Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Outsourcing as Seen from the Perspective of Knowledge Management

Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Outsourcing as Seen from the Perspective of Knowledge Management

Article excerpt


In recent years outsourcing has become one of the most widely used management strategies (Giunipero, Hooker, Joseph-Matthews, Yoon and Brudvig 2008), particularly in the service sector (Li and Choi 2009; Tate, Ellram, Bals and Hartmann 2009). In spite of its increasing use, its impact on company results is far from clear. Whereas some studies have found positive results in terms of variables such as efficiency, cost savings or access to new technologies (Powell, Koput and Smith-Doerr 1996; Heshmati 2003), others have reached the opposite conclusion (Jiang, Frazier and Prater 2006; Broedner, Kinkel and Lay 2009).

In this article we analyze the results of outsourcing from the perspective of the resource-based view (RBV) (Wernerfelt 1984; Barney 1991) and more specifically, the knowledge-based view of the firm, which other researchers have found to be a useful approach for the study of outsourcing strategies (Balakrishnan, Mohan and Seshadri 2008), although only a limited number of empirical studies have so far been performed to analyze its importance (Weigelt 2009). This approach views the company as a store of knowledge, and states that the characteristics that distinguish one company from the next, and therefore explain why some companies perform better than others, are the knowledge available to them and their ability to manage this knowledge effectively (Conner and Prahalad 1996). We therefore decided to study the way in which knowledge, considered as a resource of the company, affects performance. However, an analysis focused exclusively on the knowledge base of a company viewed as one of its resources would not provide a complete picture, as it is perhaps even more important to study what the company does with these resources, or in other words its capabilities (Barney 2001). To this end, this article focuses on learning capability, as this is a core process in the knowledge-based view of the company (Grant 1996).

Within the knowledge-based view, the questions we propose to tackle in our research are therefore as follows:

* Do the particular characteristics of the knowledge of the outsourced activity affect the benefits expected to be gained from outsourcing?

* Can the available knowledge and the capabilities to manage it influence the benefits of outsourcing?

By this means we hope to shed some light on previous contradictory findings on the results of outsourcing. One of the main contributions of our study is to find contingent factors that explain the disparities between the results of previous studies of the benefits of outsourcing using the theoretical approach of the knowledge-based view of the company. Given that the knowledge-based view is of fundamental importance for studying the reasons why some companies are more profitable than others (Grant 1996), there are still many interesting questions to answer regarding its importance in explaining the competitive advantages arising from relationships with suppliers (Dyer and Nobeoka 2000). A second contribution is that to achieve this, we use variables that are related to both the resources and the capabilities of the company, which we analyze within the same model.

The rest of the article is structured as follows. We begin with a review of the main theoretical contributions, which is followed by the presentation of the hypotheses and the study's model. Afterwards, we present the methodology, including the selection of the sample and the measurement of the constructs, and we finish by presenting the main results, their discussion and the most important conclusions reached.


The RBV and the Knowledge-Based View of the Firm

The RBV is based on the idea that organizations possess a series of resources that enable them, on the one hand, to obtain sustainable competitive advantages and, on the other, to achieve greater long-term performance (Penrose 1959; Wernerfelt 1984; Barney 1986, 1991; Grant 1991; Ray, Barney and Muhanna 2004). …

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