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Onshore Immigrant Managers as Boundary Spanners on Offshored Software Development Projects: Partners or Bosses?

Levina, Natalia and Kane, Aimee A. (2010) Onshore Immigrant Managers as Boundary Spanners on Offshored Software Development Projects: Partners or Bosses? [Industry Studies Working Paper:2010-02]



A growing trend of sourcing complex software development projects from high-cost (onshore) countries to lower-cost (offshore) countries has created a need for effective collaboration across national boundaries. Effective collaboration requires overcoming challenges stemming from participants’ diverse backgrounds, which can be broadly classified as “coordination challenges” and “status differences.”A traditional way of addressing these challenges has been to send an expatriate on a temporary assignment from an onshore to an offshore country or vice versa. An increasingly popular approach is to assign project liaison roles to professional workers who have emigrated from common offshoring destinations such India, Russia, China, and Eastern Europe and who are now working in the US and Western Europe. This practice, however, assumes that immigrant managers will enable effective collaboration by leveraging their bicultural backgrounds to manage projects sourced to their country of origin. Drawing on and extending status characteristics and construction theory we investigate the role of onshore immigrants in addressing coordination challenges and renegotiating status differences on such projects. Using data from interviews with onshore and offshore IT professionals, we illustrate that the practice of assigning onshore immigrant managers to boundary spanning roles is often problematic. While, by and large, immigrant managers are able to address coordination challenges, they are only willing to renegotiate status differences if they identify with offshore IT professionals. Those immigrants who no longer identify with the offshore group exhibit a profound lack of trust in and respect for offshore professionals, sometimes even refusing to speak their mother tongue.

Industry Studies Series #:2010-02
Item Type:Industry Studies Working Paper
Uncontrolled Keywords:industry studies, industry studies working paper, industry studies association, industry studies research, status characteristics theory, boundary spanning, social identity theory, offshoring, immigrants, immigrant managers, software development, cross-cultural collaboration, qualitative research
ID Code:167
Deposited By:Mr Robin Peterson
Deposited On:25 Feb 2010 14:50
Last Modified:07 Jun 2010 10:45

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