Executive summary of “Different actors’ roles in small companies service innovation”

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 7 October 2014



(2014), "Executive summary of “Different actors’ roles in small companies service innovation”", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 7. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-09-2014-0302



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Executive summary of “Different actors’ roles in small companies service innovation”

Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Services Marketing, Volume 28, Issue 7

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.

Firms need to be able to absorb and use external knowledge to innovate. Participating in activities with networks that have a diverse range of partners has a positive effect on innovation. Making use of intellectual resources outside the firm – suppliers, business partners and customers – is important in the development of new services. This means that successful innovative service firms need to see themselves as part of an innovation network.

But what of small companies which, due to a lack of sufficient financial resources, face difficulties in developing the competences they need to build up the experience bases they need to develop new services? It is a complex process with many different actors, all of which are participating in various ways and in various parts of the process. In “Different actors’ roles in small companies’ service innovation”, Dr Patrik Gottfridsson focuses on a number of small enterprises to identify the different actors involved, the roles they play and the resources they bring with them. All the firms were heavily dependent on essential actors and resources from outside their respective companies.

The various actors involved in the study could be seen as the small companies’ cross-functional teams because they do not have the necessary resources and skills within the organization to have “internal” cross-functional teams. Instead, they must build by using external actors. The network of actors must collaborate and coordinate in such a way that helps create new services with superior performance attributes. The study identified seven main categories of actor roles:


management team strategy creators and deciding actors;

service performers/other employees;

inspirer or supporting actors;

competing actors;

suppliers/partners; and


What the actor contributes is sometimes difficult to identify. It is the combination of different small pieces from many actors that are added up or put together in what constitutes the new service and the service-development process. It is sometimes difficult to see whether actors are an actual part of the service-development process or not. Sometimes they do not even realize they are a part of it. Due to this informality and vagueness, the actual process is difficult to formalize, manage and plan in advance; rather, it has a tendency to happen during the day-to-day operations and it depends to a large extent on the individuals and his or her characteristics and role(s) that he or she plays.

The participation of and resources from different actors play a significant role in the service-development process. Without them and their contributions (both formal and informal), the so-called critical mass and the combination of resources that are needed would not be reached and there would be difficulty in developing the new service. An important part of this process is to create some form of learning orientation (activities for creating and using knowledge to enhance competitive advantages) to make it feasible to interpret and use the knowledge that exists amongst the actors. This is not done by itself. Effective knowledge transfer is a deliberate process that must be governed in the desired direction to reach the sought-after result in an efficient way, especially when it is a complex process consisting of many different actors with different levels of knowledge and different preferences about the outcome.

“Prime-movers” are actors who are committed and enthusiastic about service development and who assume responsibility for ensuring that service development proceeds.

“Management team strategy creators and deciding actors”: Besides the prime-mover, in some companies there is an actor group that, in a more formal way, decides what to develop and who creates strategies for the service development.

“Service performers/other employees”: This actor group is the one that delivers the service to the customers. They have a good knowledge of the customers’ needs, wants and expectations and therefore play an important role in the development process.

“Inspirer or supporting actors”: Apart from the above actor groups, there exists an informal group that, directly or indirectly, provides support to projects in various forms. What these groups’ roles are and what they contribute varies over time and between companies.

“Competing actors”: In the service-development process there exist actors who compete against other companies for the same resources. Besides competing for the customers’ buying power, they can also contribute to service development of other companies by inspiring them and giving ideas on how and what services could be developed.

“Suppliers/partners”: These actors contribute more formally as suppliers of know-how and/or physical resources that do not exist inside the company but are needed in the development of the new service.

“Customers/users”: These are the actual buyers or users who sometimes play both a major or minor role in the development process depending on the direct or indirect demand for the service, or they participate in the development in other ways.

To read the full article enter 10.1108/JSM-04-2013-0082 into your search engine.

(A précis of the article “Different actors’ roles in small companies service innovation”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

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