The strategic choice of contract types in business process outsourcing

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1569-1589
Journal / PublicationBusiness Process Management Journal
Issue number5
Online published24 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


Purpose – How to determine the appropriate contractual structure for an outsourcing relationship has been a major theme in the business process outsourcing (BPO) literature. Drawing on transaction cost economics, this study aims to examine how anticipated coordination and adaptation costs in a BPO relationship affect the choice of contract types. Specifically, this research categorizes contracts types (fixed-price, time and materials and hybrid contracts) based on levels of contract design comprehensiveness and flexibility to change. 
Design/methodology/approach – The research setting is the BPO for a focal firm, involving a contractor. Data from 153 US companies are collected using a structured questionnaire on senior executives of functional areas of marketing, IT and finance. Hypotheses were tested using ordered probit model. 
Findings – The results show that maturity is negatively associated with anticipated adaptation costs, while modularity and IT detachability are negatively related to anticipated coordination costs. Furthermore, adaptation costs have a direct impact on the choice, whereas the anticipated coordination costs do not have a significant direct impact on contract choice. The strength of adaptation costs' impact, however, is significantly reduced when coordination costs are high. 
Originality/value – This study explicitly examines the role of anticipated coordination and adaptation costs in shaping the strategic choice of contract types in the BPO market. By differentiating the two types of anticipated transaction costs, this research enables a better understanding of the dynamics between transaction characteristics, anticipated transaction costs and contract types in complicated relationships such as BPO relationships.

Research Area(s)

  • Adaptation costs, Business process outsourcing, Contract choice, Coordination costs