Interview with Dr. Erik Beulen

Dr. Erik BeulenProf. dr. Erik Beulen holds the Accenture Global Sourcing Chair at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. He is also employed as a senior manager with Accenture. His research concentrates on outsourcing, offshore outsourcing, governance and the management of outsourcing relations. His papers have been published in journals such as European Management Journal, Communications Association for Information Systems and the proceedings of the HICSS and ICIS. He has contributed chapters in editorial books by Erran Carmel, Wendy Currie, Suzanne Rivard and Benoit Aubert and Wim van Grembergen. He is the author and co-author of various Dutch-language books on the subject of outsourcing and offshore outsourcing. He is also co-author of the book Managing IT Outsourcing, Routledge, UK.

In your dual role as a practitioner and also an academic, how do you see rigor versus relevant debate?

There are a few points that I would like to make in this regard. First, it is very important that before one attempts to publish any research work, it is crucial to decide the appropriate target audience for that output. If one really wants to target highly scientific world, one needs a different approach as compared to targeting business world. This decision has to be made upfront. Second, then the question arises regarding what is the ideal combination of relevance and rigor. Of course, a certain amount of rigor is always a pre-requisite for any type of research work. But one needs to think about balancing the possible journal outlet and the target audience. For instance, if one selects highly qualified academic journals, it will hardly be read by majority of business world, which is a missed opportunity for both academics and practitioners. So, I would suggest adding an extra dimension to this equation by including accessibility of the research. The research has to be rigorous, has to be relevant but also has to be accessible i.e. made available to practitioners. Balancing these three will maximize the value for both worlds. This is something I try to achieve with my academic role by focusing on outlets with high visibility and accessibility to both worlds.

As a practitioner, do you see yourself and your colleagues picking cues from academic research on IT related topics?

I think the answer is a ‘yes’ but there is significant scope for increasing and improving the collaboration between practitioners and academics. There must be an active participation of practitioners in research projects and high availability of research to them. The practitioners revert to research articles usually when they encounter some problem i.e. it is a reactive behavior from their end and this should be more pro-active. Practitioners must try to take advantage of research work on a regular basis rather than on a crisis basis.

Within IT (specifically IT Outsourcing) industry, what issues do you see in business world that have received little attention in academia?

The implications of offshore outsourcing on the economic development of low cost countries receive very little attention in academia. The general understanding is that offshore outsourcing positively contributes to the economic growth of a country as the IT industry generates software & IT services export. However the question is if this will also be true in the long run. As the costs of software & IT services increase and the availability of software & IT services decreases for companies operating out of the domestic market, there might also be a downside for the economic growth of the low cost countries.

As a practitioner, what would you suggest young doctoral candidates to increase the relevance of their research?

I would not suggest them to select a topic based on its relevance. Doctoral students must choose a research topic from an inventory of ideas that they find interesting. To pick a topic because it is relevant, in my opinion, is not an appropriate way of selection. Yes, the topic has to be relevant but that should not be the sole criteria for topic selection. A certain level of relevance should be a pre-requisite but I think if students choose a topic based on their interests, the output of their research will be much better and valuable.

We thank Dr. Erik Beulen for talking to us.

Did you find this interview interesting? Do you have any questions you always wanted to ask some OCIS faculty member or practitioners? This is your chance, just let us know your comments/questions and your faculty of choice and we will get the answers for you !

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