Thursday, March 10, 2011


Thoughts on Outsourcing: Should I admit this in public?

In the past, I have been somewhat hostile to IT outsourcing and have pointed out numerous observations as to why it continuously fails. Historically, IT outsourcing at best has resulted in mediocrity due to lack of talent offshore. Increasingly, IT outsourcing is failing due to the inability of onshore Americans to practice the discipline of saying no...

As an Architect and Agilist, I understand the value proposition of finding and fixing faults early in the lifecycle but for some strange reason have been blissfully ignorant in applying these principles until now. What could be earlier in the lifecycle that the actions taken by the onshore staff of an IT outsourcing firm?

Many developers in India, Sri Lanka and other IT outsourcing destinations sit back and wonder why they are always put into situations that require heroics and almost always setup to fail. In their minds, they may be led to believe that it is the client who is demanding. I think this perspective is inaccurate and somewhat dishonest.

Consider for a moment that a client can and should ask for anything and everything under the sun. There is nothing wrong with this. The key breakdown is when the onshore people haven't figured out how to say No!

In consulting, we are taught to never say no, but everything has limits. If I ask you to jump off a cliff, kick your dog, cheat on your wife and assassinate some Middle Eastern leader, the answer should be less collaborative and more direct.

Do you believe in your heart that clients will respect someone who never pushes back? The art of saying no requires discipline that is increasingly not found in the mouths, hearts and minds of those onshore. Consider for a moment, how easy it is for an onshore person to say yes to anything. After all, they aren't the ones who won't be seeing their spouses and kids.

Another consideration that I haven't found anyone discussing is the need for the onshore team to have extensive interactions with the client. Sure, a little sucking up goes a long way but generally speaking, does it make sense to anyone that the average onshore person spends at least eight hours with the client only to then when really tired spend another hour on a conference call at night collaborating with the offshore team?

Wouldn't it make more sense that the onshore team spend more time with the offshore team than the client and all the unproductive socialization that doesn't contribute one iota to producing quality deliverables? The current practice is upside down and backwards.

I can say first hand that I have met some truly talented developers from India, Sri Lanka and Brazil that I would hire in a heartbeat if I had my own company. Sadly, their self-worth is being manipulated and destroyed by the decision or should I say the indecisions of those who work for their firms onshore.

A lot of people onshore will disagree with me with passion, but I felt that it is important to keep the conversation honest and hopefully from incite comes insight and we can all find better ways to not only develop high quality working software but do so in a manner that provides us all with work/life balance.

Without some introspection, we all become a little less human. For me, I care about all the people on the planet and acknowledge that spending time with friends and family is so precious and work should not be an impediment to something that is a gift from our creator...

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