Reality Bites

How does outsourcing--or how will it--affect you?

It’s hard to have a reasonable discussion about outsourcing these days. Frequently, people instantly attach the concept of offshore job losses to it and tempers rise. I recently attended an outsourcing conference, which was besieged by a contingent of red-shirted protesters waving signs that said, “Keep American Jobs in America,” and yelling, “Stop outsourcing now!” and, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, outsourcing out the door!”

The fact is, many of you work for companies that solely exist to provide IT services to clients. That means you’re part of the outsourcing industry. Contrary to what you might think or read, that’s the biggest face of outsourcing today, as I point out in this month’s cover story on the topic—not sending IT projects to offshore workers in India or China. Outsourcing, which has existed for a very long time (does your organization use a janitorial or cafeteria service, or generate your paycheck externally?), is a solution to what some perceive as major long-term problems in IT: high capital and staff investments, skills shortages and the need to stay flexible in order to address quickly changing business conditions.

Nobody understands better the need to stay light on your feet than MCPs. Most of you have multiple certifications. You’ve tried out different kinds of IT work. And you recognize the need to keep retooling yourself to stay on top of your field. Some of you have complained about this ever-changing field of toil—sometimes because it was Microsoft telling you it was time to move along.

But this time, we can’t blame a single company for forcing us to learn new stuff or work in a different way. It’s—plain and simple—world conditions. To the swift and the adaptable will go the rewards.

By the time this great shift in work patterns stabilizes in the next 10 or 20 years, many of you will no longer be in IT. It used to be we’d say to ourselves, we probably won’t work for the same company for our entire careers; now we may have to start saying, we probably won’t work in the same profession.

Some of you may believe the government should legislate to control outsourcing. Does that mean those of you who deliver IT services to external clients would be out of work because your companies would be shuttered? If it’s only offshore outsourcing, what would that look like? How would it be enforced when corporations are no longer strictly American or British or German?

For my part, I believe the government’s role is to come up with some form of GI Bill-like effort to help those going through a work transition. I also expect unions to play a bigger role with IT workers, if only to help push for fair play from the organizations where they’re employed. But protectionism fails in the end. What you can’t do is face this tide and expect to change its direction.

Do my opinions make me a turncoat to you, my reader?

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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