Boundary Spanners in Global Partnerships: A Case Study of an Indian Vendor’s Collaboration With Western Clients

Anne-Marie Søderberg, Laurence Romani

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Western companies’ outsourcing of projects to emergent markets is increasingly being replaced by strategic partnerships that require close collaboration between clients and vendors. This study focuses on interorganizational boundary-spanning activities in the context of global information technology (IT) development projects from the rare perspective of Indian vendor managers in one of the world’s largest IT service companies. It draws on a qualitative study of a collaborative partnership and focuses on the key boundary spanners who are responsible for developing trustful and sustainable client relationships and coordinating highly complex projects. We analyze vendor managers’ narratives of their collaboration with a European client in a long-term project, which is presented as a strategic partnership in an outsourcing 3.0 mode. The study offers a rich and conceptualized account of those managers’ boundary-spanning activities and a context-sensitive understanding of their boundary work. The study applies Bourdieu’s concept of capital (economic, cultural, social, and symbolic) not only in its analysis of the two powerful partners but also in its discussion of the boundary-spanning activities that are reported. The analysis demonstrates the coexistence of transactive and transformative modes of collaboration in the studied case. It reveals both the importance of partner status and the impact of that status on the forms of boundary-spanning activities in which the partners engage. Finally, this study suggests new research questions that will promote an understanding of both transactive and transformative boundary spanning and the reciprocity of boundary-spanning activities between vendor and client in a global collaborative partnership.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGroup & Organization Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)237-278
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Emerging Market MNC
  • Vendor perspectives
  • Status asymmetry
  • Transformative mode of collaboratio
  • Qualitative research

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