DOS3703 / DSC3203 Service Operations Management

Module: DOS3703 / DSC3203 Service Operations Management

Semester taken: AY 2021/22 Semester 1

Lecturer: No lecturer, module is sectional-based

Tutor: Dr Natarajan Balkrishnan

Textbook: Service Management Operations, Strategy, Information Technology, 9th ed. ,James A Fitzsimmons & Mona J Fitzsimmons, 2019. McGraw Hill

What it is about

This module introduces the concept of operations management for the service industry, including techniques to maximise the efficiency of service operations while ensuring that the service quality is not compromised. Topics taught include line balancing, theory of constraints, forecasting, differential pricing and location planning.

Assessment components

  • Individual assignment: 10%

  • Group class presentation/submission: 20%

  • Group project report: 20%

  • End term evaluation: 50%


I took this module twice under different professors. The first iteration was under Prof Thompson Teo during AY 2020/21 Semester 2. For that iteration, the workload was very high, as we were required to prepare for each lesson extensively, as there were lots of assigned readings to complete. There were also quite a few group assignments to be submitted during the course of the semester, which I felt was excessive. The focus of the module was also more qualitative at that time, which resulted in my decision to withdraw from the module during the recess week.

For the rest of the review, I will be talking about the module under Dr Natarajan Balkrishnan. His module takes a more quantitative approach, and the workload is significantly lighter. His hope was that students would look forward to attending his classes, and he does that by not giving any readings to complete and includes interesting examples during the class to keep the lesson lively. I loved his lessons, but because the workload was so light, I was often distracted during the lesson (physically there, but mentally not).

If you prefer numbers, I strongly recommend taking this module under Dr Natarajan Balkrishnan, as he focuses more on Microsoft Excel and quantitative calculations. The workload is quite light as well, so you will have more time to focus on other modules.


There is a 3-hour sectional teaching session each week and Dr Natarajan will go through the content using some handwritten notes, which are usually adapted from the lecture slides that he has prepared for the class. He is a little old-fashioned, as he prefers using pen and paper to teach the class, but the content is mostly similar to the slides and is easy to follow.

As there are some Excel skills involved, there will also be some demonstration on using Excel for calculating using certain formulas. Dr Natarajan usually provides the Excel templates that are nicely colour-coded, but you will need to be observant to see the Excel formulas that he is typing into the computer. Nonetheless, the final solutions are given out after class, so you can still reference it after.

There is also an individual assignment based on the simulation topic, where you are required to perform a simulation that you choose from among a set of 16 situations. The simulation is done using Microsoft Excel, and you are required to answer some questions in a Word document as well.

Group Project

There are 3 components to the group project, all of which are not related to one another. However, all of them are done in the same group of about 3 to 4 members each.

The first component is called "Unusual Businesses". Each group will be given a topic 2 weeks prior, and you are required to present some examples of unusual businesses related to that topic. For instance, if the topic is on restaurants, your group will need to find restaurants that have an unusual business model (such as eating in complete darkness). The group will then present it to the class towards the end of the sectional session. The presentation were rather chill, and most people just read off the script at the front of the class.

The second component is a guesstimation assignment. Each group needs to choose 3 situations from a given list of 15 options, and illustrate a sensible guesstimation answer for each of the 3 situations. Guesstimation is a process of making an estimation using educated guesses, and this assignment is rather straightforward to complete as a group.

The last component is the main part of the group work. Dr Natarajan provides 5 types of group projects that you can do, and you will need to pick one type and come up with a topic to do related to that type. Your group will then do the necessary research and come up with a report at the end of the module. This is also rather straightforward, and it really depends on how much effort your group is willing to put in to the project.

Unfortunately, I had a really poor working experience with my group. As I was not taking this module with any friends, I found this group of 3 friends to team up with. However, it was quite a disaster, as they were not organised and mostly communicated among themselves. Being a quantitative module, many of the submissions required calculations, and they often made lots of simple calculation mistakes that made me question how they made it so far in life. I was glad that the group project was rather simple, otherwise my grades would probably have tanked.

Final Test

The final session is reserved for a final evaluation test, where it was a 2-hour open-book test to answer about 8 full questions (with multiple parts). The scope of the test was on topics covered in the entire module, except for guesstimation and simulation, and the questions were mostly doable if you have studied well for the test.

As some of the topics required Excel skills, I would advise to prepare some Excel templates that you can use to simplify your calculations during the exam. The amount of time available is barely sufficient, and it is best to save as much time as you can. The Excel template allowed me to just input the values in the question, and the answer is immediately provided, which frees up time for me to write my answers.

The topic on theory of constraints was tested as well, and it was a question that I left blank as I was unprepared for it. The lecture notes provided are not entirely useful on this topic, and I definitely recommend preparing for this topic as it can be more difficult than it seems.

Most people tend to do well for the final test, so the bell curve is rather steep. I left one question blank even though I was fairly confident with my answers for the remaining questions, but unfortunately it was not enough to bring me to A-. Always double-check your answers!

Other information

Assignment workload: Light. There is one individual assignment to be done and two parts of the group project, which are easily completed within a day.

Project workload: Moderate. The amount of work depends on how much effort your group is willing to put into the project.

Readings: None

Recommended if: Compulsory module for Business students specialising in Operations and Supply Chain Management. Otherwise, it is quite an interesting module to learn about the operations of service-based industries.

Rating: 4.0/5. Decent module and the professor is great, but bell curve is a little steep.

Expected grade: A-

Actual grade: B+

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