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Stef rants about offshoring

On a tech writing list I read, someone said that any company which is primarily concerned with the Bottom Line (profits) would consider the question whether to send jobs overseas "a no-brainer".



In my opinion, it's not really a no-brainer at all, even if your primary
concern is profits.

I've been working in the corporate world for a couple of decades and
I've seen companies decentralize and centralize over and over, in a
regular rhythm, like breathing. Neither option is perfect and the latest
crop of executives keeps thinking the grass is greener on the other
side.

Offshoring is an extreme form of decentralizing. I've seen
decentralizing cost huge amounts of money in terms of communication and
efficiency - partly because even though there are lots of ways to
communicate around the globe now, face to face meetings and product
inspections are still the only way that some things work well and still
the only way some people are comfortable working.
Another part is that when a company decentralizes, it has less control
of a lot of things (the management layers are less in touch with layers
in other countries, even if they frequently visit; another government is
sticking its nose in*; sometimes sensitive information gets into the
wrong hands** and so forth). And when companies do poorly, one
thing they often try to change is to bring everything under tighter
control.

I predict that in a decade or so there will be a lot less offshoring,
especially where sensitive information is involved.

Unfortunately, this probably won't be soon enough for many career tech
writers.

*Right now there are apparently some new government elements in India that think US offshoring of jobs to India is not a good thing for India. They could make things harder for US companies, to the point where some companies pull out or scale back, either because of their meddling or because they are worried about government instability in general.

**There was a news story a while back about a hospital that was
offshoring some of its medical transcription, via a US subcontractor.
The subcontractor stopped paying his transcriptionists, and one of them
blackmailed the hospital saying she would make medical records public if
she didn't get paid. She got paid. But this is the sort of embarrassment
that companies really don't want.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
red_frog
Sep. 5th, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC)
Completely agreed. Outsourcing and insourcing are at least in part a matter of what's fashionable at the moment. And the lowered degree of control over what happens outside the corporate office is one major reason not to outsource, whether inside the country or outside it. I work for a distributed company and am involved in some planning, and I know how hard it can be.

Regardless of patterns of outsourcing, though, jobs go in and out of fashion. While changes add new jobs that didn't exist previously, no one can expect their job to remain the same throughout a career. I don't mean place of employment--most people are prepared for that to change. I mean what people do.

Here's a link to the transcription story you're talking about, in case anyone wants to see it.
firecat
Sep. 5th, 2004 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link!

I agree that it's an exercise in frustration for people to expect what they do to stay the same throughout their careers or working lives.
hfnuala
Sep. 6th, 2004 02:06 am (UTC)
*nod* It's very similar to the whole argument about if a non-technology company should have its own IT department or outsource to a service company.

My personal thought is that if you manage to recruit and keep people who are good at the job, you are better off with your own staff, because your business doing well is in their interest (within the limits of large company nonsense, of course) however if your retension is poor, a well written contract may be your best bet.

I work for a company that outsourced part of its telecoms department last year and they've been really suffering because the 'partner' always has it's eye on getting the work done as quickly as cheaply as possible.
syzygy
Sep. 6th, 2004 06:00 am (UTC)
I also read very recently (but don't ask me where) that CEOs that outsource get a large pay raise, on average 40% more than CEOs that don't. So there go a chunk of the profits right there. ;)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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