Smart Personalisation Service from Burberry

In ‘The Future of Shopping; from high-street to iStreet’  the Daily Telegraph reports on the changing face of shopping with many customers now using high street shops as show rooms where they can view, try on, get the look and feel of products before actually buying on-line.  The mix of services between the on-line world and the high street is a difficult one for retailers but there is no doubt that retail services are changing.

Burberry has not hesitated and is leading fashion retailers in service innovation, with ‘direct-to-buy’ offering fashion direct from the catwalk. A powerful mix of e-commerce and social media strategies enables shoppers to see the new season catwalk show through live streaming and to order personalised versions of clothes and handbags within minutes of seeing them. The New York Times reported in February that the 2013 Autumn show:

. . . was streamed live on, numerous media sites, the Burberry Facebook page and Twitter (a first, Burberry believes). There were 1,500 seats in the specially built show space in Kensington Gardens in London, but the audience potentially was more than 19.3 million, the number of Burberry’s followers across all digital platforms.

When the buy-direct service first started in 2010 it took six months to deliver the catwalk clothes to the customer but now Burberry has reduced this to eight weeks for a specific range, making the acquisition all the more exciting for the customer.  Trench coats being the first in line for the latest made to order smart personalisation service.

Burberry offers a truly innovative approach to delivering customer service, offering not only e-commerce and social media experience but also increasingly immersive content-rich experiences for the customer.

Is it successful?

Burberry plc reports that it :

….continued to advance its leading position on social media in the luxury sector. and …In 2011/12, Burberry’s revenue was £1,857m – a 23% underlying increase on the previous year.

Not only is it successful it is also an excellent example of service innovation.

Software as a service, and some thoughts on the future

Some years ago I participated in a research project  in which we examined the future of software; even then, in the mid-1990s, it was apparent that change was afoot. The software industry was oriented towards the needs of developers rather than users and was slow to deliver the flexibility and functionality that users required. Our contention was that a radical shift was required in the development of software, “with a more demand-centric view, leading to software which will be delivered as a service within the framework of an open marketplace”.

Opening up the software industry

Thus the idea of ‘software as a service’ was conceived almost twenty years ago and for many users is now a reality; cloud computing for example, providing on-demand software priced on a pay-per-use basis. The software industry has undergone a revolution and change continues apace as development tools, such as App builders, are placed in the hands of enterprising youngsters, and a new generation of children are being introduced to software development through accessible languages such as those taught in codecademy.


You don’t have to be Einstein to program

So what about the future?

Users have evolved from passive consumers to active participants; software has become more pervasive underpinning not only business but also social, governmental and entertainment applications. At the same time the IT, telecoms, media and entertainment industries have converged.

The future of software is no longer simply in the hands of the traditional software companies but is the concern of governments and society. Governments began asking questions about control and future economic value of the industry and in 2007 the World Economic Forum began working on scenarios for the future to help governments understand the policy and regulatory challenges. Possible scenarios were developed for the year 2015.

Scenarios for 2015: Key questions

  1. Who will lead/control social and economic value creation in the future? Industry or users and communities?
  1. Will the digital environment be: an open system or a closed system?

The chart shows 3 possible scenarios for 2015.


Scenarios for 2015

Scenario 1: Safe Havens describes a digital world in which online security concerns create a clamour from consumers, businesses and governments for virtual safe havens. Industry responds by vertically integrating to create secure walled environments that provide all digital services. (industry controlled – closed environment)

Scenario 2: Middle Kingdoms describes a digital world in which consumers, governments and forward-looking businesses push for interoperability, enabling a bewilderingly wide array of niche offerings to become viable propositions – and a digital ecosystem dominated by intermediaries that effectively connect users to like-minded individuals and to their highly specialised suppliers that can best meet their needs. (industry controlled – open environment)

Scenario 3: Youniverse describes a digital world in which the rise of organic grassroots communities as powerhouses of economic value creation turns traditional business thinking on its head. This leads to the rise of new organisational structures and to digital experiences that are highly personalised. (organic and community led – open environment)

Future Scenarios in more depth

This short 5 minute video explains the scenarios in more depth.

To some extent all three scenarios are in existence today with the community groups in scenario 3 being somewhat uncomfortable with the industry controlled, closed environment in scenario 1.  The winner in scenario 2 is the IT consultant who matches the wide range of offerings to the requirements of specific companies.

What happens next?

Recent major disruptors for the software industry include the rise of social media, the take-up of mobile devices, cloud computing and the growth of ‘big data’. According to Mark McCaffrey of PWC  ‘buyers and consumers of software are changing, they don’t want to buy software and they want it delivered over multiple channels’. They want to ‘use as you go’ with no investment upfront.

What happens next in the software industry depends on the next generation and it is heartening to see a growth in coding classes in local communities and total overhaul of the ICT curriculum in schools. Consumers are increasingly interacting via Apps which can be built by relatively inexperienced developers. it may be that the future for software as a service is not only ‘use as you go’ but also ‘design, build and use as you go’ !

Any comments gratefully received.

Play – create – innovate: have fun, make money

Have you ever seen a keyboard made from bananas? Playing with technology can stimulate creative thinking: a much needed quality in the field of Service Innovation.

banana piano from

The picture shows a keyboard made from bananas, one example of what a creative thinker could do with Makey Makey; an invention kit which can be used to turn everyday objects into touchpads and link them to the internet.

Makey Makey was supported by Kickstarter a funding platform for creative projects including art, design, fashion, music and technology. Other innovative projects include a mask to make your dreams more lucid and a 3D printer kit that anyone can build.

‘From play to innovation’ is the title of a course at Stanford University where engineering students “Learn to enhance the innovation process with playfulness”. Students learn theory and practice and how to apply “design thinking to promote innovation in the corporate world.”

In the book ‘Think, play, do’ Dodgson, Gann and Salter examine the idea of ‘play’ as part of the design process through a series of commercial case studies. They identify the use of ‘Innovation Technology’, such as modelling and simulation, visualisation, virtual reality and rapid prototyping, as tools for playing with alternative designs. They also discuss the importance of “combining craft and code” (p 135) i.e. having people with deep knowledge and experience of their discipline as well as the ability to play with the innovation technology.

‘Think, play, do’ includes a section called ‘measuring play’ (p.109) which the authors recognise as being difficult but suggest that one “partial measure of play activities relates to the expenditure on design”.  Play can increase creativity and decrease the time taken to weigh up alternative designs; thus potentially reducing the cost and increasing the quality of the chosen design.

Play – create – innovate: have fun and (potentially) make money!

Reference:   Dodgson, M., Gann, D., Salter, A.,  2005,Think, play, do, technology, innovation and organization,  Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-926809-6

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Babis Theodoulidis for pointing me to Makey Makey

Can Service Innovation transform our lives? Case Studies in Service Innovation: Europe 2020

This impressive collection of 29 case studies includes excellent examples of the transformative power of service innovation.

Case Study Report

Meeting the Challenge of Europe 2020: Case Studies illustrate the role of service innovation in transforming our lives through promoting smarter, sustainable and more inclusive growth.

Smarter growth typically involves improved services based on “acquisition and management of information about customer needs and behaviours…”  For example, case study 6 shows how the creation of an innovative ICT platform service enables small and medium size enterprises in the Valtellina region of Italy to reach new customers.

Sustainable growth is development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. For example, case study 15 presents Innovation City Ruhr where an existing city with about 50,000 residents in the Ruhr Region of Germany is being rebuilt as a low-energy city.

Inclusive growth is development which “enables all members of society to participate in the process of wealth creation, in a way commensurate with their own abilities and potential.” Case study 28 presents an example of services for jobseekers in Portugal catering for people with lower level qualifications and skills, enabling them to certify their work experience and gain new qualifications. 

The case studies were used as evidence by an expert panel looking forward to and contributing to policy making for a smarter, sustainable, more inclusive Europe in 2020.

The overall work of the panel resulted in the report “Meeting the Challenge of Europe 2020: The Transformative Power of Service Innovation”. Their remit was to consider “the concrete and specific steps which should be taken at the European level to support service innovation in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy”.

The report was produced by the Expert Panel on Service Innovation in the EU, with assistance from the Secretariat consisting of staff from the Danish Technological Institute (DK), SPRU at the University of Sussex (UK)  and eSTRAT (Lux) and chaired by Allan Mayo, Head, Services Policy Unit at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK.

Can Service Innovation transform our lives?

Do you have experiences where service innovation has made a difference to you?

Case Studies in Service Innovation – new book

Recently published book part of the Springer Series ‘Service Science: Research and Innovations in the Service Economy’


Case Studies in Service Innovation provides the reader fresh insight into how innovation occurs in practice, and stimulates learning from one context to another. The volume brings together contributions from researchers and practitioners in a celebration of achievements with the intention of adding to the wider understanding of how service innovation develops.

Each of the 21 cases presents a brief description of the context in which the innovation occurred, the opportunity that led to the innovation and an overview of the innovation itself, also addressing how success was measured, what success has been achieved to date and providing links to further information.

The book is organized around five major themes, each reflecting recognized sources of service innovation:

  • Business Model Innovation: new ways of creating, delivering or capturing economic, social, environmental and other types of value;
  • The Organization in its Environment: an organization engaging beyond its own boundaries, with public private partnerships, sourcing knowledge externally, innovation networks, and open or distributed innovation;
  • Innovation Management within an Organization: an organization actively encouraging innovation within its own boundaries using project teams, internal governance of innovation, and methods or tools that stimulate innovation;
  • Process Innovation: changes in service design and delivery processes, such as consumer led innovation or consumers as part of the innovation process, service operations management, and educational processes;
  • Technology Innovation: the use of technology, including ICT enabled innovation, ICTs that are themselves innovative and support the delivery of new services, new ICT services, new ways of delivering services associated with ICT products, and technology other than ICT.

The final part of the book is given to four extended cases allowing for a more in-depth treatment of innovation within a complex service system. The extended cases also illustrate two important and growing trends, firstly the need for, and benefits of, a more customer centric approach to service innovation and secondly the need for better understanding of public services and the role of public-private partnerships in identifying and achieving innovation.

Case studies in Service Innovation is also available as an e-book.

How many workmen does it take to repair a leak? Public sector and systems thinking

This remarkable example of innovation concerns Portsmouth City Council’s housing management service and the organisation of repairs on its housing stock. The council provides social housing to over 17,000 tenants and as you can imagine that also involves responsibility for an awful lot of repair work and repair workers.

Repair worker

From a tenant’s point of view if a repair needs doing on your council house such as a leaking roof or a faulty heating system, you want the repair to be carried out in one visit , at a convenient time, and you want it fixed properly i.e. for repair workers: “ to do the right repair at the right time”. Not unreasonable!

Alarmingly, the start to finish time for a repair was a lengthy 24 days, and some repairs required 4 or more visits before the job was complete. Despite tenants complaining bitterly about the service, “the service was praised by inspectors” and was meeting government targets and budget constraints.  This was achieved by:

  • fragmenting a single job into many smaller jobs and setting targets at this level
  • patching up problems rather than allowing tradesmen to fix the root cause.

This emphasis on short term targets contributed to a loss of focus on the fundamental purpose of the repair system and a major re-think was needed.

Systems Thinker John Seddon and his colleagues worked with the council staff and their contractors to enable them to think about the repair management service as a whole:

  • What is its purpose?
  • Who are the people involved?
  • What are the processes?
  • How should the service be measured?

. . . and most importantly how do the people, processes and structures relate to each other?

. . . and how should they work together to achieve the purpose of the system?

general concept of “system” underpinning systems thinking (Schoderbek et al., 1990)

Using the knowledge gained the council set about a major re-design of the service placing the tenant at the centre within an idealised three step process:

  1. Ensure access to property
  2. Diagnose the problem
  3. Complete all necessary repairs

Tradesmen diagnose the problem and decide on the best way to solve it, and all necessary materials are brought to the property to complete the repairs i.e. “to do the right repair at the right time”.

As a result the start to finish time for repairs has been reduced from 24 days to 7 days, over 90% of jobs are completed right first time and a customer satisfaction rating of 99% achieved.

The innovation illustrated by this case is one of a public sector organisation adopting a new way of thinking that fundamentally affects how they operate. The Council’s housing management service took the bold step of examining the way they work at present, seeing the shortcomings and being ready to adopt a totally new holistic and systems way of thinking.

For further information about the Portsmouth City Council Case see below, all quotations are taken from this article:

A Systems Approach to Housing Repairs, by John Seddon and Brendan O’Donovan

Service Science: Research and Innovations in the Service Economy, 2012, Case Studies in Service Innovation, Part 4, Pages 91-94

Also see the video at the end of this interesting article, it illustrates the problem faced by the repair service using a different case i.e. repairing holes in roads:

 “We were so busy, we just didn’t know” Seeing the whole system always comes as a surprise”

Reference for  General Concept of “System” (Schoderbek et al., 1990)

Schoderbek, P. P., Schoderbek, C. G. and Kefalas, A, G. (1990). Management Systems: Conceptual Considerations, (4th ed), Irwin, Boston.

Comments or observations are most welcome. I would love to hear of similar cases.

A service for bloggers, near you

The title sounds like a cryptic crossword clue and it does have a double meaning, the App technology of provides a service for two groups of people: the blogger and the mobile phone user who wants to know what is going on nearby.

looking for friends

Where is everyone? Is anything happening nearby?

For the blogger: It drives traffic to their site. Echoer looks at their blog and re-delivers the header or a close imitation that they think will catch the attention of the reader. The more people read it the more prominent the blog becomes on the App interface (the blog is represented by a bubble, the more popular the blog the bigger the bubble). See the user interface for yourself.

For the user: Echoer is sensitive to geographic location and as the size of the bubble increases, users can see what is popular around them. It reflects the thoughts of those nearby.

This is an innovative tool for bloggers to add to those that drive traffic to their site assuming, of course, they have something location related to communicate.

It puts the ‘social’ into social media by focussing on the geographic location and the physical presence of people.

Have you similar tools?



Involving Customers in Service Innovation

In this case study a medium-sized Finnish insurance company recognised that customers can be more than just recipients of innovation delivered by the provider; they can also be sources of innovation. Decisions about new services previously based on systematically gathered information were felt to be too product oriented so working with a team of researchers (details below) the company sought to develop a new approach that would involve customers in the innovation process. Several insurance services were  used to test the new process model.

customers not so happy! but can they innovate?

One of the test cases chosen was to develop next generation health insurance that would better correspond to the changing needs of healthcare. A series of workshops and a range of techniques were employed including:

  • Building a future-oriented concept of health insurance: two separate workshops were held; one for a group of customers, one for a group of company representatives and the differences in outcome compared.
  • Using readymade cards that illustrate twelve trends related to healthcare and asking customers to select three trends that they thought most important for health future insurance.
  • Concept formulation using physical materials (modelling pastes, sticks etc) to create a 3D model of the next generation health insurance for the year 2025.

The researchers noted that; “Interestingly, there was a clear difference in the ways in which the customers and the company built their concepts. The former concentrated on modelling their health related social network, whereas the latter built a network including customers as ‘members’ but controlled by the company”

One outcome from this process of ideation was that the workshops provided ‘completely new information’ for the company bringing forward issues that cannot be reached through more traditional methods.  Issues included:

  • “The versatility of customer situations in relation to the service
  • The ignorance of customers about the content of available services
  • The importance of solutions instead of detailed pieces of information
  • The significance of customer care throughout the lifespan of customership
  • The decisive role of service encounters when customers evaluate the success of the service”

So can customers help innovate or be part of the innovation process?

In this case customer involvement enabled the insurance company to gain valuable insights into customer issues which may influence the design of future insurance services.

Further information about the case and the resulting service innovation process model can be found in Involving Customers in the Service Innovation Process.

The researchers involved in this Case were:

Marja Toivonen, Director, VVT Technical Research Centre, Finland

Mari Holopainen and TiinaTuominen , BIT Research Centre, Aalto University, Finland

Virtual World Graduation Service

Highly immersive virtual worlds such as Second Life present an exciting opportunity for innovation in the delivery of educational services. Life-like avatars of students meet in a purpose build environment, their movements are controlled remotely from a desktop and their voices are the students own voices transmitted using headsets.

The virtual world graduation service involved students on a part-time Executive MBA programme at Manchester Business School who were physically located throughout the world. All were senior executives and travelling to the UK for a graduation ceremony was not cost effective, designing a graduation ceremony in Second Life proved an attractive and fun alternative. The ceremony took place in

the ante-room

 two ‘rooms’ developed for this purpose: a small ante-room where delegates and guests arrive, are welcomed, and to which they can return at the end of the award ceremony; and the main ‘hall’ where the actual ceremony was conducted (the Whitworth Room). Designs by Corporation Pop. Life-like avatars and gowns were provided appropriate to the status of the dignitaries who included the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Business School. The first event was held in late 2009 and has been repeated twice a year since. As for future innovations in education, virtual world technology needs to be improved, avatars need to be easier to manipulate; scalability improved; and a gaming standard of sophistication achieved. If you have any experience/comments of VW in delivering educational services I would love to hear from you.Further information about this case can be found in Using Virtual World Technology to Deliver Educational Services

The Whitworth Room

dignitaries in procession

About this blog

Innovation is an exciting part of our everyday lives (or at least it should be!). The purpose of this blog is to share examples of innovation and to celebrate achievements of design and technology in creating new services and influencing our future.


I hope you will enjoy the blog and share your knowledge and experience.

Initially the main topics will be:

Service Innovation Cases: real life examples of innovation together with links to further resources for those wishing to learn more. Examples from all sectors and of all types will be included.

Technology: almost every day it seems we hear of some exciting new technology that could enhance existing services or help create new ones. The blog will highlight these.

Service Innovators: the blog will recognise practitioners and researchers who have contributed to service innovation as community builders, leaders, researchers or technical innovators. I have met some wonderful service innovators and with your help together we can ‘meet’ even more.

Books and resources: Books and other resources that will help us learn more.

Please do email me if you have any suggestions for inclusion under cases, technology, innovators or resources, or any other comment you wish to make.

Guest blogs also welcome.



About me

My name is Linda A Macaulay and I am Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester, UK.  I have always been interested in computers and associated technologies and in how they are used in practice. My early experience as a programmer and system designer in the UK health service impressed on me the importance of designing IT systems that people can actually use. Since then I have had many assignments with business and public sector organisations and see the importance of aligning people, process and technology towards customer/user needs. The heady days of e-commerce at the turn of the millennium and the e-business revolution that followed have opened up new and exciting ways of serving customer needs. The customer can now be part of the design process; can collaborate with others to design and innovate and with social media can create their own services.  The picture is continually changing and I believe there is much to be learnt from seeing examples of what is happening in practice now and what technology might allow us to do in the future, and hence the focus of this blog is on case studies of service innovation.

For further information about me see