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Does complexity and prior interactions affect project procurement? Evidence from mining mega-projects


International Journal of Project Management


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Authors / Editors

Brahm F;Tarzijan J


Publication Year



We investigated mining mega-projects to analyze the effect of project complexity on (1) the “make vs. ally” choice for the implementation stage of a project and the “fixed-price vs. cost-plus” contractual choice when an “ally” was chosen; and (2) the extent to which prior interactions with a contractor at earlier stages of the same project impact the “fixed-price vs. cost-plus” decision. Contrary to expectations, we found that project complexity promoted allying with external contractors but that, as expected, it promoted the use of cost-plus contracts. In addition, we found that prior interactions promoted fixed-price contracts and that this effect was more pronounced for less complex projects in which learning and knowledge acquired during prior stages was more easily transferred into contractual detail. Given that fixed prices are contractually heavier than cost-plus agreements, this result suggests that complexity strongly moderates the relationship between formal and relational contracting.


Complexity; Project procurement; Contracts; Make or buy; Prior interactions

Available on ECCH


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