AN EXPLORATION OF CONTEMPORARY KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ISSUES IN HIGH-TECH OUTSOURCING USING SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY

Open Access
Author:
Juntiwasarakij, Suwan
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • Eileen M Trauth, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • cooperation competition
  • knowledge transfer
Abstract:
Contemporary IS research in offshoring/outsourcing has shown contradictory outcomes in reporting outsourcing success, especially in IT work. While many trusted practitioner sources confirm that outsourcing is gaining popularity, many efforts to pursue outsourcing are reported to be problematic or, even, a failure. Among such failures and successes, most of the thriving firms have undergone a second attempt by paying intensive attention to the knowledge transfer process, which is at the heart of the knowledge management problem. Knowledge is recognized by firms as a critical source of power that is derived from its scarcity in its environment. Hence, as a critical determinant of its value and to maximize the productivity of the firm itself, knowledge could be completely kept confidential from certain entities such as employees, a firm’s subsidiaries, and business partners, especially in knowledge intensive businesses. This leads to a dilemma in pursuing optimality in knowledge transfer in an outsourcing relationship: the competing goals of preventing the most critical business knowledge components from becoming visible to the partners while facilitating all subunits being able to successfully carry out a project. Since high-tech work is regarded as knowledge intensive activities, it is critical that a firm balance, cooperation and competition in terms of its knowledge assets. Much attention has been paid to knowledge transfer among subunits in outsourcing schemes and has sought a method of minimizing the conflicting interests among subunits. However, the findings seem to be limited due to the theories traditionally adopted (i.e. knowledge-based theory, transaction-cost theory, agent-cost theory, game theory). Furthermore, many issues remain to be addressed, especially the dynamic interactions and exchange processes that facilitate knowledge transfer. This thesis explored the knowledge transfer issues with respect to facilitators and barriers among outsourcing subunits, the vender’s and the client’s, by adopting social exchange theory (SET). Although relatively new to IST literature, SET proved potentially useful for studying knowledge transfer. Moreover, the concept of reciprocity, balance, cohesion, power, trust, and cultural sensitivity of SET have proven to be promising for theoretical applications in a very large array of knowledge management settings, especially in knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer because SET is applicable to any level of analysis (individual, group, organizational or societal).