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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Information Management, Volume 32, Issue 5, October 2012, Pages 451–458
Partnerships between business clients and vendors are increasingly becoming more common as firms strive to reduce cost and outsource non-core activities. Some firms proactively manage the knowledge gained from such partnership while others do so to a lesser extent. Through a questionnaire survey of business clients in Singapore, this study helps to shed some light on the nature of client–vendor partnership, factors affecting knowledge transfer (defined in terms of knowledge codifiability, client's motivation for partnership, vendor's willingness to share, and trust between client and vendor). In addition, we also examine mechanisms for knowledge dissemination within the client organization and the impact on the IT function. The results should be of interest to both researchers and practitioners in better understanding how such partnership could be managed more effectively
Organizations are increasingly partnering with software vendors and service providers for a variety of information technology (IT) related services, including applications development, systems integration, and IT operations. The range of partnership varies from supporting simple operational requirements such as help desk support to becoming a strategic business partner managing all the IT services for the organization. In fact, in interviews with IT executives, Dail (2005) found that 70% wants stronger relationship with their vendors. There has been a dramatic change in organizational make and buy decisions related to IT products and services as organizations shift from in-house development and operations of their IT needs to selective outsourcing of IT products and services to supplement their internal capability and expertise. Further, the traditional reason of “cost savings” from outsourcing is increasingly complemented by the need to build long term competitive advantage, acquire knowledge and learn from their partners. In addition, effective management of both endogenous and exogenous knowledge can enhance a firm's dynamic capabilities (Sher & Lee, 2004). Partnerships often require significant information and knowledge flow between the business client (henceforth referred to as client) and the vendor. Both the vendor and client can benefit from this knowledge flow in improving their operations and business outcomes. Basically, vendor possesses much technical knowledge while client possesses business knowledge (Rus & Lindvall, 2002). This may result in knowledge asymmetry and knowledge barriers (Attewell, 1992) which can be mitigated through knowledge transfer between vendor and client. Further, the knowledge exists in two primary forms: explicit (transmittable in formal, systematic language) and tacit (difficult to codify in formal, systematic language) (Nonaka, 1994). Very often, organizations do not realize the volume of knowledge it receives from various inter-organizational partnerships and perhaps, do not realize the value of the knowledge received. Hence, most organizations may not have appropriate strategies to facilitate the acquisition and assimilation of knowledge received at different points of contact between the client and vendor. This has resulted in an inability to derive maximum benefits from such partnerships. Consequently, organizations increasingly recognized that in order to build and sustain competencies, it is essential to make knowledge available to the right worker at the right time and the right place (Drucker, 1995 and Kwan and Balasubramanian, 2003). Further, knowledge management is a necessity and a source of competitive advantage (du Plessis, 2005). Hence, it is not surprising that research on knowledge management (KM) has increased significantly over the years. Researchers have examined technological, managerial, and cultural factors that facilitate KM (Alavi and Leidner, 2001, Teo, 2005 and Teo and Men, 2008), KM frameworks (Nonaka & Konno, 1998), relationship between KM and other business functions (Yahya & Goh, 2002), knowledge sourcing (Gray & Meister, 2006), knowledge transfer (Li and Hsieh, 2009 and Schulz, 2003), knowledge sharing (Sulaiman and Burke, 2009, Teo et al., 2011 and Wasko and Faraj, 2005) knowledge integration (Basaglia et al., 2010 and Grant, 1996) and absorptive capacity (Jansen, Van Den Bosch, & Volberda, 2005). In the area of client–vendor partnership, related research includes those in the strategic alliance literature (which tends to be mostly non-IS) as well as research on outsourcing. While the strategic alliance literature has examined knowledge transfer, learning and innovation (e.g., Eunni et al., 2006 and Inkpen, 2005), the examination of knowledge transfer in the outsourcing literature is still relatively sparse. Most outsourcing literature tends to focus on questions of why outsource, what to outsource, which decision process to take, how to implement the sourcing decision, and what is the outcome of the sourcing decision (Dibbern, Goles, Hirschheim, & Jayatilaka, 2004). Previous research on knowledge management and outsourcing has examined outsourcing for intellectual value (Quinn, 1999), partnership quality and outsourcing success (Lee & Kim, 1999), knowledge sharing and outsourcing success (Blumenberg et al., 2009 and Lee, 2001) and knowledge potential of outsourcing (Willcocks, Hindle, Feeny, & Lacity, 2004). This paper is an exploratory, descriptive study that attempts to understand factors affecting knowledge transfer, mechanisms for knowledge transfer, and impact on the IT function. There are at least four distinct motivations underlying this study. First, while there are numerous research on knowledge management as well as outsourcing, research on knowledge management in client–vendor partnership in the IT context is still relatively sparse. The growth in outsourcing makes it an important topic for research. This study aims to shed some light on this issue and should be of interest to both researchers and practitioners in better understanding client–vendor partnerships. Second, there are limited studies on knowledge management and outsourcing that have been conducted in the Asia-Pacific region. Most research has been done in western countries. Third, our goal is to examine, report and contribute to the knowledge management and client–vendor partnership practices in Singapore organizations. Firms outsourcing and forming partnerships with vendors are increasingly becoming more common and there is a need to document their experiences to provide guidelines to others in their knowledge management and client–vendor partnership initiatives. Note that we define client–vendor partnership as outsourcing relationship between client and external vendor in the context of IT. Our examination of knowledge management practices pertains to knowledge transfer from vendor to client. Fourth, most of the research on knowledge transfer has been done in non-IS context and usually focus on unit-to-unit transfer within the firm (Ko, Kirsch, & King, 2005). Given the increasing importance of outsourcing and knowledge management, there is therefore a need to better understand knowledge transfer from vendor to client. This study helps to further this understanding. The paper is organized as follows. First, we present our research framework which summarizes the various areas examined in this study. Second, we present the method used to collect data. Third, we analyze the data and present the results. The paper concludes by discussing the key findings and their implications for researchers and practitioners.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Overall, our results provide some insights on the nature of client–vendor partnership, types and extent of knowledge transferred from vendor to client, factors affecting knowledge transfer, mechanisms that facilitate knowledge dissemination as well as impact on the IT function. Understanding the nature of client–vendor partnership is important as it gives businesses and researchers an idea of the prevalence of various services (e.g., applications development, systems integration, consulting services) provided by vendors. In terms of contract volume, the results should be comforting to vendors as they indicate that for most firms, the change in contract volume with vendors is moderately increasingly over the past 1–2 years. However, the potential for further partnership is evident as firms still tend to allocate only a portion of their IT budget to outside vendors. The study also provides vendors with some idea of client's motivations for partnership. The key motivations pertain to obtaining technical knowledge and expertise as well as best practices. By understanding these motivations, vendors will be in a better position to fulfil client's needs. As well, vendors will be better able to market their services to clients by demonstrating how they could fulfil clients’ needs and motivations. Clients should be reassured from the results that vendors are generally willing to share their expertise, though most vendor firms do not have explicit policies to encourage their employees to share knowledge with their clients. Clients need to maintain good relationship with their vendor(s) and be proactive in acquiring knowledge from vendors. One way of acquiring knowledge is to build in knowledge transfer into the contract with the vendor so that the vendor will also be motivated to share their knowledge. Another way is to have staff work closely with the vendor in order to learn from the vendor. The factors affecting knowledge transfer includes characteristics of knowledge (knowledge codifiability), characteristics of client (client's motivation for partnership), characteristics of vendor (vendor's willingness to share knowledge) and the relationship between client and vendor (trust between client and vendor). In terms of the relative importance of the four factors, it appears that trust between client and vendor, client's motivation, and vendor's willingness to share are given greater importance than knowledge codifiability. One possible reason is that knowledge codifiability is dependent on the nature of the project and may be less controllable. By understanding these factors, clients would be better able to devise appropriate strategies to facilitate knowledge transfer from the vendor. Researchers can also investigate deeper into these four factors to determine how and why knowledge transfer and client–vendor partnership succeed or fail. As well, researchers can also investigate other factors affecting knowledge transfer between the client and vendor. Overall, our research framework provides a parsimonious view of factors affecting knowledge transfer which generally involves characteristics of knowledge, client, vendor and relationship. The results regarding the mechanisms for knowledge dissemination give some idea to clients and researchers on the various mechanisms used to encourage knowledge sharing and dissemination. It appears that communication among team members is crucial. The results also indicate that knowledge sharing is primarily within the project units rather than throughout the organization. Hence, further research needs to be done on the mechanisms to encourage knowledge sharing outside the project units to the rest of the organization. For example, future research could compare the various mechanisms used by different organizations to disseminate knowledge gained from client–vendor partnership. The impact of knowledge transfer is reassuring to both clients and vendors as it generally indicates positive outcomes from client–vendor partnership. This also shows that it is often worthwhile for firms to explore partnership with vendors. The key impacts pertain to obtaining efficient and effective IT solutions and streamlining of business processes. However, more research needs to be done on how to use client–vendor partnership to better control IT cost. In order to do this, vendors would need a better understanding of client's business processes and operations. One way to do this is to transfer employees from client's organization to the vendor. This benefits both client and vendor since both parties are assured that staff involved in the project are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of client's operations. Our results also provide empirical evidence that both knowledge transfer from vendor to client and the presence of various mechanisms to disseminate the knowledge gained within the firm will result in the greatest impact. This should provide some assurance to client organizations that partnership with vendor is worthwhile, but they should also have in place mechanisms to disseminate knowledge gained from vendor outside the project team to the rest of the client organization. In other words, knowledge transfer and knowledge dissemination are distinct activities and clients should devise appropriate processes or mechanisms to maximize such knowledge transfer and knowledge dissemination. Overall, this study should be of interest to clients, vendors and researchers in better understanding the various knowledge management issues pertaining to client–vendor partnership. As such, it represents an ongoing stream of research that should prove worthwhile in facilitating win-win partnerships between clients and vendors.