Dynamically Serving Long Tail Needs in the Global Digital (Education) Market


Mass connectivity between customers and suppliers on the Web transforms business from a transaction-based (or product-oriented) practice to a long-term relationship-based (or service-oriented) practice.

An example. Before we bought a car as a product: once the transaction (Car for money) was made, the car becomes your possession and you are responsible to take care of all services (like tax and insurance) you need to get the car on the road. Value was created at the point of transaction. Today, like with leasing, a car becomes never really you property: you rather consider it as a service that enables you to “move around freely”. Value is created of a much longer time: as long as you use the “car service” you evaluate the added value and feed back to the supplier so it can be improved.

When implementing technologies to support service-based market places, we must take into account economic relationships rather than work flow properties; and rethink the whole concept of value to start with. Indeed the business model of these new market places are centered around the notion of value; hence it is relevant to semantically codify “who is offering what of value to whom” and what is expected of value in return. Where before value was a simple “price”, it now includes a lot of dimensions (fed by social Web data like reputation, ratings, etc.) along the life cycle of a service. Another problem is that most interesting needs, those along the long tail, can usually not be immediately served because (i) no single supplier offers it by default; and (ii) as it is too niche, multiple suppliers have to assess ROI first and co-create accordingly.

Needs in the head (red part) of the tail are usually offered by vertically integrated service providers. Needs in the long tail are typically more complex requiring niche offerings offered by a combination of suppliers (picture by Bart Van De Casteel) .

Determining needs and offerings is not a one-pass exercise. To match them up they have to grow towards each other through compromise and sacrifice of all parties.  Therefore, we propose an interactive dialogue system to express customer needs based on marketing theory (see e.g. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller. Marketing Management. Prentice Hall, 2006). In addition, we also provide capabilities to publish service offerings by means of an ontology-based catalog. Moreover, since mass configuration of products is playing an important role, dynamic composition of SVNs has been also supported. Finally, our long-term ultimate goal is to automatically compose a SVN, including the required business processes and Information Technology (IT) support in the form of web services. Such IT is then aligned with the business, since both are designed in an integrated way.

Razo-Zapata, I.; De Leenheer, P.; Gordijn, J.; Akkermans, H. (2011) Service Value Networks for Competency-driven Educational Services: a Case Study. In Proceedings of the 6th international Workshop on Business / IT alignment and Interoperability (CAiSE 2011), Springer LNBIP

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