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Trouble Offshore

Trouble Offshore

And I know I’m gonna take it on the chin, nose or shin for this missive, but I think it’s time someone, somewhere, adds a voice of reason to the hullabaloo about offshore outsourcing, and offshoring to India specifically

No smart-arse observations this month.

And I know I'm gonna take it on the chin, nose or shin for this missive, but I think it's time someone, somewhere, adds a voice of reason to the hullabaloo about offshore outsourcing, and offshoring to India specifically. But a favour please, before you dash off an angry or nasty e-mail give me half a chance here.

Let's be honest, pretty much nobody (uh, in this case, the press) gave a tinker's damn about the whole offshore issue until Telstra let it be known it had a certain fondness for the subcontinent's code-cutters. And I can say that with some certainty because for years CIO has been reporting on local organisations using non-local talent - inside and outside Australia. And believe me these people were taking somebody's job here.

Here's a sampling:

From a 1999 story: "Qantas undertook an international recruitment drive for skilled staff and used contractors from the United Kingdom, France, the United States and India."

From a 2001 story: "Now, having applied the CMM process to International Systems, ANZ has similar exercises running in its shop in Bangalore, which has 350 developers, and across the rest of the International Systems organisation."

And back in 2002 we even made the issue our cover story: "Made in India".

Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Not one letter, e-mail or phone call did I receive. (Actually that's not the entire truth. Someone at Infosys sent me a letter trying to encourage me to do a story about the company. I ignored it - that's not how we play.)

The offshore outsourcing issue is becoming a BIG issue in the US - and rightfully so since there are some very nasty things going on (like people realising midway through a so-called training exercise that they are in fact training their replacement).

I believe the problem - like the holus bolus outsourcing Australian companies and government departments embraced with fervour almost a decade ago - isn't the fact that a few hundred jobs at Telstra went overseas (and remember these are - or were IBM employees - not Telstra employees. Although, at one point they may have been Telstra employees before Telstra outsourced to IBM GSA. Oh dear, am I getting mixed up here . . . ).

Of course, it's easy to predict that too many executives (note the lack of an IT prefix) are going to see this as the ultimate in cost-saving exercises. And that's wrong. And it will have long-term implications.

But it's also time to get real and face some cold hard facts. Jeff Smith did what any good businessman (or woman) has been doing for yonks: if you can get a better product made at a better price in another country, you do it.

And CIOs are businesspeople. Remember?

So, it's time the press, our elected officials and anyone who wants a 15-minute sound bite get off their respective bandwagons. What's called for is a measured response not knee-jerk parochialism.

And besides, I doubt if we'll ever see Telstra CIO Jeff Smith sitting in his office looking out at a vast wasteland of empty desks in the IT department. This was a strategic decision about quality issues and bottom line benefits.

So as Joan Rivers would say: "Oh, grow up." Meanwhile, I'm off to the chemist for some bandaids.

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More about ANZ Banking GroupGSA GroupHISIBM AustraliaIBM GSAInfosysMidwayQantasTelstra Corporation

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