Disgruntled managers, worried about shifts in responsibilities or the loss of their jobs or the jobs of co-workers, can easily thwart offshore projects, executives have claimed.
Opposition can take many forms, said the executives, who were attending a Strategic Research Institute conference. Individuals may block meetings with suppliers and consultants, raise numerous points of opposition throughout the process in an effort to frustrate it, or even take more nefarious actions such as sabotaging code developed offshore.
Rick Pfeiffer, former head of Asia-Pacific IT and operations at General Electric, one of the first US companies to move work offshore, said that 60% of offshore project failures can be attributed to "someone directly tied to it [who] has seen to it that it falls off the rails".
Internal opposition is one of the top reasons why projects don't go through, said Cliff Justice, managing director at Californian offshore consultancy NeoIT.com.
Advice for dealing with internal resistance included ensuring strong support from upper management, picking the right people to head the effort and getting managers involved early in the process.
"Choose the business unit manager who is going to be most enthusiastic, and have a manager who won't sabotage the process," said Amrita Joshi, a vice president who has managed business process outsourcing projects at IndyMac Bank in Pasadena.
"If anyone ... wants to blackball the project, it's going to be blackballed. So you have to build consensus," said Paul Fielding, a vice president who heads outsourcing efforts at JP Morgan Chase.
Opponents, including laid-off IT workers, have succeeded in getting bills introduced in the US Congress that would set restrictions on visas for foreign workers.
The political and social ramifications of offshoring are making some firms disinclined to move work out of the country, some conference attendees said, although quantifying that is difficult.
Pfeiffer, who is now chief executive officer of consulting company Ambertek Group, said offshoring is here to stay. "Despite the political rhetoric ... this is going to continue to move forward," he said, adding that managers have to come to grips with changing responsibilities. "You have to think of your job as a global job."
Offshore work does not always lead to reductions in a US company's workforce, according to Fielding. He said the company has recently seen a net increase in IT jobs, but in areas such as architecture design and development, which require higher levels of expertise than the development work it sends offshore. "It's a definite growth" in IT positions overall, he added.
Patrick Thibodeau writes for Computerworld