The game of outsourcing roulette


“It is quite likely that over time, (we), like many of our competitors, will be outsourcing some portion of (our) IT work.”

This sentence is excerpted from a July memo that found its way online, sent by managers of a large U.S. security firm to its IT staff. Maybe you’ve seen this kind of sentence in this kind of memo before. Maybe it led you to the job you have today. Or, perhaps, to the one you don’t.

I’ve heard a lot of different opinions over the years about reactions to being outsourced. In those arrangements where the staff in question is simply paid by someone else, but continue working in the same office and doing the same jobs, it appears satisfaction prevails. Many are happy with the chance to expand their horizons at what is often a larger, worldwide dedicated IT firm.

A spokesperson from EDS Canada, one of the world’s largest outsourcers, confirmed that notion. “Typically, (IT workers) are more excited with the prospects or working with an IT company…it turns them from being support folks in an organization into key players in an IT company,” he said.

But some like their jobs, or the industry in which they work, just as they are. And some transitions can be bloody. For software developers the stakes are much higher. When their jobs are outsourced, they’re increasingly shipped halfway across the world. So it’s not surprising that most still feel a little chill when rumours of outsourcing begin to circulate.

But it’s a chill you’re more likely to experience. Earlier this year, research firm IDC predicted that Canadian organizations would spend $3.6 billion to outsource

information systems in 2002.

If this bears out, those of you who aren’t directly affected by outsourcing will almost certainly know someone who is.

One developer recently told me that the best defence against being outsourced is to make sure your job can’t be done at home. His reasoning – if there’s no need for you to be in the office, your job can just as easily be done from the suburbs of Mumbai as it can from the suburbs of Vancouver.

As the saying goes, you may not be able to control the waves, but you can still learn to surf. Or in this case, learn to communicate. Let everyone know how much value you add to your company – sure, you recently helped complete project x, but does that mean 500 users get access to SAP back office, or does it mean x dollars have been shaved off the bottom line?

It’s a fine distinction, but an important one.