I’ve been doing a lot of work in the field of “understanding business commonalities”. What are the key characteristics in a business process, or application technology, etc that can be used for purposes other then what they were designed for?

The notion of a service line can be used in a banking scenario for example: Banks sell credit cards. Actually they sell a credit card service. To be more specific, they sell a credit service that is delivered as a credit card offering where the piece of plastic is used as the evidence that you have access to this particular service.

So, if the bank sells many more credit card “products”, scaling the business is fairly easy as the infrastructure needs to run more instances.

Let me introduce another view for technology trending altogether – towards service lines as a focus. Technologies converge over time, but at some point there is a process of divergence whereby specialist implementations reign supreme. Check out this early view of a technology landscape.

Examples like Google (a recurring theme in my research) have interesting challenges, as they focus on convergence now during cycles of feature load to find the optimal mix of services that are sold as “on demand” applications. They compete based on a service line (for instance Google mail and Google docs compete directly with Microsoft?) where Microsoft focuses on product lines primarily (check Microsoft’s response to the Google deal at Cap Gemini). Office Live Workspace was just launched by Microsoft in response to the Google threat.

This is the abstract of a paper submitted to a recent academic conference: “Product Line concepts are widely used and adopted as Product Line Practices. The SEI/CMU has developed, together with a global community, a body of knowledge that encompasses a set of practices and patterns, that are used for software related product lines. How relevant are these practices to large financial services organizations that construct service oriented platforms? This paper presents some conceptual findings from research studies and implementation projects undertaken by SystemicLogic in South-African and Australian banks and insurance companies. We reason that a move towards Service Lines is needed to capture the benefits in service and more dynamic industries that do not develop software systems for deployment, but software for delivering on-demand process automation capability. The service line concept is outlined and some of the benefits and challenges discussed. The overall objective of this paper is to present some of the reasoning behind the development of service line practices.”

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