Building a Reputation as a Business Partner in Information Technology Outsourcing (Open Access)

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Publication History

Received: May 21, 2018
Revised: December 13, 2019; December 5, 2020; September 21, 2021
Accepted: May 4, 2022
Published Online as Articles in Advance: May 22, 2023
Published Online in Issue: Forthcoming


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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One noticeable trend in the maturing information technology (IT) outsourcing industry is the growing interest from client firms seeking to benefit from supplier-led innovations. Yet IT outsourcing suppliers still find it challenging to shift their reputation from the competent provision of a low-end service to a high-value innovative line of services, thus becoming known as business partners. We address this issue by examining the reputation formation efforts of an IT supplier experiencing a reputation deficit in terms of quality (its ability as a business partner) and intent (its intention to adopt trustworthy behavior). We develop a model based on a case study of a large IT supplier engaged in reputation formation with its outsourcing clients. We portray reputation formation as a process wherein an IT supplier alternately emits signals of quality and intent from a repertoire of signals. Our process model distinguishes between signaling at the market level, which relies on rhetorical mediums to broadcast a message promoting the supplier’s ability as a business partner, and signaling at the client level, which relies on substantive mediums such as demonstrations of the supplier’s ability to solve the client’s business problems and behavioral mediums that allow the client to assess the supplier’s intent to adopt trustworthy behavior.
Additional Details
Author Julia Kotlarsky, Suzanne Rivard, and Ilan Oshri
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 2
Keywords IT outsourcing, reputation formation, signaling theory, reputation deficit, qualitative case study
Page Numbers 901-922
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