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Applying Social Exchange Theory in IT Service Relationships: Exploring Roles of Exchange Characteristics in Knowledge Sharing

Park, Jun-Gi, Lee, Hyejung, & Lee, Jungwoo (2015). Applying social exchange theory in IT service relationships: exploring roles of exchange characteristics in knowledge sharing. Information Technology and Management, 1-14. .

Extending the social exchange theory which emphasizes trust and dependence as important in building and maintaining relationships, exchange specific characteristics (relationship investments and benefits) are additionally posited here as critical antecedents in knowledge sharing relationship among IT service team members, along with partner characteristics (expertise and value similarity) and interaction (communication frequency). An instrument was constructed and administered against client side project leaders in three different IT service firms. Analyses of 126 data points revealed that relationship benefit, investments, and expertise are strongly associated with dependence while relationship investment, expertise and value similarity are strongly associated with trust in IT service relationship. Findings confirm that the exchange characteristics suggested by the social exchange theory plays important roles in building and maintaining dependence in IT service relationships and, in turn, towards building trust for knowledge sharing, but only indirectly via dependence. Also, paths from dependence to trust and knowledge sharing are confirmed as suggested by previous studies. Results implies that the benefits and investments for and in IT service relationship needs to be cultivated, exposed and emphasized in order to increase the necessary knowledge sharing levels. Limitations of the study are discussed with suggestions for further studies into social exchange characteristics in the conclusion.

Systems development, Knowledge sharing, Dependence, Trust, Social exchange theory