Sticking with the home team

Mike Prince isn’t sold on the benefits of offshore outsourcing. As the CIO of Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., he values the agility and experience of his 180 in-house staff members more than any savings he could get from overseas vendors. And he believes that offshore outsourcing savings are shortsighted and don’t reflect “the full lifecycle costs” of managing IT.

“I don’t have personal qualms about moving knowledge jobs offshore, but I really feel strongly about it when it comes to our organization,” Prince says. “The right thing for us is having a team of people very much aligned with the business units.”

While some projects may lend themselves to an offshore arrangement, Prince says that onsite, in-house team members have a level of insight and experience that’s hard to duplicate elsewhere.

Recently, Prince’s team was replacing an old software package. A systems analyst mentioned that they might be able to bypass the conversions of some of the data — an arduous task — and come out with the same or better result. “No matter how inexpensively we could have done that offshore, sidestepping that process was the most advantageous thing we could have done with that project,” Prince says.

Knowledge retention is the other major issue Prince has with offshore outsourcing. “The thing I worry about is that a year after a project rolls out, no matter what, you always know something you could do better a year later,” he says.

Keeping the work in-house helps motivate IT staff to do high-quality work. “My people, because they know they’re going to be stuck with what they do for a long time, really try to build things that are robust and will stand up over time,” Prince explains.

“It’s one thing to meet minimal specs for a system, but it’s another thing to understand that the thing needs to be resilient and flexible. Because that wisdom is retained inside the organization, what is done is done with a long-term view. Outsource and you lose that.”

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