IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Limits to Outsourcing and the Evolutionary Perspective on Firm Boundaries


  • Volker Mahnke


Although there is reason to expect that outsourcing plays an increasingly important role in world of commerce, theories of firm boundaries poorly address associated processes of governance change. This paper seeks to address this gap in the spirit of the evolutionary theory of the firm. This approach highlights the significance of outsourcing as a “process of shifting from internal to external procurement of activities. Adopting an evolutionary process perspective suggests limits to outsourcing due to governance inseparability and partly tacit complementarity of capabilities as well as related dis-aggregation costs, including the costs of knowledge codification in the specification of interfaces in supplier/buyer relations, loss of absorptive capacity and integrating capabilities in the supplier’s system. A key departure from earlier approaches to firm boundaries is an explanation of such limits to outsourcing and their impact on two interrelated sources of efficiency: incentives and capabilities. For instance, when limits to outsourcing obtain, governance change for particular activities involves compromises of capability- and/or incentive efficiency in the experimental determination of organizational boundaries. Also discussed are environmental dynamics that variously emphasise efficiency properties of dispersed or concentrated ownership and capability development.

Suggested Citation

  • Volker Mahnke, "undated". "Limits to Outsourcing and the Evolutionary Perspective on Firm Boundaries," IVS/CBS Working Papers 00-13, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy, Copenhagen Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:ivs:iivswp:00-13

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ivs:iivswp:00-13. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (J. Petur Joensen) The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask J. Petur Joensen to update the entry or send us the correct email address. General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.