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Enhancing service innovation in a business-to-business context: Four questions for SMEs transforming to service logic

Maaria Nuutinen (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, Finland)
Katri Ojasalo (Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Espoo, Finland)

International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences

ISSN: 1756-669X

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




The purpose of this article is to develop a theoretically and empirically grounded interdisciplinary framework for understanding service innovation in a business-to-business (b-to-b) context, particularly from the perspective of the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME).


This study used an abductive research process, supported by theoretical insights from a literature review, and empirical evidence from a multiple-case study. Six SME case companies were all transforming towards service logic. The empirical data consists of semi-structured interviews with the case companies and their business customers, workshops and business documents.


The study identified four critical service logic-related perspectives in service innovation in a b-to-b context, and related key questions: How is potential for new service business recognised? How is freedom of action perceived? What kinds of strategies are plausible? What are the reasons, objectives and support for the change? The shared interpretation of these questions within an organisation seemed to be related to the company’s success in doing business in new ways, enhancing service innovations and in their transformation to service logic.


This article offers a new interdisciplinary and empirically grounded perspective on innovation in the b-to-b and SME context framing the phenomenon in service logic. Tackling the questions is a precondition for SMEs in enhancing service orientation in strategy, mutual value orientation in organisational culture, their role in others’ business and collaborative business development, thus enhancing service innovations producing reciprocal value-in-use over time.



The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the participating companies for many fruitful discussions and opening their world to researchers. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to their colleagues, Toni Ahonen, Merja Airola, Krista Keränen, Inka Lappalainen and Tiina Valjakka, for their important contribution to the study. The research project was funded by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Laurea University of Applied Sciences and the participating companies.


Nuutinen, M. and Ojasalo, K. (2014), "Enhancing service innovation in a business-to-business context: Four questions for SMEs transforming to service logic", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 290-308.



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