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Exploring the alignment between service strategy and service innovation

Howard W. Lightfoot (Service Operations, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK)
Heiko Gebauer (Innovation Research in Utility Sectors, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 11 October 2011




Literature is relatively sparse on describing how companies should align their determinants for service innovations with their different types of service strategies. This study seeks to explore the alignment between three types of service strategies and determinants for service innovations.


A qualitative, multi‐case research design on 12 Western European capital goods manufacturers including 24 service innovation projects was employed. The study is based on multiple sources of evidence: internal documentation of service innovation and development projects and, most importantly, interview data and participation in internal innovation workshops. Traditional inductive research methods were used to analyze the case studies.


These indicate that aligning service strategies with determinants for service innovations is very complex. The configurations of the determinants are associated with the innovation success. Alternative configurations of determinants can create counterproductive effects and can limit the success of service innovation projects as well as implementation of service strategies.

Research limitations/implications

The study is based on interviews and case studies, but the external validity (generalizability) of the alignments could not be assessed accurately. Future research would benefit from insights obtained from quantitative data. The findings supplement existing research on success factors for the service business in manufacturing companies.

Practical implications

The findings imply that managers contemplating a specific service strategy have to consider the service innovation and reframe the determinant for service innovations accordingly. Companies trying to implement an after‐sales service strategy should focus on a narrow range of determinants for service innovations. The resulting configurations guide managers to set up an efficient and effective service innovation management that helps them to implement their service strategy through successful service innovation project.


This empirical study shows that the configuration of determinants for service innovation differs for each service strategy. Whereas, the few similarities in determinants on service innovation are mainly other applications of existing theories on service innovation, the differences modify the existing theories.



Lightfoot, H.W. and Gebauer, H. (2011), "Exploring the alignment between service strategy and service innovation", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 664-683.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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