Innovating or Doing as Told? Status Differences and Overlapping Boundaries in Offshore Collaboration
48 Pages Posted: 26 May 2008 Last revised: 29 Sep 2013
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.
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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By B. Feng