Synching or Sinking: Trajectories and Strategies in Global Software Outsourcing Relationships

Richard Heeks, S. Krishna, Brian Nicholson, Sundeep Sahay


To increase the value and reduce the costs and risks of global software outsourcing, clients and developers are 'synching': building congruence along six identified 'COCPIT' dimensions. Case studies from a longitudinal research project identify practical synching strategies used by North American and European clients in their dealings with Indian sub-contractors. However, the cases also identify the limits to synching across physical and cultural distance. These limits - and the shocks to synching that occur over time - must be recognised and addressed if global software outsourcing is to succeed.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What is global software outsourcing and what forms can it take? [part A]
  2. Explain synching, sinking and the COCPIT framework. [part B]
  3. What 'synching strategies' are adopted within GSO relationships? To what extent did these strategies succeed in the cases described? [part C]
  4. What 'synching strategies' do Indian software developer firms adopt? [part C]
  5. What limits to synching typically arise within GSO relationships? What could be done to address those limits? [part D]
  6. What environmental factors affect GSO relationships? What could be done to address the difficulties those factors sometimes produce? [part D]

Development questions

  1. How would synching help reduce the communication and coordination costs of a GSO relationship?
  2. Turn the clock back to 1996. What advice would you give to Sierra about its proposed software outsourcing to India?
  3. Who should take responsibility for synching a GSO relationship: the client or the developer?
  4. Why have clients been poor at recognising good practice within their Indian sub-contractors?
  5. What lessons could be transferred from this paper to a) information systems outsourcing more generally; b) software outsourcing within a single country?