A dynamic approach to service provider boundaries : the case of the logistics industry
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The role of a systems integrator has emerged associated with large-scale, often project-based industries. This research addresses the development of systems integration in service provision by investigating service provision boundaries. The main purpose of the study is to contribute to the ongoing debate about systems integration through an investigation that goes beyond a binary perspective of insourcing and outsourcing. Grounded in the theoretical assumptions from the resource-based view (RBV), transaction cost economics (TCE) and agency theory (AT), the thesis aims to explain the development of systems integration capabilities in service provision, using the provision of logistics services as a context. Theoretically, this thesis demonstrates how conventional economic and sociological theories (and in particular a multi-theoretical perspective) contribute to understanding service boundary decisions for provider firms, focusing on ex-ante and ex-post contractual and relational governance mechanisms. Methodologically, the study adopts an abductive research approach using a multiple case study design and interviews as a means of qualitative data collection. The case study both tests established theories and develops new propositions in the fields of operations and supply chain management. This approach of using qualitative data to deductively test and support theoretical constructs is an emergent methodology in operations management research. The managerial implications of this study contribute to better understanding the nature and role of systems integrators and illustrate how this phenomenon can be applied to service providers in a logistics context. The findings and the proposed service provision continuum can therefore enable provider firms to enhance their management of their service offerings and outsourcing arrangements. The primary contribution of this thesis is an empirically derived and contextualised framework that offers firstly a new approach to a service provision continuum and secondly proposes four dynamic archetypes of service provision.