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Chitu Okoli

Posted on Jun 25, 2010 in Research summaries

Ågerfalk and Fitzgerald 2008: Outsourcing to an unknown workforce: Exploring opensourcing as a global sourcing strategy

Agerfalk, Pär and Brian Fitzgerald. (2008). Opensourcing to an unknown workforce: Exploring opensourcing as a global sourcing strategy. MIS Quarterly, 32(2), 385-410.

I read this paper because of my interest in theoretical perspectives on open source software.

  • Context: Opensourcing is presented as a form of outsourcing where a software product is purposely made available as open source in order to involve communal development. Agerfalk and Fitzgerald decline to use agency tehory, relational exchange theory, and transaction cost theory, which are all commonly used for outsourcing studies. Rather, they find psychological contract theory, following Koh et al (2004), since opensourcing is based on mutuality and unwritten commitments.
  • Objectives: What are the critical customer and community obligations in a successful opensourcing relationship?
  • Methods: This study carried out a three-phase approach:
  1. They adapted psychological contract theory as applied by Koh et al 2004 to outsourcing to propose factors applicable to OSS.

  2. They conducted qualitative interviews, intranet analysis, and workshops on three organizations that practiced opensourcing to refine the factors.

  3. They conducted a quantitative survey on the same three organizations plus two others (207 usable responses) to validate the factors.

  • Results: The opensourcer ("customer", the company that implements opensourcing) must not seek to dominate and control the process; must provide professional management and business expertise; and must help establish and open and trusted ecosystem. The open source community must have a clear and democratic authority structure with transparent processes; must have a responsible and innovative attituded; and must help establish a professional and sustainable ecosystem.

  • Implications:

    • For practice: Obligations are complementary between the opensourcer and the community. However, perceptions might differ as to how much each side has fulfilled their obligations. A consensus must be reached on the balance between value creation and community values. Management practices in opensourcing must change from those of traditional outsourcing relationships. Opensourcing provides a means of global recruitment, where the relationship enables the opensourcer to evaluate and know potential hirees.
    • For research: This study is valuable in its multi-method triangulated approach, and in simultaneously dealing with both customer and supplier in an outsourcing relationship. This study identifies the shift of OSS from individual developer focus to corporate strategy.


Koh, Ang, and Straub 2004: IT Outsourcing Success: A Psychological Contract Perspective. Information Systems Research 15(4), pp. 356–373.

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