Is outsourcing really as bad as everyone makes it seem? On any given day, you can pull up the Slashdot website and find at least one story proclaiming that the number of jobs available for highly technical people are dwindling away. I'm not so sure that this is as big a problem as what popular media makes it out to be. What I believe is happening is that large businesses that aren't focused on technology are finding the right people to do the work, while companies that are focused on technology are demanding more from the people they do hire. Businesses that aren't focused on technology, such as the hotel industry, groceries, and services companies, don't need a lot of programmers and developers. What they do need are technicians, they need what are essentially the plumbers of the information age. Just as most companies don't hire pipe designers and fluid engineers when they have plumbing installed in their building, there isn't a need to hire software architects and developers when installing information systems. Instead, what these companies need are possibly a couple of maintenance and management staff on board to be sure that the current system runs well, and that the business is prepared for future developments. This roughly equates to the position of operations and facility manager, and a couple of on-site janitors.

Occassionally at my last job I would go on-site for a particular manufacturing customer and find that they had a huge software development office. The manufacturer wouldn't have anything to do with technology, yet they would employee more engineers to work on their internal information systems than the design of their product. It just didn't make any business sense. So I'm not altogether shocked when I hear about well educated, software engineers losing their jobs to outsourced developers. After all, the company has just realized that all they needed were technicians, and an occassional on-call specialist.

What I've seen from companies that are in the technology industry is that it is incredibly difficult to find good people. The folks flooding out of the non-technical industry and desperately looking for work had spent the better part of their career getting comfortable. Their technical knowledge is out of date, or so specialized in one particular vein that they don't offer much value to a company looking for a well-rounded developer. At my last job, I sat in on several interviews and spoke with our HR manager, and it was always difficult to find good people. Their were plenty of people out their looking for another cushy job that wouldn't demand much of them, but very few folks that had a well-rounded background in software development.

All of what I have seen first-hand has left me with somewhat of an unsympathetic attitude towards folks who have been hit by the latest wave of outsourcing. I'm sure that some truly good folks have lost their jobs, but I can't imagine that it will be difficult for them to find new work. I believe the vast majority are people who looked to cash in on the glut of venture capital dumped on the early dot-com market, and now businesses are learning to weed out those looking for a free ride from those looking to provide real value through their technical skill and ability to solve difficult problems.


Absenth said...

I don't know if I could have said it better myself.

Great insight into something I think is commonly misrepresented in the media.

Pami said...

Outsourcing was a hot topic in one of my classes recently. I think I have kind of a skewed perspective of outsource companies because I'm employed by one. The people I work for aren't only the people in my office -- I've designed about 20 websites now for other companies and organizations since I started working for JDR.

Anywho.. in class we determined that outsourcing was actually a good thing because of what you said. It allows a company to focus on what makes them special -- their product or service -- and their customers' needs, rather than all the technology that runs in the background. Once you get the technology running, there isn't a need to have a whole team of people there to make sure it runs. One or two technicians (depending on the size of the company, of course) is probably enough.

prasad said...

I think your coments on Outsourcing are perfect. Its a hot topic rite now.

It is leading to global economic Development also..Countries like India and China are moving ahead on their way to global econmic powers right behind US.

Jade Mason