Servitization 2.0: Evaluating and progressing servitization-related research from novel conceptual and methodological methods

Call for papers for: International Journal of Operations & Production Management

Servitization 2.0: Evaluating and progressing servitization-related research from novel conceptual and methodological perspectives
Special issue call for papers from International Journal of Operations & Production Management

Guest editors:

Rodrigo Rabetino (University of Vaasa, Finland),
Marko Kohtamäki (University of Vaasa, Finland),
Christian Kowalkowski (Linköping University, Sweden),
Tim S. Baines (Aston Business School, UK)
Rui Sousa (Catholic University of Portugal –Porto-, Portugal)


The transformation of manufacturing towards the integration of products and services has received increasing attention since the inception of the today known as the servitization domain thirty years ago. In particular, the field has begun to grow from the seminal publication by Oliva and Kallenberg (2003) and became popular after two reviews by Baines and colleagues (Baines et al., 2007; Baines, Lightfoot, Benedettini, & Kay, 2009). In the following years, servitization became nearly synonymous with companies moving from selling products and basic services to selling product-service systems (PSS). These PSS typically include advanced lifecycle services and involve changes in companies’ business models (Rabetino, Kohtamäki, & Gebauer, 2017; Rabetino, Kohtamäki, Lehtonen, & Kostama, 2015; Sousa & da Silveira, 2017). Lately, the servitization research has become increasingly relevant in the expansion of digitalization, Internet-of-Things, Industry 4.0, and circular economy business models. As a phenomenon and particular research context, servitization has inspired an increasing quantity of problem-driven research providing understanding and opportunities for future research, whereas knowledge has accumulated within related scholarly communities (Lightfoot, Baines, & Smart, 2013; Rabetino, Harmsen, Kohtamäki, & Sihvonen, 2018).

Any scholarly domain has to take stock of its conceptual development occasionally (Bull & Thomas, 1993), and servitization is no exception. After a phase of explosive accumulation of problem-driven research, various academics have recently expressed the need to consolidate the growing servitization domain even further. As Kowalkowski, Gebauer, and Oliva (2017) conclude, servitization has reached certain maturity and recognition as an established scholarly domain, but it still remains as a theoretically nascent field. Acknowledging these circumstances, a plurality of voices contemporaneously expressed the need to introduce new perspectives, question the dominant basic assumptions, and endow the servitization-related research with a greater conceptual component (Kowalkowski, Windahl, Kindström, & Gebauer, 2015; Luoto, Brax, & Kohtamäki, 2017; Rabetino et al., 2018). Scholars have also called for bridging the servitization-related communities while looking for synergies, a shared understanding of the key research themes, greater knowledge accumulation within and across research streams (Lightfoot et al., 2013; Rabetino et al., 2018; Tukker & Tischner, 2006).

While there is explicit agreement on the need to develop the field, different opinions exist on how to progress the field. Servitization research can be seen requiring more theory-driven research, methodological rigor, practical relevance, or future orientation, but no single right answer exists (Baines et al., 2017; Bigdeli, Baines, Bustinza, & Shi, 2017; Rabetino et al., 2018). Discussion and different alternative paths should be mapped, and a theoretical platform for the debate is needed. This special issue aims to provide a platform for the discussion and constructive debate. The goal is to develop insights and trigger discussions into the opportunities and challenges for developing the servitization-related research. Academic domains progress from social processes during which its members collectively build and legitimate the field (Whitley, 1983, 1984). The debate becomes more relevant when trying to understand critical issues related to the domain’s evolution, and when facing the need for integrating different servitization-related streams (e.g., PSS research) to the servitization mainstream.

Topic areas of interest

The present SI invites members in the servitization community to debate critical questions for the future development of the field. We want to encourage servitization-related scholars to submit research contributions that build on established knowledge in the area of servitization and PSS. The primary purpose of this SI is to create a common platform to discuss future ways for developing the field, which include the debate of alternative theoretical lenses, opportunities for theory development, the interplay between servitization and related fields, as well as manners to address key research questions/issues in the field. To that end, we seek submissions with an original perspective and advanced thinking on the development of the servitization field, instead of empirical studies on servitization.

The proposed SI does not seek contributions proposing a single unified agenda but, instead, a variety of perspectives on how to advance the servitization-related research (from the conceptual and methodological viewpoints). Hence, papers in this SI should use various means of studying the previous literature on servitization, to propose a variety of future directions. Although they can contain some review of the literature, we look for submissions that go beyond systematic reviews, and propose and discuss fresh conceptual and methodological avenues for further development of the field. We welcome academically oriented papers with solid conceptual grounding that should look for, but not be limited to, answers to the following questions:

•    What is the role of theory in servitization research? What significant research questions are being ignored by servitization research? What are the theoretical lenses that can contribute to developing servitization-related research in the future? How to approach development of the servitization field from different theoretical perspectives? Does the domain require further conceptual development or, alternatively, the consolidation of servitization research should be primarily based on problem-driven research looking for practical relevance?
•    How the different servitization-related streams interrelate, and how the interplay between these related streams can materialize in future research? How to integrate research from different servitization-related communities? How can interdisciplinary collaboration toward a common agenda be promoted and supported?
•    What are the future conceptual and methodological challenges of the servitization research field when considering the stock of accumulated academic knowledge and real-world trends? What will the research field look like in ten years?
•    How can the servitization community develop the domain further? Which are the alternative paths of advancing the field? What does each path involve and what the real implications for the field’s development are in each case? Does the domain have to develop following a single path? Alternatively, can the future development take many paths simultaneously?

Different topics are also welcome if they contribute to the collective conceptual debate on how to consolidate the servitization domain further.

Review Process

To ensure that the special issue obtains the best mix of theory-driven and methodologically based articles, a multistage review process will be implemented. Potential manuscript are to be submitted through IJOPM’s central ScholarOne system by the official submission deadline below (15 August 2020). All papers submitted will be subject to an initial screening by the IJOPM’s editorial team. Submissions deemed suitable will then be send out to IJOPM’s regular review base for double-blind reviews. Author guidelines can be found on the journal's page.

Deadline for paper submission:            15 August 2020
Reviewer first report:              1 October 2020
Revised paper submission:     15 December 2020
Reviewer second reports:       15 January 2020
Publication expected by: mid 2021


Rodrigo Rabetino is tenured Associate Professor of Strategic Management in the School of Management and the Vaasa Energy Business Innovation Centre (VEBIC) at the University of Vaasa (Finland). His current research activities concern servitization and product-service systems, industrial service business, business intelligence, business models, strategy as practice, and small business management. He has published articles in international journals such as Regional Studies, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Industrial Marketing Management, International Journal of Production Economics, Journal of Small Business Management, and Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, amongst others, [email protected]

Marko Kohtamäki is Professor of Strategy, and a director of the "Networked Value Systems" (NeVS) research program at the University of Vaasa, and has previously served as a Visiting Professor in Luleå University of Technology, and as an associate fellow in the University of Oxford, Said Business School. Prof. Kohtamäki takes special interest in industrial service business or servitization, strategic practices, and business intelligence or management information systems in technology companies. Kohtamäki has published in distinguished international journals such as Strategic Management Journal, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Industrial Marketing Management, Long Range Planning, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, International Journal of Production Economics, Technovation, amongst others, [email protected]

Christian Kowalkowski is Professor of Industrial Marketing at the Institute of Technology at Linköping University, and serves as Assistant Professor of Marketing at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki. His research focuses on service growth strategies, service innovation, and solutions marketing. Kowalkowski is the Expert Research Panel Chair—Servitization of the Journal of Service Management. In the book Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing Your B2B Service and Solution Business (2017), professors Christian Kowalkowski and Wolfgang Ulaga share their practical twelve-step roadmap for crafting and executing a successful service-growth strategy—based on hands-on experience of working with companies and solid research, [email protected]

Tim Baines is Director of the Aston Centre for Servitization Research and Practice, and the leading international authority on servitization. He spends much of his time working with manufacturing companies to understand servitization in practice and helps businesses navigate the transformation to services. He also delivers executive development and custom programs to industry. He is the author of Made to Serve: How Manufacturers Can Compete through Servitization and Product Service Systems (Wiley, 2013), a practical guide to servitization based on in-depth research with leading corporations, [email protected]

Rui Sousa is Full Professor of Operations Management at the Catholic University of Portugal (Porto) and holds a PhD from the London Business School. His research has been published in leading international journals, including the Journal of Operations Management, Production and Operations Management, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Decision Sciences and the Journal of Service Research. Rui is Associate Editor for the Journal of Operations Management and the International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Honorary Fellow of the European Operations Management Association and Director of the Service Management Lab. His current research interests include servitization, operations strategy and technology-enabled services. [email protected]


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