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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
1/17/2006
05:32 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Readers Take Us To Task For Outsourcing Coverage

We've received quite a bit of feedback to our recent outsourcing coverage, and two of our reporters' trips to India to write firsthand about companies there. Jim Ball of Ball 5 Enterprises in Olney, Md., set the tone for many indignant readers, writing: "I, along with all of those now unemployed because of outsourcing to India, have absolutely no interest whatsoever in reading about all those folks that are enjoying the jobs we all once held."

We've received quite a bit of feedback to our recent outsourcing coverage, and two of our reporters' trips to India to write firsthand about companies there.

Jim Ball of Ball 5 Enterprises in Olney, Md., set the tone for many indignant readers, writing: "I, along with all of those now unemployed because of outsourcing to India, have absolutely no interest whatsoever in reading about all those folks that are enjoying the jobs we all once held."My colleague Paul McDougall's blog entry on automation stirred quite a bit of heat from readers. Paul writes that automating IT, like outsourcing, is a way that companies are cutting costs, but much of the reader comment focused on India and offshoring.

A reader signing himself as "Puddleglum" wrote: "If the Indian productivity secret were technology, we could -- and would have to -- adopt it to compete. But India's productivity secret is low costs enabled by the misery of its common people. We will be forced to match it, child brickmaker for illiterate child brickmaker, or go out of business."

A reader signing his name as "Jon" writes: "I suspect that Mr. McDougall is currently employed somewhere outside of India, in what he thinks is a secure job. But plenty of people in India and China can write, too. So watch out!"

Bob Clabaugh writes in the same comment thread: "Outsourcing is a very scary thing; what happens when all of our technology is in the hands of countries that could very easily become our enemies (read China)?"

But Trinidad Marroquin made a key point in response to those concerns: "Outsourcing can also be viewed as building capacity. By teaming up with other organizations (offshore or not) that can do something better than you can (i.e., IT support) while you focus on your core business is crucial. "

And that's lost in many discussions of outsourcing. Outsourcing doesn't just cut costs, it creates wealth. Yes, it's awful to be an American who loses his job to outsourcing. But American money saved by outsourcing is being used to pay for investments in new business, and being shared with investors--and those investors are you and me; these days most Americans own corporate stock.

Money flowing to India gets used to buy consumer and business goods and services, and some of that money back to America.

Globalization is, in the long run, good for everyone; it creates wealth, and reduces poverty.

Also, it makes it less likely that the lowest of the low will become terrorists.

And globalization is inevitable: Even if we could build a wall around the United States and prevent outsourcing, we'd soon find our industries unable to compete with the bigger world around us. America isn't the world leader because it's inevitable; we're the world leader because of hard work, brains, and natural resources, and those three things are not in short supply in the rest of the world.

Still, outsourcing brings problems. Reader "Jon" is right; Paul's job--and mine--are at risk to outsourced labor. A couple of the best reporters and editors I've worked with in my career were Indians, born and grown up in India; they were fluent in speaking and writing English, and understood technology quite well.

So I worry about my job being outsourced. My solution is to keep up to date and try to stay ahead of the wave. In today's world, you have to keep moving, and learning new skills, both in technology and in dealing with other people. Your job is always at risk. Outsourcing to India and China doesn't really change that risk; anybody who's been in the workplace for more than five years was already at risk of losing his job to somebody younger than he is, with more recent skills, willing to work harder for less money. The only way a workplace veteran can compete with a kid fresh out of college--or an IT staffer in India, China, or eastern Europe--is by breadth of knowledge and experience. If your workplace doesn't value experience--get out now, before you're thrown out.

Puddleglum's comments are off-base; India's IT competitiveness isn't fueled by the country's poverty; IT workers in India live far better than their neighbors do. IT work isn't keeping Indians down, it's lifting them up.

And Bob Clabaugh, too, is off-base. What happens when we outsource technology to countries, like China, that are more likely to become our enemies? They're less likely to become our enemies, that's what.

Our ongoing series on India and outsourcing continues today, as my colleagues Aaron Ricadela and Ron Anderson conclude their trip and report in. They describe companies such as Infosys and Microland, contrast conditions faced by Indians in the IT industry and outside it, discuss the difficulties Indian human resources managers have in recruiting staff, and outline Indians' efforts to keep its IT industry booming nd share the wealth with less fortunate countrymen....

Also, McDougall is back with a blog entry describing how India creates jobs for Westerners

While outsourcing brings benefits, the problems created by outsourcing are real. How can they be mitigated?

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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