Put Out by IT Outsourcing

It's cold here. And there's a strange smell coming from a dish beside the monitor. But I can't think now about my discomfort or what in the world is in that bowl. I must finish my work, and I have only minutes before she discovers me using her computer. With a broken PC and no help from the Help desk, in one week, I've been reduced to a PC parasite: a lonely vagrant feeding on others' machines once they've gone home--or even just to lunch.

A year ago I didn't have to lurk in the shadows of our beige hallway, waiting to pounce on an unoccupied PC. If my machine broke down, I could just call our onsite technicians. But our company is now outsourcing IT, and the only person who can help me is away on business.

Even through my frustration, I can see how some businesses outsource with good intentions. In his October 2006 Windows IT Pro article, "Global Outsourcing: Trick or Treat," Ben Smith explains that good can come from outsourcing. He mentions that by paying less for skilled work "your organization can roll the savings into its profit margin, use the extra funds for strategic projects, or reinvest them in the company." Quoted in David Strom's September 12, 2007 New York Times article, "Outsourcing I.T. To Unlikely Places, Like America," Llyod Hession (chief security officer of BT Radianz) and Mark E. Bakken (chief executive of Bedrock Managed Services and Consulting) explain how outsourcing allows internal resources to focus on more important activities and saves money for company growth. And in the Network World article "Outsourcing vs. keeping it in-house," Michael Crooney explains, "IT shops that outsource infrastructure management and application services can expect to save 12% to 17% annually on average, which means U.S. companies are sitting on about $10 billion in potential savings, according to a recent Forrester Research report."

More money! That sounds good, right? Maybe I'll see a little increase in my paycheck for all my troubles. Maybe I just haven't given outsourcing a chance. No such luck. Ben Smith goes on to explain one of outsourcing's disadvantages: communication difficulties. He says, "Communication is difficult enough when people are in the same room and speak the same language, so you can imagine how hard it is when people don't always speak the same language, are separated by several time zones, and have different cultures and worldviews."

A thread in our Career Development and Job Opportunities forum asks whether outsourcing is good or bad, and forum member meyerc13 answers, "In my experience, bad for the organization. The customer wants secure, stable, up-to-date infrastructure that meets the needs of the business. The outsourcer wants to do as little as possible to meet the terms of the contract in order to maximize their profitability. See a disconnect there?" From what I've seen so far, I have to agree.

And on a separate thread, forum member paulreed explains how in-house technicians are more dedicated than outsourcing company employees: "I have worked for an outsourcing company and don't recommend it. Training was practically non-existent, benefits were low and when my company lost a contract I was farmed out to another client without a say in the matter. You are also treated as a second class citizen by the client companies. The only plus point is that if you are working for a large outsourcing company there may be more opportunities to move into a different role." So if the outsourced employees aren't happy, how can we expect them to make us happy?

I'm not saying that my PC is busted because we're outsourcing. I'm not even saying that the IT contractors won't fix it soon. I'm just saying that this "efficient" money-saving business move sure hasn't helped. In fact, it might cause more harm than good. The video The Next Frontier of Outsourcing, posted in a New York Times blog, shows how outsourcing has spiraled out of control and caused many Americans to make some pretty tough decisions. (Okay okay. That's not real. But outsourcing really has had negative effects on many IT pros.)

Four years ago, 35.9 percent of our readers worked for companies that outsourced IT jobs; 9.4 percent worked for companies that planned to outsource. And the December 2004 Windows IT Pro article "IT Outsourcing," explains how many of our readers lost their jobs due to outsourcing. So what's happening now?

Has outsourcing put you out--of a job, of your mind? Comment on this blog post, or email me at [email protected]

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