In a changing economy, we should not be surprised if 20 years or so from now, the acronym SSME might just carry the same weight as computer science.

Services Sciences, Management and Engineering degrees are getting a start here in the Triangle. And just as it did in the creation of computer science, IBM is playing a role in the launch of SSME programs.

North Carolina State University announced on Monday plans to launch a master’s level program in SSME, touting itself as the first research university in the U.S. to do so. IBM is helping launch the program as part of its Academic Initiative, including the providing of two adjunct faculty members.

The goal is to capitalize on the shift taking place in the U.S. economy to the services sector. IBM itself acknowledges that half its revenues now come from services.

“We are really happy that NCSU is adding content in services,” said Paul Maglio, senior manager for services systems research at IBM who talked with State officials about the initiative. “They are listening to the needs that industry has.”

NCSU faculty from its management and engineering colleges have developed five courses related to services. Students will be accepted into the program this fall.

“SSME positions NC State as a worldwide leader in developing the skills that companies like IBM are looking for in their employees,” said Steve Allen, associate dean for graduate programs and research at NC State’s College of Management, in a statement. “Our students will now have a chance to be part of this emerging field, opening the door for them to pursue a wide variety of services-related jobs.”

Need for Workers

“We are developing an integrated discipline around services,” IBM’s Maglio told WRAL Local Tech Wire.

IBM has a selfish motivation as part of the program — its need for well-trained workers.

“Over the last 20 years IBM has moved from a hardware business to half of its revenue coming from IBM Global Services,” Maglio said. “The issue we have is we can’t hire into services people who have experience from day one like we can in computer sciences.”

IBM is one of the biggest hirers of current NCSU graduates. Maglio added, “We would really like to continue that” with SSME graduates.

Alan Brown, one of IBM’s “Distinguished Engineers”, will serve as an adjunct professor with the College of Engineering. Tony O’Driscoll of IBM will serve as an adjunct professor with the NCSU business school.

The new NCSU courses will focus on:

  • Business processes

  • Business strategy

  • Information technology

  • Management of people in the workforce
  • According to Maglio, the emphasis on people is crucial.

    “Services tend to be around people, which is what makes it interesting,” he explained. Working with companies on performance, transformation, outsourcing and other issues “is not just information technology.”

    An SSME graduate apparently will be a hot commodity when the first graduates join the workforce in 2008.

    “When we take people with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, it takes years to grow all the capabilities we need,” Maglio said. “The hope is we can train (SSME) more from the beginning.”

    IBM launched its Academic Initiative in 2004 in an attempt to improve education and training across the U.S. Big Blue offers a variety of discounts, services and support, such as the two adjunct professors at NCSU. And SSME programs will be a point of emphasis, Maglio said.

    “Fifty years ago, there was no such thing as computer since, just some computers,” he recalled. “At some point people got together and said we need to focus on this new ‘thing’ — not just how it works but to develop a better understanding about it means.”

    The same process seems to be at work for Services Sciences, Management and Engineering.