Setting the Outsourcing Research Agenda

Marco Busi, Ronan McIvor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – To close the inaugural volume of Strategic Outsourcing, an International Journal (SOIJ), this paper aims to suggest a research agenda for outsourcing related studies for the year to come. The limited 1 year-time horizon to 2009 reflects our objective to identify a limited number of key and most urgent research areas in need of scientifically valid researchDesign/methodology/approach – The authors draw on their personal experience and knowledge as well as the content of the first volume of SOIJ, to identify key seminal studies in the field, observe gaps in current knowledge, and provide suggestions for future research.Findings – The major outcome of the paper is the list of 10 key research areas we suggest for 2009. Also interesting are the other three top-10s we propose: the top-10 theories underpinning current outsourcing research; the top-10 research areas investigated by past research on outsourcing; and the top-10 research questions that have emerged this year.Research limitations/implications – Considering the methodology we chose for this article, we are aware, and indeed so should you, that this research is biased and subjective by our own admission. Hence its categorisation as a Viewpoint. Nonetheless, considering the large amount of information we have used and the very narrow focus we have kept in defining our objectives, we believe the article has relevant implications in terms of clarifying a short-term roadmap for research in the field.Practical implications – From a practical perspective, as with all research agendas, the longer-term implications are much more important and visible than the shorter-term ones. The extremely fast pace at which outsourcing practice develops, coupled with the slower pace at which theoretical formulation and education move, are leaving outsourcing practitioners short of the proper “tools of trade”. A clear and focused research agenda can help generate knowledge supporting a drastic reduction in the confusion surrounding this practice and hence increase practitioners’ ability to develop the proper skills, learn from and apply validated theories and, in turn, more successfully manage their outsourced operations or contracts.Originality/value – That outsourcing related research is going to increase over the next few years, is undisputed. The key question is how we can maximise current and future efforts to shorten the development time. Being part of the editorial team of SOIJ puts us in the privileged position to have visibility over most current research being undertaken in the field of outsourcing. Complementing this with our own experience as researchers and practitioners in the field, we can provide relevant suggestions to those researchers who share an interest in developing this field into a fully-fledged scientific discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-197
JournalStrategic Outsourcing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2008


  • Research agenda
  • outsourcing
  • offshoring
  • sourcing
  • supplier selection


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