Review of the empirical business services sourcing literature: An update and future directions

Mary C. LACITY*, Shaji A. KHAN, Aihua YAN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview articleBook reviewpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


The 2010 Journal of Information Technology (JIT) article, 'A Review of the IT Outsourcing Empirical Literature and Future Research Directions,' analyzed 741 findings on the determinants of Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) decisions and outcomes from 164 empirical articles published between 1992 and 2010. Using the same coding method, the 2011 JIT article, 'Business Process Outsourcing Studies: A Critical Review and Research Directions,' analyzed 615 findings on the determinants of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) decisions and outcomes from 67 empirical articles published between 1996 and 2011. Taken together, these two reviews found that the preponderance of evidence from both ITO and BPO research streams produced largely consistent results pertaining to the categories of independent variables that affected outsourcing decisions and outcomes. To investigate the most current research findings on business services, which comprise ITO and BPO, and to compare the results with the prior JIT reviews, we replicated the method used in the prior JIT reviews. In this update, we examined 174 newly published articles across 78 academic journals published between 2010 and 2014. We found that researchers have significantly expanded the variables of interest in the last 4 years. In all, researchers investigated 69 new variables. Compared with earlier research, this review of recent articles found a deeper exploration of the direct effects of transaction attributes, sourcing motivations, client and provider capabilities, and governance on sourcing decisions and outcomes. Researchers have also studied a broader variety of sourcing decisions, including shared services, captive centers, rural sourcing and backsourcing. This update also found a more nuanced understanding of relational governance and its interaction with contractual governance. We assessed the research progress that has been made on ten previously identified gaps in knowledge. We proposed a future research agenda that includes continued, incremental progress on 'normal science' research questions, as well as more ambitious research goals. We challenged researchers to investigate how sourcing clients, providers, and advisors can protect jobs, protect the environment, and ensure security in an increasingly automated world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-328
Number of pages60
JournalJournal of Information Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Association for Information Technology Trust.


  • business services sourcing literature review
  • IT outsourcing
  • outsourcing
  • business process outsourcing


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