What professionals consider when designing a modular service architecture

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Purpose: The paper explores how functional and appropriateness arguments influence the
adoption of modularity principles during the design of a professional service architecture.
Design: 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 focused on the
emerging design choices and the arguments underlying them.
Findings: A wide range of both functional and appropriateness considerations were enlisted
during the design process. The three core modularity principles were adopted 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 and to reconcile the concept’s functionality with
their professional norms, values and established practices.
Originality/Value: 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, we saw that the ambiguity present in the service modularity concept can be used to
develop a design that is deemed appropriate by professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-770
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Service modularity; Design Process; Professionalism; Elderly care

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