Overcoming Cross-Organizational Barriers to Success in Offshore Projects

Maruping, L.M., Rai, A., Aljafari, R., and Venkatesh, V. “Overcoming Cross-Organizational Barriers to Success in Offshore Projects,” Industrial Management & Data Systems (121:12), 2021, 2365-2386. https://doi.org/10.1108/imds-09-2020-0559

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Purpose – Advances in information technology coupled with the need to build resilience against disruptions by pandemics like COVID-19 continue to emphasize offshoring services in the software industry. Service-level agreements (SLAs) have served as a key mechanism for safeguarding against risk in offshore service arrangements. Yet, variations in service cost and quality persist. This study aims to open up the blackbox linking SLAs to offshore project outcomes by examining (1) how the provisions in these contracts affect the ability of project teams – the work unit primarily in charge of producing the offshored service – to achieve their objectives and fulfill client requirements and (2) how differences in contextual factors shape the effects of these provisions. Design/methodology/approach – The authors incorporate the role of organizational work practice differences to understand the challenges that 270 offshore project teams faced in coordinating and integrating technical and business domain knowledge across organizational boundaries in offshore arrangements. The examined offshore IT projects were managed by a leading software vendor in India and several of its US-based clients over a three-year period. Findings – The authors demonstrate that organizational work practice differences represent a barrier to offshore project success, and that project team transition processes are an important mechanism for overcoming these barriers. Moreover, the authors find that transition processes represent key mediating mechanisms through which SLA provisions affect offshore project outcomes. Originality/value – The study findings shed light on how SLAs shape software project teams’ balance between activities aimed at meeting client needs and those aimed at containing costs.
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