Coordinating expertise across knowledge boundaries in offshore-outsourcing projects: the role of codification

Julia Kotlarsky, Harry Scarbrough, Ilan Oshri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coordination of effort within and among different expert groups is a central feature of contemporary organizations. Within the existing literature, however, a dichotomy has emerged in our understanding of the role played by codification in coordinating expert groups. One strand of literature emphasizes codification as a process that supports coordination by enabling the storage and ready transfer of knowledge. In contrast, another strand highlights the persistent differences between expert groups that create boundaries to the transfer of knowledge, seeing coordination as dependent on the quality of the reciprocal interactions between groups and individuals. Our research helps to resolve such contested understandings of the coordinative role played by codification. By focusing on the offshore-outsourcing of knowledge-intensive services, we examine the role played by codification when expertise was coordinated between client staff and onsite and offshore vendor personnel in a large-scale outsourcing contract between TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) and ABN AMRO bank. A number of theoretical contributions flow from our analysis of the case study, helping to move our understanding beyond the dichotomized views of codification outlined above. First, our study adds to previous work where codification has been seen as a static concept by demonstrating the multiple, coexisting, and complementary roles that codification may play. We examine the dynamic nature of codification and show changes in the relative importance of these different roles in coordinating distributed expertise over time. Second, we reconceptualize the commonly accepted view of codification as focusing on the replication and diffusion of knowledge by developing the notion of the codification of the “knower” as complementary to the codification of knowledge. Unlike previous studies of expertise directories, codification of the knower does not involve representing expertise in terms of occupational skills or competences but enables the reciprocal interrelating of expertise required by more unstructured tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-627
Number of pages21
JournalManagement Information Systems Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 The Authors. Published by the Management Information Systems Research Center at the University of Minnesota. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original workis properly cited.


  • offshore-outsourcing
  • codification
  • expertise coordination
  • knowledge boundaries
  • qualitative case study
  • outsourcing transition


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