Friday, April 2, 2004

Outsourcing: It's not that simple.

Just ran across an interesting article about how outsourcing and overseas development, as it has affected CollabNet.

Interesting stuff.

I'm not sure what I think about it.

I know there are reasons to move some stuff overseas, and it may have saved the jobs of many developers here in the US, and I know from personal experience that they're a good group of people and are trying to do the right thing...

That said, I don't know what I think about the fact that they don't hire entry level people here in the US because it just doesn't make sense on a cost basis, and I'm interested in all the questions about the culture differences making it difficult for the overseas developers to come up to speed and contribute as equals. I mean if you can't hire local people right out of school, how will they ever become the senior developers you are willing to hire? And if the overseas talent you do hire right out of school can't ever overcome the cultural issues to the point where they aren't afraid to challenge their higher ups, something that's needed in any senior engineer, where exactly does the next generation of leaders come from?

It seems like if everyone did this we'd be setting ourselves up for a big problem ten years down the road.


  1. i thought that was a very interesting article, but the important distinction that it makes is that between outsourcing and hiring folks who happen to be in india. it's easy to understand collabnet's motivations in choosing where to hire their talent, notwithstanding the paradox that you noted about how engineers stateside gain seniority. but there's a big difference between that and outsourcing, from my own personal experience. we've had developers in pune (and israel and other far-flung locales), for years, who, by and large, do good work and work hard, even if they're hard to talk to. only recently have we begun to well and truly outsource (i forget what the company is), and now we get bugs fixed and not documented, fixed, breaking something worse, or returned, and just not fixed at all, with absolutely no dialog between them and us, or them and what's left of qa. calling their work slipshod would be a compliment. and worse, given the complexity, age, and general decrepitude of the software, it's probably too much for anyone to ask for someone to jump right in from the outside. but the allure of saving money was too great.
    to make a long story short, there have been recent weeks where i've filed as many as 20 bugs.
    if it worked like the arrangement in this article, i wouldn't begrudge the change nearly so much, and while the no doubt fine engineers of all sorts in india and elsewhere deserve a chance to succeed, the fact that this transition is driven chiefly by greed threatens to do everyone a disservice.

  2. Oh, I certainly agree that hiring people who happen to live in India (or wherever) is head and shoulders above actually contracting out to another company. In my opinion it's the only sane way one could try to do this sort of thing, anything else is just too risky, you lose control over a significant part of your company's product, and that's just unacceptable IMO.
    That said, it still bothers me, on some level, that if I came out of school now, in the US, with not a whole lot of experience, I'd have trouble getting a job at a company that engages in this kind of 'offshoring' just because the newbie from some Indian tech school is cheaper than I am. Especially if the social issues are such that the engineer from India actually turns out to be less useful in the long run.
    I mean if those kind of practices become commonplace you just end up 10 years down the road where nobody can come out of a US tech school and expect to find an entry level job anywhere, and the pool of available 'experienced' engineers just gets smaller and smaller because there's no place for them to gain that experience.
    What do you do then? Export the entire operation? I suppose you kind of have to, because you lack other options.
    Yes, I think this kind of colaborative technology changes the playing field, and makes it such that an increasingly global workforce makes sense, but it shouldn't be an all or nothing thing, at any level. New hires at both the entry level and the senior level should come from wherever you can find the best people, the dollar amount should not be the deciding factor.