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Offshore Outsourcing: Magic Bullet or Dirty Word?

It all depends on your perspective

  • Read JDJ's 2004 Predictions by i-Technology Leaders Feature Story
  • Read The End of Middleware by Jonathan Schwartz
  • Read From the Founding Editor by Steve Benfield

      In the world of IT, outsourcing is either the dirtiest word you can utter or a brilliant one; it's all about who says it to whom and where it is said.

      No matter who uses it, it is a word most often said in private. When corporate managers use the word, it is always mentioned in a most confidential fashion as a potential cost-cutting tactic, a magic bullet to increase margins.

      When technical people use the word in public it is always with a hushed tone, as if speaking it aloud would give management the idea. In private it is discussed as if it were the greatest evil ever to befall the world, a faceless monster from far away.

      The reality falls somewhere in the middle.

      Outsourcing can be an extremely complex and complicated undertaking. Each piece of the process needs to be considered with great care and executed with precision. There is little margin for error halfway around the world. Once a company decides to outsource its code, programmers know their days are numbered. It's just a question of when the ax will fall. It is also just a matter of time before a major project goes completely out of control and craters, leaving hapless managers thrashing about with a project team in India.

      So today we have corporate managers blindly sending work halfway around the world - and an endless drain of jobs overseas. Who came up with this latest corporate fad? How we got here is an interesting paradox.

      Let's take a walk down memory lane. During the dot-com days, American code writers as a group became major prima donnas. It all started with the attitude, "I'm a programmer and I can wear anything I want to work," which was taken to the extreme by some people. Management was wearing suits and in contrast the programmers looked like they came from some alien planet. The more outrageous the better.

      From there, showing up at work at the same time as the rest of the staff became optional - the later the better - with the excuse that they were up all night writing code. It's true that a lot of code writers were up late at night writing code, but often not for their day job. An awful lot of people were busy writing code at night for dotcom business plans with IPO dollars in their dreams, while the more pragmatic moonlighted for other companies desperate for anyone who could write code.

      Then the "I have to bring my dog to work" concept started. All of a sudden a menagerie of pets started show-ing up at work. Further, some programmers demanded and received trampolines. And not being happy even with all this, everyone was always ready to jump ship for more money and toys.

      The final straw was the attitude, "I must work from home; you people are distracting me and I do much better work at home."

      Well, to quote John Lennon, "The dream is over."

      There is no question that outsourcing is bad for America. I look at this every day, editing America's Job Market (americas-job-market.com). Quarterly driven corporate greed perpetuates the practice. If things continue in the direction they are currently going, corporate America will someday have to begin outsourcing customers for their products.

    • More Stories By Jacques Martin

      Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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