The Emergence of Formal Control Specificity in Information Systems Outsourcing: A Process-View

  • Thomas L. HuberEmail author
  • Thomas A. Fischer
  • Laurie Kirsch
  • Jens Dibbern
Part of the Progress in IS book series (PROIS)


Information systems (IS) outsourcing projects often fail to achieve initial goals. To avoid project failure, managers need to design formal controls that meet the specific contextual demands of the project. However, the dynamic and uncertain nature of IS outsourcing projects makes it difficult to design such specific formal controls at the outset of a project. It is hence crucial to translate high-level project goals into specific formal controls during the course of a project. This study seeks to understand the underlying patterns of such translation processes. Based on a comparative case study of four outsourced software development projects, we inductively develop a process model that consists of three unique patterns. The process model shows that the performance implications of emergent controls with higher specificity depend on differences in the translation process. Specific formal controls have positive implications for goal achievement if only the stakeholder context is adapted, while they are negative for goal achievement if in the translation process tasks are unintendedly adapted. In the latter case projects incrementally drift away from their initial direction. Our findings help to better understand control dynamics in IS outsourcing projects. We contribute to a process theoretic understanding of IS outsourcing governance and we derive implications for control theory and the IS project escalation literature.


Process theory Control theory Case study Coevolution Specificity Translation process 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas L. Huber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas A. Fischer
    • 1
  • Laurie Kirsch
    • 2
  • Jens Dibbern
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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