In this introductory paper, we first discuss the emergence of global sourcing of business services and how these have been largely ignored in the IB field. Offshoring of business services has reached substantial proportions. Despite the radical growth, IB research on global sourcing is still in its infancy. Offshoring of business services represents a new type of internationalization. The offshoring of high-value services confronts companies with many of the challenges that are typical of an internationalization process in which well-known models and concepts of internationalization are applicable but also leave important unanswered questions requiring reconsideration and revision of these theoretical positions. Offshoring of business services is fundamentally different from outsourcing offshore of manufacturing activities. Using data from the Offshore Research Network (ORN), we track patterns of the emergence and diffusion of global sourcing of business services. On the basis of these new insights, we make a plea for a more encompassing, co-evolutionary perspective of global sourcing stressing the interactions between managerial intentionality, path-dependent experience and knowledge accumulation, as well as the institutional and selection forces. In particular, we develop a co-evolutionary offshore decision model integrating managerial intentionality, knowledge/experience and institutional and selection forces that explain the heterogeneous outcomes of offshoring. Although emergent outcomes of co-evolutionary dynamics are highly idiosyncratic, we identify in this paper some underlying mechanism that drive specific global sourcing patterns. Finally, we position the papers of this special issue in this co-evolutionary model.

Co-evolution, Global service providers, Global sourcing, Governance mode, Institutional forces, Location choice, Managerial intentionality, Offshore decision model, Offshoring, Task characteristics,
ERIM Article Series (EAS)
International Business Review
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Lewin, A.Y, & Volberda, H.W. (2011). Co-evolution of global sourcing: The need to understand the underlying mechanisms of firm-decisions to offshore. International Business Review, 20(3), 241–251. doi:10.1016/j.ibusrev.2011.02.008