Sunday, July 22, 2007


Bridging the Front Stage and Back Stage in Service System Design

A couple of months ago I gave a talk titled "Bridging the 'Front Stage' and 'Back Stage' in Service System Design" at a conference (and wrote about it here). I've now turned that talk into a paper (with my graduate research assistant Lindsay Tabas as co-author). You can download the paper but let me say a few words about it because it represents a milestone in my evolving thinking about information and service design.

For most of my professional career I've designed and deployed information-intensive applications and systems. I wrote a book about Document Engineering and teach courses about it at UC Berkeley. And in the last year or so that I’ve been blogging here, a lot of my posts have been about business informatics, information supply chains, and document automation. In all of this work, writing, and teaching I've generally focused on the "back stage" where information is managed, transformed, and moved within and between business systems, and haven't paid much explicit attention to the "people parts" or "front ends."

But I've now come to recognize that it is essential to consider the entire network of services that comprise the back and front stages as complementary parts of a Service System. This paper is my first attempt to present a methodology for designing service systems that synthesizes (front-stage-oriented) user-centered design techniques with (back-stage) methods like Document Engineering for designing information-intensive applications. The paper briefly sketches the core ideas, especially those that most explicitly concern the interactions and tradeoffs between front and back stage design.

The typical design conflicts and tradeoffs between front and back designers are lessened by a service system perspective. Front stage service providers need capabilities for capturing information about front stage preferences, contexts, and events. This and other back stage information can then be exploited by the front stage to enhance the service experience.

Lindsay and I are working on a longer paper that more fully develops this approach, and I'm also developing a new course tentatively called "Design Models and Methods" that will be a good forum for seeing if a unified methodology is learnable and useful.

-bob glushko

I'm looking forward to writing that longer paper, and glad that I could be part of this intellectual "journey" of yours.
I just downloaded your paper while reading your post and I'm very interested in giving it a careful and analytical reading, I know that your insights will enjoy me, thanks for sharing!
Really effective material, thanks so much for the post.
This is a very interesting post, and the comments are also fantastic to read. I’ll have to have a little re-think about my own contact form on our new website, as this poses some interesting questions!
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