Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Sourcing IT Skills in Organizations: A Comparison among European Countries

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Sourcing IT Skills in Organizations: A Comparison among European Countries

Article excerpt


Investments in IT and their return for organizations have been the subject of many academic and policy discussion. This discussion has been prominently run by, e.g., the 'productivity paradox' initiated by Solow (1987); the book by Landauer (1995), The Trouble with Computers; the "IT Doesn 't Matter" paper by Carr (2003); and many reactions to these publications (e.g. Brynjolfsson, 1993; Brynjolfsson & Saunders, 2010; Turban, Leidner, McLean, & Wetherbe, 2007). Obviously, there is no doubt that over the past decades an increasing amount of companies invested largely in Information Systems and Information Technology (IS/IT), but trend also knows it fluctuations. Around the year 2000, the prominent pressure in many European countries was to attract as many IT persons as possible to keep pace with the latest developments in IT. Later on, the dotcom-crash dramatically changed the labour market for IT specialists (Min, Caltagirone, & Serpico, 2007). In many European countries, both the demand and supply side of the labour market for IT employees seem to have resettled. Both trend watchers and policy makers forecast renewed tensions on the labour market for IT-skilled employees and severe shortages of 'e-skills' (Commission, 2007; Lanvin & Passman, 2008).

While currently new developments in the field of IT, skills and sourcing take place at a high pace, it is also of relevance to look back at trends and relationships in earlier years. In this study we benefit from the opportunity to analyses an extensive survey dataset collected among (in total 1,464 companies from 8 European countries in 2003. From this, we can address a number research questions, that are, obviously restricted to the dataset as well. First, we can describe how European companies sourced their required level of IT skills in 2003; an interesting period as being just a few years after the dotcom crises. Secondly, the data enables us to distinct between organizational policies recruiting IT personnel on the external labour market ('insourcing', cf. Lacity & Hirscheim, 1995; Slaughter & Ang, 1996), and policies that are aimed to outsource IT activities to external parties (Grimpe & Kaiser, 2010; Hirschheim, Heinzl, & Dibbern, 2002). Also, questions can be addressed as how insourcing and outsourcing policies are related to the internal training of IT skills of employees. Finally, as the dataset covers different European countries, it can examined how IT skills sourcing policy of organizations differ between countries in 2003, and what the influence might be of national or sector specific characteristics like the tightness of the labour market, and level of IT development and application.

In this paper we approach these questions by the analysis of the large-scale dataset mentioned, that resulted from a international survey among 20,000 European organizations in 2003 (Commission, 2004). The survey was conducted by order of the European Community under the label 'e-Business W@tch'. The next section starts with a basic description of the methodology of the e-Business W@tch data, after which it is described how the sourcing of IT skills can be measured by it. The variety of IT skills sourcing by organizations is then described, and possible explanations of this variation is subsequently analysed by a (multivariate) breakdown analyse by country and by sector. The results are interpreted and concluded in the section of the paper, including suggestions for the practice of organizations and further research.


The e-Business data collection project was coordinated and executed by Empirica GmbH (a German research institute), who coordinated all Computer Added Telephone Interviewing (CATI) interviews among companies during the period June-July 2002 in initially 15 member states of the European Union (i.e. Austria, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Finland, Spain, France, Sweden, Greece, UK and Ireland). …

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