Relocating knowledge: A case study approach to knowledge transfer in in-house offshoring

Laura Nieburg & Christoph Brückner

Student thesis: Master thesis


The global marketplace of today affects not only the customer base of companies, but also more and more their internal structure. Outsourcing and in-house offshoring have become commonplace phenomena for international companies, even more so in mature industries where cost reduction is a crucial determinant for competitiveness. In this context we aim at investigating the endeavor of knowledge transfer in relation to in-house offshoring. The basis of our analysis is a case study conducted within the “Purchasing Logistics” department of A.P. Moller Maersk, where we analyzed an in-house offshoring initiative which moved a considerable amount of backoffice activity from Headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an overseas office in Manila, The Philippines. During several interviews with key-employees we collected information on the department’s approach to inhouse offshoring and knowledge transfer. Furthermore we present an extensive overview over existing publications which allow us to frame the case at hand from a theoretical perspective. We combine concepts from the areas of Knowledge Management, Communication, Intercultural Management, Offshore Outsourcing and Information Technologies in order to conceptualize and develop an approach that fully encompasses the needs of this thesis. This approach was necessary as knowledge transfer in relation to in-house offshoring has not yet been given significant attention by scholars, so that suitable frameworks are virtually non-existent. We consequently identify several core concepts, most notably in relation to knowledge classification and interaction distance dimensions, that are then used in order to analyze the given case and pinpoint the most critical characteristics. From there on we elaborate upon the department’s distinctive approaches to knowledge transfer and their relation to theory. Some of the key concepts that have been encountered during the case analysis are: - The “Simulated Implementation”, a pre-implementation test-setup with temporary workers that tremendously facilitated the development of process scripts and thus reduced the negative impact of longdistance interaction during process implementation. - An extremely strict intra-department communication setup that maintained process-related knowledge among involved employees at the perfect level for each stage, so that decontextualization insufficiencies due to bounded rationality issues were eliminated. - The extensive use of decontextualized, codified process scripts, which significantly reduced organizational stress during implementation and which post-implementation serve as extremely efficient interfaces for organizational modularity. Finally, we assess the impact of these approaches and make recommendations regarding further activities.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages163