Creating an undergraduate minor in SSMED

Creating an undergraduate minor in SSMED:
Service Science Management Engineering and Design

Today’s undergraduates face new challenges upon graduation. Employers want and expect more. Global markets and competitors are one factor. They create an unrelenting pace of change and the so-called “innovation imperative.” Students seeking employment today need more than depth in one academic discipline.  To be most successful, students must be able to problem-solve and communicate on teams that span multiple disciplines and cultures. In addition, they must be self-directed life-long learners with experience working on real-world challenges.

In response to these new demands on undergraduates, the traditional discipline majors are making changes and experimenting with accomodations that bridge silos of knowledge.  For example, schools of science have begun offering business-oriented minors and adding Professional Science Masters (PSM) programs at the masters level, engineering schools have begun offering business minors (e.g., engineering management, engineering economics, etc.), management schools have begun offering engineering minors and creating some new discipline (e.g., management of technology, management of innovation, etc.), schools of social sciences and public policy have begun customizing courses for integration into both engineering and business schools, as well as creating some new minor (e.g., social networks and complexity sciences, technology and public policy, etc.), information schools have also arisen using design as an integration focus for technology, business, and social sciences (e.g., i-schools, d-schools, etc.). Even in the schools of professional studies and vocational schools, such as medicine, nursing, law, education, government administration, greentech, search engine marketing, smart phone application development, web service and cloud application development, game design and the arts, and many other niche professional and vocational training programs, the new imperative is to show both depth and breadth (ability to communicate and work on diverse teams to solve real-world challenges in a timely and cost effective manner, often with global collaborators, while maintaining a pipeline of future projects).

Nevertheless, the bottom-line choice remains the same, what major and minor will best prepare today’s undergraduates for a brighter future tomorrow? Whether they are making the choice to follow their passion, enhance their existing areas of strength, to maximize long-term security, or attempting to quickly reach financial independence and retirement, today’s undergraduates have more options than at any time in the past.  In fact, some students and their parents have even begun to question the necessity of a college education, though pay surveys for age groups later in life still show an advantage for those with higher educational degrees.  Furthermore, at the national level, more of the population with relevant college degrees is correlated with higher GDP levels, so nations have a strong incentive to improve the innovation capabilities of their next generation of undergraduates.

Academic institutions are responding by offering more choices for majors and minors, providing incentives for faculty from different areas to offer courses that span silos, more options for semesters abroad, and working with industry to offer more capstone projects and internship opportunities.

Industry and even government institutions are responding by offering both more capstone project and internship opportunities, but also allowing their employees to spend time in academic institutions helping to prepare undergraduates as guest lecturers, adjunct faculty, and as mentors.

How is a minor in SSMED different from other minors?

In light of all these changes, how is a minor in Service Science Management Engineering and Design (SSMED) different from a business minor for engineering students, or a technology minor for management students? An SSMED minor differs in two fundamental ways from the existing patchwork approach to existing minors: (1) practical focus on service innovation (as integrative with and complementary to product and process innovation, for both entrepreneurial and large private and public enterprises), and (2) theoretical foundation in a comprehensive, globally integrated, service-oriented world-view (the growth of service, customer-focus, local system operations and global system transformations). In short, SSMED prepares undergraduates to be practical innovators (relevance) who understand global systems change (rigor) – graduates who know how to act local, and think global.

Students graduating with an SSMED minor will understand the following and more:

1. Why has the portion of service revenue been increasing even in manufacturing companies?
2. Why are many cities, states, and national governments cutting back public services and facing growing budget deficits?
3. How have search engines, social networks, and smart phones increased opportunities for service innovation?
4. How have green tech, GHG emission markets, and sustainability concerns increased opportunities for service innovation?
5. How have emerging markets, developing economics, and an aging population increased opportunities for service innovation?
6. How has cloud computing, business analytics, on-line gaming increased opportunities for service innovation?
7. What are the implications of the growing number of freelancers and individual proprietorship businesses on the global economy?
8. What are the implications of the growing number of self-service systems in the world?
9. How do service innovation methods relate to and work to enhance traditional product and process innovation methods?
10. Why do technological advances, especially information and communication technologies, increase service innovation opportunities?
11. How are academic disciplines related to each other, and what are the best ways to work on teams with people from multiple disciples?
12. How are different types of jobs and professions related, is there a “big-picture systems-view” to be understood?
13. How does outsourcing and offshoring impact the globalization policies of national governments and strategies of business firms?
14. How can service-oriented architectures in government and business make enterprises more adaptable?

In short, an SSMED minor is different at a practical level, with a focus on improving innovation capabilities as well as a theoretical level, with a focus on improving understanding of a comprehensive, integrative model of global systems change across all sectors of the economy. This would be a huge undertaking if it were not for the systems-disciplines matrix, which is at the core of SSMED and provides a way for students to visualize the scope of SSMED. As the system-discipline matrix makes its way into K-12 education over time, the SSMED minor will become deeper and deeper. The key to solving the problem of “too much to teach” lies in starting earlier and earlier with a comprehensive world-view for understanding global system change.

Systems-Discipline Matrix: See slide #17 in the presentation at

Will SSMED ever become a major on its own?

Yes probably someday, but for most institutions rushing to create an undergraduate major at this time is not advised for several reasons. First and foremost, most employers would not recognize the major and therefore this would create confusion. At this stage, it is better for undergraduates to have a well-recognized major degree, and a minor in SSMED. Second, service science at the masters and doctoral level is very new, and until the field matures and is able to graduate a sufficiently large number of doctoral students qualified to be undergraduate faculty who can begin to create expanded undergraduate curriculum and textbooks, it is simply too early. PhD’s are not produced any faster today than they were created fifty years ago, so the process of creating the pool of faculty will take roughly another decade. Third, just as computer science as a separate discipline took about 30 years to be established, and depending on growing availability of computing systems, service science as a major is likely to depend on the creation of new tools for simulating service systems. Without a unique tool (service system modeling and simulation tool), it is unlikely that service scientist can successfully form a profession differentiated well from existing professions, such as business consulting.

Fourth, there is plenty of work to do at the undergraduate level in establishing an excellent minor that can work for NEARLY ALL existing majors within engineering, management, social sciences, professional studies, etc. For example, the job of establishing SSMED as a rigorous and relevant minor for engineering and management degree majors is a doable short-term challenge and a useful step in the right direction to achieve a longer-term goal of a separate SSMED undergraduate major.

In sum, service science as an undergraduate major is not advised, until there are more graduate level programs, more faculty, more textbooks, better tools, and more professionals who see themselves as practicing their profession as service scientists. Service science has the potential to become a separate discipline and profession that helps accelerate innovation and learning between service system entities, be they businesses, universities, hospitals, cities, or even nations – all viewed a complex sociotechnical systems – or service systems that are both providers and customers of service offerings within networks, or an ecology of such systems. Of course, pioneers have already experimented with undergraduate service science-related majors, and these experiments should be closely watched for best practice methods to incorporate into SSMED minors.

What is the top challenge in creating an SSMED minor?

The top challenge is “too much to teach.” One view of an SSMED minor is that it attempts to integrate all minors (e.g., engineering, management, social sciences and public policy, technology and information systems design, etc.) within themes of service growth and innovation as well as global service system change and service network dynamics.   Service innovation is an important unifying theme today in trying to understand global change.

The solution is “T-shaped professionals.” T-shaped professionals are deep in their major, and have in essence multiple minors across the major schools that exist at universities, schools of management, engineering, social sciences, information schools, professional schools, etc.   Make no mistake, I-shaped, H-shaped, Pi-Shaped, and many other shapes are also needed, but the trend overall is for more T-shaped (without sacrificing deep problem solving skills, and adding the breadth of complex communications skills).  On the job experience, transforms I-shaped into T-shaped professionals, so what can academia do to accelerate T-shaped learning – this is what employers want.

Furthermore, in order not to dilute the major, there are just two options (1) add more time (e.g., add a fifth year, more hours of instruction per week, etc.), (2) teach more efficiently (e.g., add more self-guided on-line instruction, take advantage of common content in different schools, use real-world challenges projects to accelerate learning, repackage existing content in more efficient conceptual frameworks, etc.). Both of these are good options and can be explored separately or in parallel.

Most SSMED programs follow to some degree the 50-and-five-10’s rule, meaning 50% of the content taught is the major degree program (e.g,, operations management, marketing, industrial engineering, management of information systems, computer science, etc.) and 50% comes from five component areas:

1. 10% engineering/math-science degree content
2. 10% business/management content
3. 10% social sciences/humanities/public policy content
4. 10% information school/design content
5. 10% capstone and real-world challenge project s(e.g., local small firm, global large firm semester aboard, etc)

For example, the major may be taught in four years and a fifth year added for the SSMED minor that covers the five-10’s in the context of service innovation (see below). Alternatively, the five-10’s could be constructed as an on-line self-paced minor that students must complete in the four years while completing their undergraduate major.

What service innovation content already exists?

The material for the five-10’s component of the SSMED minor can be drawn from many sources, including the following:

1. Operations Management (engineering and management)
Fitzsimmons, JA. and MJ Fitzsimmons (2007) Service management: Operations, Strategy, Information Technology. 6th Edition, McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York, NY.

2. Marketing (management – though analytics is adding more engineering and math)
Zeithaml, VA, MJ Bitner, DD Gremler (2006) Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm. 4th Edition. McGraw-Hill Irwin. New York, NY.

3. IT Service Management (engineering, management, information/design)
Hurwitz J and R Bloor M Kaufman F Halper (2009) Service Management For Dummies. Wiley. Hoboken, NJ..

4. Engineering Management (engineering, management, information/design)
Chang CM (2010) Service Systems Management and Engineering: Creating Strategic Differentiation and Operational Excellence. Wiley. Hoboken, NJ.

5. Service Supply Chain (engineering and management)
Dischinger, JS (2010) Personal communications. URL:

6.. Professional Service Business Management (engineering and management)
Ricketts JA (2007) Reaching The Goal: How Managers Improve a Services Business Using Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, IBM Press.

7. Operations Research (engineering and management)
Daskin, MS (2010) Service Science. Wiley. Hoboken, NJ.

8. Social Sciences: Economic Geography (social sciences)
Bryson, J, P Daniels, B Warf (2003) Service Worlds: People, Organisations, Technologies. Routledge, London, UK.

9. Information Systems (as Work Systems and as Service Systems) (management and information/design)
Alter. S (2006)The Work System Method: Connecting People, Processes, and IT for Business Results. Work System Press, Larkspur, CA.
Alter, S (2002) Information Systems: Foundation of E-Business (4th Edition). Prentice Hall.

10. Unified Service Theory (management)
Sampson, SE (2010) The Unified Service Theory: A Paradigm for Service Science. Handbook of Service Science, Editors Maglio, Kieliszewski, Spohrer, Spring, New York, NY. 107-132.

Much more is coming, and in the process of being created. Hundreds of universities already teach service science related courses and programs, so there is a growing community and body of research, practice, and curricular content to draw on in establishing an SSMED minor. For example, the “Handbook of Service Science” is available from Spinger Publishing, and contains a wealth of pointers to existing materials.

What jobs will undergraduates get when they have an SSMED minor?

The same jobs as other graduates with the same major degree, but the undergraduates with SSMED minors willl be (1) better innovators able to understand and enhance service value for and with customers, (2) better communicators on team projects requiring multiple disciplines to collaborate, and (3) better life-long learners with a framework for organizing new disciplinary knowledge about service systems. Employers are coming to appreciate an SSMED undergraduate minors, as they look to hire employees with interdisciplinary skills, able to work on real-world challenges, and better prepared to be innovative global citizens with excellent communication, problem-solving, and life-long-learning skills.

Students with a major in computer science, industrial engineering, systems engineering, management of information systems, economics, organizational design, human resources management, technology management, political science, policy management, or other standard majors that are hired into high-tech, high-talen service businesses (which are now everywhere) — the graduates with well-know majors would be especially attractive to industry if they also had a minor in SSMED based on the material above. The T-shaped professional has deep problem solving skills in the area of their major, and has broad communication skills across all areas of an SSMED minor. There is simply too much redundancy in the the material above, so creating an on-line SSMED minor that could combine “the best of the best” with a standard major, would in fact be a tremendous breakthrough in instruction.

A good place to start: Determine which of your academic institution’s existing degree programs are in most demand from industry, and survey those employers (e.g., their hiring professionals and recruitment teams) to see “what is the value add for an SSMED minor” over and above the well-known standard major. If the employers are unfamiliar with SSMED, which is likely, then ask the employers instead the following questions. How important (1 not important) to 7 (very important) the following characteristics are to them when they hire undergraduates: (1) communication skills and ability to work in teams, (2) experience working on real-world challenges, (3) technical skills in the area of their major, (4) ability to find solutions that make both technical and business sense, (5) ability to work on global projects with team members from multiple cultures, (5) ability to innovate and create new solutions, (6) sales skills and persuasiveness, (7) ability to use the latest technology in finding solutions to improve internal processes and solve customer problems, and (8) self-directed learning and life-long-learning skills. If their responses total over 32, then it is likely an SSMED minor would add value to the existing major. On the other hand, if their responses total less than 32 it is unlikely that an SSMED minor would add value and accelerate hiring decisions. Furthermore, if universities develop SSMED minors without first surveying those hiring their students, then they risk missing the mark in the programs they create.

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