Managing the Offshoring of Audit Work: Spanning the Boundaries Between Onshore and Offshore Auditor

Mary Canning, Brendan O'Dwyer, Roel Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The offshoring of external audit work to so-called low-cost countries has become increasingly prevalent among the Big 4 professional services firms. Despite this, we have limited in-depth, contextually rich knowledge of how this form of offshoring influences audit practitioners and the audit process. Using a qualitative research approach, we unveil how and why offshoring emerges as an organizational matter which changes the way audit work is organized and perceived in a Big 4 firm context. We use the concept of boundary spanning to better understand the management and coordination of audit work across the multiple and overlapping boundaries that characterize audit offshoring arrangements. First, we demonstrate how changes in the design of offshoring processes influence the interactions between onshore and offshore auditors, thereby significantly impacting on audit work. Second, we uncover how individual "boundary spanners" frequently struggle to ensure the efficient and effective operation of offshoring, especially in their management of relations between onshore and offshore auditors. Third, we show how the institutionalization of boundary spanning functions in organizational structures and processes can have the unintended consequence of widening the boundaries between onshore and offshore auditors. Finally, we offer evidence of the effect of offshoring on the learning process of both onshore and offshore auditors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAuditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2021


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