On the feasibility of applying the concept of modularity in the context of IS/IT project outsourcing
1 October 2018
University of Antwerp, Hof van Liere - Promotiezaal Grauwzusters, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus
Adyan Haque (formerly Md. Shahzada Benazeer)
Prof Jan Verelst, Prof Alain De Beuckelaer
PhD defence Adyan Haque (formerly Md. Shahzada Benazeer) - Faculty of Business and Economics
Information systems and information technology (IS/IT) services are often outsourced to external partners for multiple reasons but the main drivers are savings in cost, access to specialized expertise and technology, and focus on core competences. The outsourcing literature is persistently reporting high failure rates in IS/IT project outsourcing. Literature suggests that the IS/IT project outsourcing is a complex manoeuvre but unfortunately, none of the proposed remedies (mitigating actions) have considered to address the complexity related issue in IS/IT project outsourcing. It has been revealed from our extensive and in-depth literature review that the concept of modularity has been applied in many other fields in order to manage complexity and enhance agility/flexibility.
The research objective of this study is to explore whether and how the concept of modularity can be applied in the context of IS/IT project outsourcing. Our interest in applying modularity was triggered by the mixed results of IS/IT outsourcing projects in practice, as well as the research on Normalized Systems Theory (NST), which has shown predominantly at the software level, that the evolvability of modular structures is limited by a form of coupling called “combinatorial effects”, which affect not only evolution but many aspects of development of modular structures as well.
This study is a first attempt to gain insight into whether these aspects affect IS/IT outsourcing as well. As this research topic is at a nascent stage, in order to get a better insight, an interview-based descriptive, qualitative, multiple case study approach has been adopted. Answering our research goal, the case studies provide instances or examples of the role of modularity in the context of IS/IT project outsourcing, at several levels, varying from technical to organizational. These instances or examples can be linked to several theoretical frameworks, design principles and success/failure factors, providing further indications of their importance in IS/IT outsourcing projects.
Moreover, this study illustrates a systematic approach for practitioners of applying the concept of modularity in order to gain a better ex ante understanding about the risk factors in IS/IT project outsourcing. This study contributes in extending the periphery of the concept of modularity and NST from a more technical domain (Engineering and software) towards the management of the IS/IT outsourcing projects.