International Purchasing Offices: An empirical research
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International Purchasing Offices (IPOs) play an increasingly important role in the management of international sourcing activities, both in developed and emerging economies. We performed a systematic literature review on IPOs. This allowed us to identify and summarize the main research streams and to highlight some weaknesses (e.g., methodological issues and lacking theoretical foundations) and gaps. We concluded that few significant studies have been devoted to IPOs and proposed some directions for future research organized into three questions: (1) Does an IPO add value to the company? (2) How are the IPOs set up, how do they work, and how do they develop? and (3) What is the role of the IPOs within the global sourcing organisational structure? We conducted an exploratory multiple case study research to face with the second and third questions pursuing three main aims: (1) to propose a typology of IPOs and highlight the relationship between strategy and structure in a global purchasing context; (2) to study IPO macro-organisational structures (i.e., organisational archetypes) and their evolution over time; and (3) to study IPO micro-organisational structures (e.g., individual tasks, activities, and capabilities) and their evolution over time. We identified three types or clusters of IPOs along four dimensions (i.e., motives for sourcing from China, global purchasing strategy for China, IPO structure and IPO followership) and presented a causal model and associated propositions to explain how an IPO may become more strategic for its parent company. We then proposed a dynamic evolution model, consisting of five stages differentiated by number, depth, and breadth of roles, in which IPOs could leapfrog some stages, re-trench (move back to lower stages) and be potentially withdrawn. Finally, we highlighted some resources/capabilities required by IPOs; we proposed a typology of IPO micro-organisational evolutionary behaviours; and we recognized three contingent factors that jointly affect these behaviours (i.e., the architectural and technological complexity of the sourced items, annual volume sourced abroad, and experience in the foreign context).
PhD Thesis, University of Udine, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Elettrica, Gestionale e Meccanica