An Exploration of Smart Product-Service System Design
This thesis reports on the findings of a research project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The thesis investigates the design of Smart Product-Service Systems (Smart PSSs), defined as the integration of smart, connected products and e-services, presented to consumers as single solutions to satisfy their needs. Smart PSSs are relatively new value propositions that have been well received by consumers. The number of Smart PSSs in the marketplace has risen in the
... years, and their presence is forecasted to grow significantly in the years to come. However, their newness in the market implies that companies are still adapting to their design and implementation. Various reports from practice suggest important ambivalences of these solutions with important negative effects on the experiences and value consumers attach to Smart PSSs. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to provide designers and design managers with guidelines and insights, which can aid the design and implementation of Smart Product-Service Systems (Smart PSSs) with increased and lasting value for companies and consumers. This information is of relevance for designers because the role that they play in the development of Smart PSSs is likely to increase, just as the presence of these offerings in the market continues to grow. Designers ought to be well prepared for such relatively new design scenarios. It is of great importance that designers understand the particularities of Smart PSSs design, its opportunities and challenges, and the likely contribution of their activities to the development of meaningful value propositions. By doing so designers can contribute to the efficient development of Smart PSSs, and the design of value propositions that are cherished by consumers over time. Consequently, to achieve our research aim, two particular perspectives were followed. First, we investigated the aspects influencing the design and definition of Smart PSSs during the development phase. Regarding this perspective, two topics were addressed: the 'characteristics of Smart PSSs', and 'the Smart PSS design process'. These topics were further translated into two specific research questions: What set of design characteristics can designers use while defining Smart PSS value propositions? And, How can designers support the design process of Smart PSSs? The second defined perspective is the effect of design decisions on consumers' experiences with Smart PSSs. Concerning this perspective, one topic and one research question were addressed. The topic was defined as 'consumers' reactions to Smart PSSs', and the research question stated as follows: How can designers trigger positive consumer responses with Smart PSSs? The thesis follows a multidisciplinary research approach, building from theories An Exploration of Smart Product-Service System Design xii of different fields, such as operations management, design management, service design, and traditional PSS design. Furthermore, the three research questions outlined above were investigated by means of four qualitative and one quantitative studies, reported in the empirical chapters Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5. Chapter 3 focuses on the first research question: What set of design characteristics can designers use while defining Smart PSS value propositions? The research question was investigated by means of two qualitative studies: Study #1-a and Study #1-b. Seven characteristics of Smart PSSs were identified: 1) consumer empowerment, 2) individualization of services, 3) community feeling, 4) individual/shared experience, 5) product ownership, 6) service involvement, and 7) continuous growth. These characteristics can be shaped in various ways, through various features. Importantly, the characteristics of Smart PSSs can be used when defining Smart PSSs at different levels of abstraction, and for different goals during the design process. For example, to define the specifics of individual elements in the system (e.g., features in the e-service), or during co-creation sessions among stakeholders on strategic aspects that can influence the system and its implementation. Chapter 4 addressed the second research question: How can designers support the design process of Smart PSSs? Three sub-questions were further defined, which guided our research efforts. All these sub-questions were investigated by means of a qualitative approach reported as Study #2. The first sub-question was the following: What are the elements of the Smart PSS design process? In this regard, we found the design process of Smart PSSs to have much in common with that of traditional PSSs, but also to display distinct differences. In terms of similarities, Smart PSS design can be described as involving a large number of stakeholders with varying needs and goals towards value propositions. Smart PSSs, too, are highly context dependent, where context helps to define the value propositions for different users. In terms of differences, Smart PSS design provides designers with broadened design options on how to define and implement the Smart PSS value proposition due to its multi-touchpoint nature. Furthermore, Smart PSSs are ever-growing, ever-evolving, and this dynamism is translated into a design process that is ongoing. The second sub-question was stated as follows: What are the challenges of Smart PSS design? In this regards, we found the elements of Smart PSS design to lead to seven challenges of Smart PSS design: 1) defining the value proposition, 2) maintaining the value proposition over time, 3) creating high-quality interactions, 4) creating coherence in the Smart PSS, 5) stakeholder management, 6) the clear communication of design goals, and 7) the selection of means and tools in the design process. Importantly, these challenges are rooted in one or more elements of Smart PSS design outlined above. However, we found the broadened design options of Smart PSS design, and the ever-growing nature of Smart PSSs, to be particularly distinct of this development context, and to create a complexity in the design process that can be xiii Summary Summary overwhelming for designers. The third and last sub-question reported in Chapter 4 was the following: What are the designer role/contributions that help tackle design challenges? Our findings point to five roles/contributions that are being used by designers to tackle design challenges while supporting the Smart PSS design process. Namely, designers were described as: 1) guardians of user experiences, 2) foreseers of future scenarios, 3) integrators of stakeholders needs, 4) problem solvers, and 5) visualizers of goals. We found the identified roles/contributions to belong to the set of design skills long discussed by the design community, and to be effective in dealing with the above challenges. Based on these insights, we conclude that the current skills set of designers contributes to dealing with the complexity of the Smart PSS design process. However, designers should be made aware of the distinct elements of Smart PSS design and the design challenges likely to be encountered, so that they can be better prepared and use their skills more effectively. Chapter 5 reports on the third research question investigated in the research project: How can designers trigger positive consumer responses with Smart PSSs? This question was investigated by means of two distinct studies, namely, Study #3 and Study #4. Hoofdstuk 4 behandelde de tweede onderzoeksvraag: Hoe kunnen ontwerpers het ontwerpen van Smart PSSs ondersteunen? Om deze vraag te beantwoorden werden drie sub-vragen gedefinieerd, welke als leidraad dienden bij het onderzoeksproces. Al deze sub-vragen werden behandeld door middel van een kwalitatieve studie als gerapporteerd in Studie #2. De eerste sub-vraag was: Wat zijn de elementen die het ontwerpproces van Smart PSS beschrijven? Met betrekking tot deze vraag hebben we gevonden dat het ontwerpproces van 'Smart PSS' veel overeenkomsten heeft met het ontwerpproces van traditionele PSSs, maar dat er ook verschillen zijn. Er zijn bijvoorbeeld vele belanghebbende partijen betrokken bij het ontwerpen van 'Smart PSS', en al deze partijen hebben hun eigen verschillende behoeftes en doelen met betrekking tot de waarde propositie van zulke oplossingen. Ook zijn 'Smart PSSs' context afhankelixvii Samenvatting Samenvatting jk, aangezien de context helpt om de waarde propositie voor verschillende gebruikers te bepalen. Tijdens het ontwerpen van 'Smart PSSs' hebben ontwerpers ook uitgebreidere ontwerp-opties met betrekking tot het definiëren en implementeren van de waarde propositie, wat komt doordat 'Smart PSSs' vele contactpunten met de consument hebben. Als laatste kunnen 'Smart PSSs' gekarakteriseerd worden als oplossingen die door groeien en zich door ontwikkelen, en deze eigenschap vertaalt zich in een ontwerpproces welk continue voortduurt. De tweede sub-vraag was: Wat zijn de uitdagingen van het ontwerpen van Smart PSS? Als antwoord op deze vraag hebben we gevonden dat de elementen van Smart PSSs leiden tot zeven uitdagingen: 1) het definiëren van de waarde propositie, 2) het constant houden van de waarde propositie over tijd, 3) het creëren van hoogwaardige interacties, 4) het creëren van coherentie in de 'Smart PSS', 5) het managen van de belanghebbende partijen, 6) het duidelijk communiceren van ontwerpdoelen, en 7) het selecteren van middelen en handvatten tijdens het ontwerpproces. Deze uitdagingen zijn geworteld in één of meerdere elementen van het ontwerpen van 'Smart PSSs' zoals hierboven beschreven. We hebben echter gevonden dat de uitgebreidere ontwerp-opties van 'Smart PSSs' en de neiging van 'Smart PSSs' om door te groeien en zich door te ontwikkelen specifiek is voor deze context, wat een complexiteit met zich mee kan brengen die overweldigend kan zijn voor ontwerpers.