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Innovating or Doing as Told? Status Differences and Overlapping Boundaries in Offshore Collaboration


Natalia Levina


New York University

Emmanuelle Vaast


Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, School of Business, Public Administration and Information Sciences


MIS Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp 307-332, June 2008

Abstract:     
Increasingly, firms source more complex and strategic as well as harder to codify IT projects to low cost offshore locations. Completing such projects successfully requires close collaboration among all participants. Yet, achieving such collaboration is extremely difficult because of the complexity of the context - multiple and overlapping boundaries associated with diverse organizational and national contexts separate the participants. These boundaries also lead to a pronounced imbalance of resources among onshore and offshore participants giving rise to status differences and inhibiting collaboration. This research adopts a practice perspective to investigate how differences in country and organizational contexts give rise to boundaries and associated status differences in offshore application development projects and how these boundaries and status differences can be renegotiated in practice to establish effective collaboration. To illustrate and refine the theory, a qualitative case study of a large financial services firm, which sourced a variety of "high-end" IT work to its wholly owned subsidiaries ("captive centers") and to third party vendors in multiple global locations (e.g., India and Russia), is presented. Using a grounded theory approach, the paper finds that differences in country contexts gave rise to a number of boundaries that inhibited collaboration effectiveness, while differences in organizational contexts were largely mediated through organizational practices that treated vendor centers and captive units similarly. It also shows that some key onshore managers were able to alleviate status differences and facilitate effective collaboration across diverse country contexts by drawing on their position and resources. Implications are drawn for the theory and practice of global software development and multi-party collaboration.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: Offshore Software Development, Outsourcing, Collaboration, Qualitative Methods, Boundaries, Status, Power, Bourdieu, Practice Theory, Cross-cultural Teams, Distributed Teams, Virtual Teams, Middle Managers

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Date posted: May 26, 2008 ; Last revised: September 29, 2013

Suggested Citation

Levina, Natalia and Vaast, Emmanuelle, Innovating or Doing as Told? Status Differences and Overlapping Boundaries in Offshore Collaboration. MIS Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp 307-332, June 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1136880 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1136880

Contact Information

Natalia Levina (Contact Author)
New York University ( email )
44 West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012
United States
HOME PAGE: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~nlevina
Emmanuelle Vaast
Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, School of Business, Public Administration and Information Sciences ( email )
1 University Plaza - H700
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
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