Service design integration with business development: Six Finnish case studies of digital service development

service design, digital business ecosystem, activity theory, action research, case study

As a complex ecosystem, the global digital environment includes actors and stakeholders with diverse values and distinct mind-sets. In this research, we examine the digital ecosystem in the Finnish context of a business-led research and development (R&D) consortia (Need for Speed, N4S), focusing on the early phases of research. The aim is to propose an iterative action research framework for developing the Finnish digital business ecosystem with the use of service design thinking and tools.

Service design is the methodology and process of enabling co-creation activities during all steps of the design process, concept generation and prototyping before the launch of a service. The theoretical framework utilised in this research is Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), which suggests the starting point for a more practical strategic tool—a community-originated perspective of value proposition which integrates continuous product, service and business development practices.

Theory-based data analysis is applied to data on design methods used in service design cases with six companies, including co-creation workshops, reflective interviews, observation, visual documentation and rough service prototyping. In this empirical study, the six company cases serve as iterations in the action research approach. The company cases were conducted by the Service Innovation Corner (SINCO) laboratory at the University of Lapland in 2013 and 2014. Two case companies operate in the customer service field in tourism (Santa Park, Lapland Safaris), two in manufacturing (Norrhydro, Kone) and two in the software industry (Elektrobit, Ericsson).

This research proposes a preliminary structure of the prerequisites for service design integration in the Finnish digital ecosystem mapped through the case domains (tourism, manufacturing and software). Additionally, this paper proposes further research topics relevant to integrating service design processes with continuous product, service and business development practices and agile process models.


Piia Rytilahti


Simo Rontti


Satu Miettinen