Your Shout: Outsourcing perils and the joy of text

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Your Shout: Outsourcing perils and the joy of text

Simon Moores' warning about the dangers to the UK of over-eager outsourcing abroad rang bells with many readers, while some could not agree with Colin Beveridge's views on instant messaging.

Ben Booth sees analysis and communication as the keys to effective outsourcing.

"I was drawn to respond to this article by the mention of quality of coding, which seemed to me to be rather a cheap shot.
 
Simon does, however, raise a number of issues which require careful consideration. I don't have first-hand experience of outsourcing abroad, but having reviewed this option several times, and spoken to many people who have used this approach, I feel I've got a good idea of the issues.

In particular, distance and time difference require careful management, and the communication of the requirement to the coders is key. You get exactly what you ask for, and for this reason the quality of analysis has to be spot on, because the coders may not understand the application or the business context. Quality of coding has not been reported to me as a problem. 

An interesting facet is that with the rise in the popularity of outsourcing abroad, prices for doing work abroad are also rising, at a time when the costs of doing this work in the UK are falling. It may be that the dangers to the UK knowledge economy have been overstated."

Celia Redmore reckons we're dealing with an unstoppable force:

"The reason IT services will continue to flow to India and other low-cost countries, even though it's bad for the British economy, is that what is best for the country isn't necessarily best for each individual company.

It's no good arguing that offshore outsourcing isn't financially good for a company, because it is, even if many of India's programmers are still relatively inexperienced.

IT outsourcing is certainly the thin end of the wedge. There is no job, in which the primary tools are a PC and a telephone, which can't be economically outsourced, if not today, then soon. That leaves cooks, mechanics, bus drivers and nurses.

The only way to prevent it, even in theory, is government legislation. You can expect that to happen when someone finds a way of outsourcing MPs."

Janek Czekaj also sees things getting g worse for UK IT:
"Simon Moores' piece points up the reality of outsourcing, IR35 et al. Vast numbers of IT workers, be they former permanent or contracting staff are now out of work. Where once they paid taxes many of them now draw state benefits in order to live. Gordon Brown is apparently "confused" as to why UK taxation income has fallen so drastically over the past year.
Until this madness is reversed - and Chancellor Brown shows no acknowledgement of the problem, let alone an understanding of it - the UK IT industry will continue to see a radical decline in salaries, more shipment of work overseas and, ultimately, the loss of vital knowledge skills perhaps forever."

And Paul Dennis takes an even gloomier view:

"What car does Simon Moores drive? There is an 80% chance it wasn't made in Britain but 50 years ago it would have been. Having seen our car and motorcycle industries sacrificed at the altar of cheap imports I relish the thought of all the service workers getting the same treatment.

In the race to the top of the pile the consumer bought the foreign cars and they will buy the software as well, if it's cheaper. Eventually this merry-go-round will stop and we are all going to get the unemployment we deserve."

On a cheerier note, several readers took issue with Colin Beveridge about his view that instant messaging (IM) equals instant chaos in the corporate environment.

Keith Skeaping writes:

"It's fair for us old fuddy-duddies to see instant messaging in the workplace as a distraction, but perhaps WW1 generals felt the same way about the introduction of two-way radio instead of carrier pigeons?

It's possible that today's leaders will be brought up in a culture that can manage a variety of conversations simultaneously, where they switch off quickly from conversations which don't matter.

Instant messaging is all about getting through to somebody with a simple thought, when all else fails. Discount it at your peril!"


Mark Schofield's experience with instant messaging has made him a convert:

"Before I used IM, I totally agreed with Colin Beveridge that it was a toy, a waste of good bandwidth and could provide no business advantage.

I too was unable to fathom the business benefits of a tool that requires you to be at your desk to be effective, and that required typing to communicate. After all, I can type pretty fast, but my mouth can beat my fingers any day of the week!

Now that I am using IM, I am a convert. When I write down how I use it, even I think it sounds flaky, but all I can say is that it really does help me with my job.

As a small example, last night I was due to attend a teleconference. Somehow I had the wrong number, so I used IM to contact the chair of the meeting, got him to send me the correct number so I was able to join the meeting. Not earth-shattering, but a real benefit to me at 8.30pm in the evening!

These sort of experiences make me wonder whether Colin has used IM for an extended time, in a real business environment in a situation where most people have access to it, because it took this kind of situation to convert me."

However, David Marley reckons IM is a right load of boloney:

"I could not agree more with Colin Beveridge. I have been making similar comments to enthusiastic IM users among friends and colleagues for about the past year.

Synchronous systems, such as the telephone or IM, are inherently inefficient because people are never available when you need them. You leave a message and then they call you back when you're not available and so on.

E-mail, however, is successful because it is an asynchronous communications medium. It helps to free people from the constant interruptions that turn most office environments into what Keith Waterhouse described as 'the most effective system for wasting time ever invented'.

The real point is that IM is not an alternative to e-mail, it is an alternative to the telephone. Therefore, if you really want a synchronous medium, why is IM. a better choice than the telephone? The advocates of IM have never been able to provide me with a convincing/any answer to this one apart from the lower cost of communicating across the Internet.

"Once the novelty has worn off, ask any serious business person whether they would prefer to type laboriously at a keyboard or make a quick telephone call, and they'll make the obvious reply."

In Steven Tyler's view, it all boils down to how you select and handle staff:

"Experience has taught us that the problems such as productivity drops due to facilities such as instant messaging and Internet use can be curtailed by simple methods. These include carefully selecting personnel and delivering bonuses or perks to qualifying personnel, while effectively shuttling those who don't qualify to the cellar."

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This was first published in January 2003

 

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