Managing Design and Provision in Service Triads: An Examination of Formation and Functioning Exchanges



In this paper we undertake an exploratory investigation of the formation and functioning exchanges underlying the operational design and provision of service triads. The service triad, based upon our operational re-envisioning, is a functioning entity in which the service buyer arranges with, and delegates responsibility to, a service provider to directly interact on behalf of the service buyer with its service end users. The existence of two service customers from the provider’s standpoint and two service suppliers from the end user’s perspective gives rise to increased operational complexity in this specific type of outsourced servicing arrangement. Based upon a multiple-case study of four illustrative service triad innovations developed at several Dutch universities, our examination of the exchanges occurring between triadic arrangement members highlights that no two service triads are generally alike in terms of their formation and functioning despite their common structural configurations. Utilizing insights related to service operations management, which to date is an underutilized study perspective in the scholarly literature, we find that the design and provision of service triads entails a complex set of members’ roles and responsibilities as well as service supply network capabilities. Based upon a novel approach to quantifying and visualizing members’ exchanges, the reported investigation of the evolving nature of these four triadic outsourced service arrangements and their management allows us to advance an initial theorization on service triad design and provision. We develop analytically generalizable research propositions and explicate a descriptive operations model of the triadic outsourced service arrangement useful for informing and guiding future scholarly study of service triad operations.