Stimulating Innovation in New Service Development : User-Involvement in Small and Medium-Sized Web-Based Platform Service Companies
Abstract: In this thesis, we present a review of the current practices of user involvement. Different methods and tools have proliferated for user-involvement, however, to comprehend the explicit features of a small and medium-sized web-based platform service companies, we contrast our findings with previous experiences and research of user involvement in big companies. In the basis of the aforementioned, we identify methods and contexts that may be appropriate in the context of small and medium-sized web-based platform service companies. Mainly, we reviewed the research field of: user-involvement and new service development. The central purpose of this study is to determine how do small and medium-sized web-based platform service companies utilize the process of the user involvement across the stages of new service development. Building on previous researches, we suggested that there are different methods to consider under the service development stage (i.e. ideation, development and testing). These methods are grouped under the following terms user-involvement ecosystem, user-involvement interactions, user-involvement platform and user-involvement personnel. The aforementioned methods are suggested to help web-based platform service companies utilize user involvement across the new service development stages. This study is of qualitative nature with a deductive approach. We conducted eight semi-structured interviews in order to get insights from high-level managers responsible of the user-involvement process. All the small and medium-sized companies operated in the service sector and provided a web-based platform. The theoretical framework was utilized in order to analyze the empirical data gathered. We used thematic analysis for our deductive study approach, to interpret the gathered material in order to conclude the results and answer the research question. Our results revealed that in the ideation and development stages the following is vital: involving lead-users or those who are tech-savvy and tolerant to ambiguity, educating users to familiarize them with the company’s system, moderate rules and structure, mixing focus groups, encouraging user-to-user communication, small number of participants, multi-media approach and online tools, and encouraging idea hunting culture among company’s staff. However, in testing the following is recommended: involving average-users or those who are open-minded and tolerant to risk and innovation, unifying goals and common view by tangibilizing the service, setting rules and regulations for testing the service, having permanent interactions with users, and large number of participants. Finally, it is important to ensure a close relationship, transparency, motivation, face-to-face interactions, and to have an entrepreneurial leader to oversee the whole process across all the former three stages of NSD. To improve on this study, we would recommend the investigation on the user perspective to gain insights on their views of the process of user-involvement across the NSD, as they are directly involved in the development of a new service. Hence, a more extensive research on the user-involvement in web-based platform service companies on both, internal and external facets instantaneously would be of great significance.
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