During the past 20 years, a rich but diverse body of knowledge has accumulated regarding information technology outsourcing (ITO). Researchers have studied several factors that explain ITO decisions. So far, previous studies resorted mainly to rational efficiency criteria. In recent years researchers started to integrate soft factors into the explanatory models. In many cases, the failure of ITO projects still cannot be fully explained. By expanding ITO research in the direction of behavioral economics, this paper integrates psychological concepts that demonstrate that IT decision makers suffer from non-rational biases. Representing a broad variety of biases, this empirical study focuses on cognitive dissonance and reference point dependency. Using a structural equation model, based on an online survey with 198 participants, we show that IT decision makers use targets of past decisions as reference points. The assessment of target achievement in a subsequent decision can evoke cognitive dissonance that non-rationally affects the risk preferences of the decision maker. Two fictional scenarios demonstrate the practical implications of our study. Setting targets too high can cause non-rational risk affinity, potentially leading to project failure. Conversely, setting targets too low may cause non-rational risk aversion restraining the decision maker to make use of the full performance of a project.
Vetter, Johannes; Benlian, Alexander; and Hess, Thomas, "SETTING TARGETS RIGHT! HOW NON-RATIONAL BIASES AFFECT THE RISK PREFERENCE OF IT-OUTSOURCING DECISION MAKERS - AN EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION" (2011). ECIS 2011 Proceedings. 173.