10.4 Extensions and limitations of the research programme

10.4 Extensions and limitations of the research programme

A key aspect of our multi-case analysis has been the emphasis on process and context and the linkages that exist between the two in relation to GSA relationships. Process refers to the manner in which the relationship evolves over time, specifically how it is initiated and the explorations that go on around it, its growth and the dynamics of how it stabilizes or breaks down. This process is examined in terms of the changes in work, in the quantum and type of technologies with which people engage, the changes in numbers of people deployed in projects, the associated growth in infrastructure and the maturation of management practices. Context refers to the ongoing processes of globalization, how they stabilize, strengthen or destabilize GSA relationships and how meanings of globalization change as a result of these micro-level dynamics. The dynamics of globalization that we have analysed through the metaphors of ˜out of control , ˜networks , and ˜risks should be taken into account, as changes in technological trends in the industry, redefinitions of global markets and changes in government policies as a result of global opportunities and challenges have significant multi-level impacts for the GSA relation. Linkages between context and process have been studied through the six conceptual themes that were discussed in greater depth earlier in this chapter. This focus on the mutual linkages between context and process is a response to Walsham s (1993) critique of IS research with too much focus on content, and the neglect of process, context and their linkages. This approach also responds to Walsham s subsequent arguments (1998, 2001) about the need to examine how micro-level analysis of IT-enabled social transformations contributes to macro social theory.

Aperennial question confronting IS research, especially in the interpretive tradition, is about the generalization of research findings. The intention , as is the case of researchers in the interpretive tradition within which this book is grounded, is not to try to develop predictability of results but to come up with ˜thick descriptions of a phenomenon that provide deep and useful insights into the nature of the GSA process and how it evolves over time. These descriptions should be coherent , believable and based on an interpretive process that is clearly explicated and understandable. As a result of our interpretative process we have not developed ˜statistical generalizations that aim to predict but ˜analytical generalizations that help to further our understanding. These analytical generalizations can be seen at two levels:

  • At amore meta level, the ˜model of and ˜model for relationship proposed and elaboratedin the book helps to provide a conceptual frame in which GSAs can be examined more generally . Such a conceptual frame, we believe, can be also useful for analysing other IS- related phenomena such as knowledge management, infrastructures or implementation.

  • At a more micro level, we have identified and elaborated six concepts that help the analysis of GSAs within the meta-level framework.

While we are not going to say that the dynamics of standards will unfold in any predicable fashion, we make more abstract generalizations that there will be a hierarchy of standards in operation or that attempts to implement standards will be subject to ongoing negotiation and redefinitions.

  • Our research, like all studies, has its limitations:

  • In the research design we have studied only India as a country with which firms from other countries have GSA links. As discussed in chapter 1, there is now a whole range of countries, such as China, Russia, the Philippines, etc. that are providing competitive GSA services. While a focus on one country helps to provide focus, it is limited in developing more general implications applicable to other countries .

  • This limitation we are trying to remedy in the next phase of research (started in 2001) in which we are also studying firms from Eastern Europe and Russia. Another extension being carried out in this new phase of research is to look at different sourcing countries. Specifically, we are focusing on Norway and Germany and initial interviews have already commenced.

  • Our study has had a primarily macro-level focus on the strategic issues relating to the management of the relationship. Through our interviews we were generally trying to understand the challenges that firms and individuals were experiencing, how these were changing over time and what the responses were to them. As a result of this focus, we did not have very detailed project-level information, nor did we follow a particular project over time. This is a significant gap in our analysis because the micro-level dynamics of the projects both shape and are shaped by the GSA-level issues that are situated within the broader globalization context. To follow these project-level dynamics we would need access to data such as email communications, study the software code and examine the requirements documentation. Access to such information is difficult to obtain. However, in one of our new case studies of a Norwegian “Indian relationship we have managed to get such access and we have been invited to sit in on the meetings of the developers and clients where the requirements are developed in Norway. We will then be also able to examine the transfer of these requirement documents and interview staff at both ends to see how the requirements were then interpreted. Such an analysis, we believe, will strengthen our focus further in due course.

  • Although we have discussed a set of themes in the cases, some important ones have not been examined. We have not looked at financial data such as income statements and balance sheets. Exclusion of financial issues is a serious limitation that we will address in the next phase of the research. Trust, another issue that is currently an important topic for discussion in the IS community, has also not explicitly been addressed. While we have made implicit or tangential references to the issue of trust themes which in different ways help to develop insights into the concept, we have not made a full-blown analysis of the theme along the lines of the other six. However, we plan to examine the issue of trust more completely in the new phase of research.

A criticism often made of IS researchers concerns ˜relevance , or rather the lack of it, in their studies on practice. We believe that theory and practice cannot be separated and that there exists between them a mutual and inseparable relationship. We develop the managerial implications from our study in chapter 11.