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The Evolution of KIBS between Standardization and Customization: The Rise of Combinatory KIBS


  • Marco Bettiol
  • Eleonora Di Maria
  • Roberto Grandinetti


Studies on service management have broadly discussed the relationship between customization and standardization in services. Studies on modularity have enriched the debate by identifying an additional form of service provision able to couple the advantages of these two alternative approaches. However, at the theoretical and empirical level little attention has been given to explore how service firms adopt standardization and modularity on the one hand, and whether they are able to combine different types of services in their offering, on the other hand. This question is particularly interesting in the domain of Knowledge-Intensive Business Services (KIBS). Literature on KIBS has stressed the high level of service customization KIBS can offer to their business customers, within a collaborative and interactive framework for innovation. However, scholars dedicated little attention on how KIBS develop their service offering and whether the customization is the only strategy they adopt. The aim of the paper is to explore the business service portfolio of KIBS to identify business service management strategies KIBS develop between bespoke services and standardization. Empirical analysis on about 500 Italian KIBS specializing in design and communication, ICT services and professional services show that there are KIBS providing fully standardized services and also the rise of combinatory KIBS able to mix bespoke and standard services with business characteristics similar to the other KIBS profiles.

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  • Marco Bettiol & Eleonora Di Maria & Roberto Grandinetti, 2013. "The Evolution of KIBS between Standardization and Customization: The Rise of Combinatory KIBS," DRUID Working Papers 13-08, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:13-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicoletta Corrocher & Lucia Cusmano & Andrea Morrison, 2009. "Modes of innovation in knowledge-intensive business services evidence from Lombardy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 173-196, April.
    2. Marina Doroshenko & Ian Miles & Dmitry Vinogradov, 2014. "Knowledge Intensive Business Services: The Russian Experience," Foresight and STI Governance (Foresight-Russia till No. 3/2015), National Research University Higher School of Economics, vol. 8(4), pages 24-39.
      • Marina Doroshenko & Ian Miles & Dmitry Vinogradov, 2014. "Knowledge Intensive business services: the Russian experience," Foresight-Russia Форсайт, CyberLeninka;Федеральное государственное автономное образовательное учреждение высшего образования «Национальный исследовательский университет «Высшая школа экономики», vol. 8(4 (eng)), pages 24-39.
    3. Barras, Richard, 1986. "Towards a theory of innovation in services," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 161-173, August.
    4. Langlois, Richard N. & Robertson, Paul L., 1992. "Networks and innovation in a modular system: Lessons from the microcomputer and stereo component industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 297-313, August.
    5. Tether, Bruce S. & Hipp, Christiane & Miles, Ian, 2001. "Standardisation and particularisation in services: evidence from Germany," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(7), pages 1115-1138, August.
    6. Simone Strambach, 2010. "Knowledge-Intensive Business Services (KIBS)," Chapters,in: Platforms of Innovation, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Andreas Koch & Harald Strotmann, 2008. "Absorptive Capacity And Innovation In The Knowledge Intensive Business Service Sector," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(6), pages 511-531.
    8. Jean Gadrey & Faïz Gallouj, 1998. "The Provider-Customer Interface in Business and Professional Services," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 01-15, April.
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    KIBS; service standardization; customization; modularity; combinatory resources;

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