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Benchmarking knowledge gaps through role simulations for assessing outsourcing viability

Sandhya Shekhar (IITM Research Park, IIT Madras, Chennai, India)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 30 May 2008




With an increase in global outsourcing, there is a need for risk mitigation strategies for outsourcing partner selection. Most outsourced services are getting commoditized, making it difficult to clearly differentiate capabilities of service providers. Also, the move towards knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) services is an area where the risks of failure are perceived to be higher. Since the knowledge dimension is a critical one for any outsourced activity, an objective assessment of knowledge gaps is important in the overall process of evaluation of the external provider. This paper aims to address the issues involved.


The paper builds the linkage between the measurability of the knowledge dimension and outsourcing project success through a set of propositions. It proposes a formal process of “knowledge gap assessment” as an input to assessing partner viability. It also identifies two important dimensions that are specific to an outsourcing relationship. Finally, the paper outlines a conceptual framework that takes these dimensions into account through a process of benchmarking using role simulations that could be used as a generic tool for performing such an assessment.


Such an assessment can help to classify prospective service providers as exhibiting low‐, moderate‐ or high‐knowledge gaps in different knowledge categories. Depending on the cost of bridging these gaps the associated risks can be classified as low, medium or high, facilitating appropriate managerial decisions.

Research limitations/implications

This paper proposes a conceptual model and a set of propositions which will need to be tested and refined through further empirical research.

Practical implications

The framework can be a useful tool for partner selection by firms who are looking to outsource activities. A simulation‐based benchmarking approach is likely to provide a more objective assessment of a firm's knowledge‐based capability, both when compared to the parent (outsourcing) organization as well as other short‐listed service providers.


This paper fulfils an identified need for minimizing risk in both business process outsourcing as well as KPO projects by focusing on the knowledge dimension and offers a practical framework to enable the same.



Shekhar, S. (2008), "Benchmarking knowledge gaps through role simulations for assessing outsourcing viability", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 225-241.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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