Applying Social Capital Theory to the Management of IT Outsourcing
Robinson, Stuart Gordon
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis develops a conceptual framework for relating Social Capital theory to large IT outsourcing projects. It uses this to explore how social factors that arise in outsourcing situations can influence organisations’ competence in IT innovation. It finds that social capital principles provide a valuable alternative perspective to established practices in managing IT outsourcing. Social capital can be applied both in the analysis of IT outsourcing results and in planning outsourcing transitions that lead to improved longer term knowledge creation and innovation capability. Research was carried out in two large and established users of IT outsourcing, a UK government agency and a major bank. Based on this, two detailed case studies were prepared and an interpretive methodology used to understand how the respective outsourcing projects had developed. A conceptual model of the interacting organisational factors that lead to IT competence is derived from existing literature and tested against the case study data. This model sets out the new concept of an ‘outsourcing enclave’ as a unique structure in which knowledge resources of outsourcing client and vendor are combined, supported by social capital that is distinct from that in either feeding organisation. The thesis uses the model to observes how, in the cases studied, effective management of social capital in outsourcing enclaves has created situations conducive to knowledge creation and innovation and the barriers to this that were encountered. This reveals that social capital management in these organisations called for time after outsourcing transition during which social capital can stabilise in the enclave, for learning from the achievement of short term objectives and for application of relational governance alongside the outsourcing contract. The main contributions of the thesis are the conceptual framework of the outsourcing enclave and the use of this to apply social capital theory to specific situations of IT outsourcing. It also demonstrates how theorised dimensions of social capital can be used to interpret outcomes in real outsourcing situations. The cases provide further empirical support for social capital theory and their interpretation a basis for further research in the specific area of outsourcing and IT outsourcing in particular.
PhD in Management Studies