1 Institute of Business and Technology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus University2 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 unknown4 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Professional service providers, here exemplified by consulting engineering companies, might strive for more innovation as a response to the contradictory demands from the organization and an unpredictable business environment including demanding clients. Professional service innovation is here understood through a practicebased theory approach using predominantly Actor Network Theory (Latour 2005). The paper focus on attempts to innovate service products, within projects and the remaining organisation. A seven-year cooperation with a consulting engineering, now employing the one of the authors has encompassed several studied together constituting a longitudinal set of ethnographic studies uses multidisciplinary perspectives to examine service innovation, organisational change and development in a consulting engineering firm. The paper presents and analyse two cases of complex innovative service production. One relates to the formation of a building envelope group and a design of a building with a double glass facade, the other to client counselling on realising a public private partnership, a 30 year contract of a public service, where the initial programming was followed. The analysis follows three dimensions: the development of the firm itself, the projects and a spatial/community dimension. This enables an understanding of the multiple, often contrasting, organizing dynamics in the organization as well as diverse interests and groups found within this type of service production and organization. It finds that it is not only the clients of the company who rule, but also other organizing dynamics that in contrast penetrate or undermine the projects and maintain professional communities. The project dynamics affects the allocation of resources which can constrain organizational and other innovations. The building envelope and glass façade case exhibits an attempt to create a new organizational grouping in the studied engineering consultancy to counter the project-based structure. The case shows however that although spatial integration is obtained, too many forces is in play that tears the initiative apart over a longer term. The public private partnership case shows how central elements of the innovative service concepts developed by the consultancy company representatives are translated by client/user representatives. Service innovations are thus not necessarily enabled by project organisation, rather a too flat, project internal innovation policy and management would probably constrain innovation. Thus where Latour (2005) wants us to stay flat, the problematic for the consultancy is maybe rather how to avoid being too flat.