Monday, April 23, 2007


Outsourcing and the Emancipation of the Enterprise Architect

I have surveyed six different enterprise architects in my local area and even one I met while on vacation at the Culinary Institute on the topic of outsourcing and they all had a lot to say...

I asked each of these individuals whether their employer was currently outsourcing work to India. I then asked them do they believe that outsourcing will fail in their enterprise within the next three to five years with the response being varied from an emphatic yes to a more tempered response indicating failure but otherwise putting a spin on it in terms of achieving mediocrity.

My last question to these individuals was once outsourcing to India fails, would you within your own mind, smile? I suspect that the masses already know the answer to this question which is intriguing at some level. This is the first time in history where folks genuinely desire an initiative that their employer is undertaking to either fail or at least be marginal. I wonder if the masses within large enterprises want an initiative to fail, will it happen no matter how diligent folks in India are or will it fail simply because of junior skillsets that India currently has so much of?

The interesting thing is that wise enterprises such as Google have already figured out that outsourcing in terms of cost savings and rate arbitrage is doomed to mediocrity and have established a model that CIOs should stand up and pay attention to. If you aren't familiar with Google's Summer of Code, they offered $4500 to folks worldwide. The key thing to pay attention to is that there wasn't a different rate for folks in the United States vs Brazil vs India as the focus moved away from rate arbitrage towards something more important which is the relentless pursuit of top talent no matter where they may reside.

If employers in the United States where to borrow this same concept from the Google playbook, would they be more successful? I believe so and here are the reasons why! Much of the rants regarding outsourcing in the blogosphere are all about folks who have lost their jobs to junior folks in India but these rants disappear over time when they find that they were able to not only get a better job but one that pays much more than they were making. I have two theories on why outsourcing fails which isn't really talked about.

My first theory is that outsourcing will always fail even in situations where no one loses their job. American's, at least those who were born here tend to be very patriotic and outsourcing doesn't really address this deeper emotion. It is human nature to care more for your neighbor than someone down the street and even more for the person down the street than someone in another country. Getting the masses to ignore engrained feelings is difficult at best.

Of course, part of the strategy is to leverage folks who may be American in terms of citizenship but otherwise don't have a single iota of patriotism in their bodies to rollout outsourcing initiatives. This will bring failure to the level of mediocrity. The second theory I have is that outsourcing fails because folks really have no interest in working with junior folks. Let's pretend that Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, Brenda Michelson, Grady Booch, Joel Spolsky, James Robertson, James Tarbell, Robert McIlree and other top talent in the blogosphere were all offshore working in Bangladesh. I believe folks would not only be more participatory in terms of making outsourcing a success, they would actually volunteer to make it happen so as to work with these individuals. If there is a way to eliminate all the lower-talent folks in India (approx 97.4% of the IT population) then outsourcing would not only have a better chance of success but enterprise architects would be emancipated...

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