Managing Knowledge Transfer in Software-Maintenance Outsourcing Transitions: A System-Dynamics Perspective

  • Oliver KrancherEmail author
  • Jens Dibbern
Part of the Progress in IS book series (PROIS)


The existing literature suggests that transitions in software-maintenance offshore outsourcing projects are prone to knowledge transfer blockades, i.e. situations in which the activities that would yield effective knowledge transfer do not occur, and that client management involvement is central to overcome them. However, the theoretical understanding of the knowledge transfer blockade is limited, and the reactive management behavior reported in case studies suggests that practitioners are frequently astonished by the dynamics that may give rise to the blockade. Drawing on recent research from offshore sourcing and reference theories, this study proposes a system dynamics framework to explain why knowledge transfer blockades emerge and how and why client management can overcome the blockade. The results suggest that blockades emerge from a vicious circle of weak learning due to cognitive overload of vendor staff and resulting negative ability attributions that result in reduced helping behavior and thus aggravate cognitive load. Client management may avoid these vicious circles by selecting vendor staff with strong prior related experience. Longer phases of coexistence of vendor staff and subject matter experts and high formal and clan controls may also mitigate vicious circles.


Outsourcing Transition phase Knowledge transfer Knowledge management System dynamics Knowledge transfer blockade 



This work has been financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) (Grant No. 100018_140407 /1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Information SystemsUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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