generated by research and the development and commercialization of the idea. A lot of what is written about the Valley of Death focuses on lack of funding to commercialize ideas, but there's more to it than that. There's a great deal of skill needed to take a genuinely new idea or prototype and guide it through an organization to a point where it is ready to be commercialized and marketed. That skill is rare.

Service researchers, being new to the commercialization game, are learning what the product R&D folks have experienced already: that great ideas for new services don't sell themselves. Someone needs to guide the prototype service through the Valley of Death. This idea is so new that you won't find much written about the commercialization of new service research.

That's where I'd like to be, generating new ideas for services out of a research framework for delivering service, and then helping to commercialize the idea. But no one out there is hiring those sorts of people, since there's no recognition that a role like that should exist.

No comments: