Purpose This paper aims to explore the concept of early warning signs (EWSs) in offshore-outsourced software development (OOSD) projects at the team level. It also aims to identify the EWSs of failure in the onshore-offshore project context and understand how they are perceived by responsible managers.
Design/methodology/approach A grounded theory approach is followed by gathering data from 19 failed OOSD projects using project managers from client and vendor sides as the key informants.
Findings This study identified 13 EWSs of failure in five categories of trust and team cohesion, common project execution structures, awareness of shared work context, collaboration between teams and onshore-offshore team coordination capabilities. EWSs were found to comprise two components: early warning issues and early signals of failures.
Research limitations/implications India-based vendors’ data in the study formed the primary weakness of the work regarding generalizability, even though it brought homogeneity to data. Lack of triangulation of failure data through client or vendor peers proved impossible in this research as failure remains a very sensitive topic. Dual composition of EWSs could be applied to institutionalize an early warning tool in projects.
Originality/value The paper develops an exploratory model of EWSs of failure and project failure in the OOSD project context. The two-component framework of EWSs allows project managers to eliminate false positives while identifying EWSs. It contributes to the information system failure, risk management and information technology offshoring research streams.