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What professionals consider when designing a modular service architecture?

Manda Broekhuis (Department of Operations, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)
Marjolein van Offenbeek (University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)
Monique Eissens-van der Laan (University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how functional and appropriateness arguments influence the adoption of modularity principles during the design of a professional service architecture.


Action design research was conducted to examine the design process of a modular service architecture for specialised elderly care by a multi-professional group. Data collection methods included, partly participatory, observations of the interactions between professionals during the design process, interviews and document analysis. Data analysis focussed on the emerging design choices and the arguments underlying them.


A wide range of both functional and appropriateness considerations were enlisted during the design process. The three core modularity principles were adapted to varying degrees. In terms of the design outcome, the interdependencies between the modularity principles necessitated two trade-offs in the modular design. A third trade-off occurred between modularity and the need for professional inference where services were characterised by uncertainty. Appropriateness was achieved through the professionals reframing and translating the abstract modularity concept to reconcile the concept’s functionality with their professional norms, values and established practices.


The study adds to service modularity theory by formulating three trade-offs that are required in translating the core modularity principles into a functional set of design choices for a multi-professional service environment. Moreover, the inherent intertwinedness of the core modularity principles in professional services requires an iterative design process. Finally, the authors saw that the ambiguity present in the service modularity concept can be used to develop a design that is deemed appropriate by professionals.



Broekhuis, M., van Offenbeek, M. and Eissens-van der Laan, M. (2017), "What professionals consider when designing a modular service architecture?", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 748-770.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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