SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration
Service outsourcing and its effects on knowledge
() and Jon Rognes
The purpose of the paper is to identify
changes in different types of knowledge in a service outsourcing
relationship as knowledge is transferred from the client to the provider,
which correspond to the research question that guides the paper: ‘What are
the effects on knowledge types when parts of service production are
outsourced to a third party and knowledge is transferred?’. To answer this
question we explored changes in both tacit and explicit knowledge taking
place in several service outsourcing relationships.
A case study approach is chosen, as data is
obtained from multiple levels. We studied four service outsourcing
relationships, with outsourcing providers and outsourcing clients based in
Europe and South-east Asia.
It is possible to identify two
major changes as service outsourcing is conducted. (1) There is a change of
relative importance of knowledge types; there is an increased emphasis on
explicit knowledge as opposed to tacit knowledge. This is (2) caused partly
due to the transfer situation and partly due to a focus on efficient mass
production and a standardisation and industrialisation of the service. The
focus on explicit knowledge leads to a loss of tacit knowledge.
Our research is limited in two ways.
First, we examined two countries. Thus, there are opportunities for
expansion into more settings. Second, our findings can be tested by
survey-type research thereby increasing the sample.
In a service outsourcing relationship the emphasis is most
often on explicit knowledge. This is beneficial in a transaction cost
relationship with standardized tasks being transferred. However, the more
complex tasks being transferred the more difficult it is to clearly specify
what is going to be transferred as the knowledge becomes more tacit,
calling for more long-term relationships with other mechanisms for
knowledge transfer of tacit knowledge in place. As a manager one need to be
able to distinguish which type of relationship is wanted.
This paper helps to clarify what happens in a
transfer situation when outsourcing is conducted. Particularly we emphasize
the importance of tacit knowledge – a dimension often neglected in research
– opposed to solely emphasizing explicit knowledge.
Keywords: Service outsourcing; BPO; knowledge; knowledge transfer; service management; (follow links to similar papers)
18 pages, February 21, 2013
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