Opinion: oDesk, an online marketplace for remote IT workers, reaches $10 million in money spent for outsourcing through its service.
Although the seriousness of the talent shortage in the industry is up for debate, there is no question that many companies that require IT support, particularly software development skills, find it hard to locate sufficient talent in their local market. And many developers find it hard to get work in the regions where they live.
Thats where oDesk comes in. oDesk is a great equalizer, a matchmaker, if you will.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based online marketplace allows companies to hire, manage and pay remote technical workers around the world.
And oDesk reached a milestone recently. The company announced that $10 million has been spent on outsourced technology projects through its global job marketplace. Indeed, thousands of companies across the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia and other countries have used oDesk to hire from more than 10,000 tested and rated technology professionals from all over the world, said Gary Swart, the companys chief executive .
And more than 7,500 jobs have been completed through oDesk, where the most in-demand programming skills are PHP/MySQL, C#/.Net, ASP, Java/J2EE and C/C++/Win32SDK, Swart said.
The most popular countries for providers include India, Russia, the Ukraine, the U.S. and the Philippines. About 30 percent of oDesks service providers are from India, another 30 percent are from Eastern Europe, and 40 percent are from "the rest of the world," including China and Indonesia, Swart said. And service providers from Eastern Europe tend to have high feedback and good wage inflation in their area, he said.
Through oDesk, providers set their own rates for fixed-price or hourly jobs, and employers can search for talent based on skills, feedback ratings, work history and pay. oDesk makes money by claiming a percentage of the billing, the company said.
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oDeskwhich is short for "No Desk"employs a set of integrated management and collaboration tools that allow employers to track project progress and collaborate with team members as though all were working in the same office, Swart said. The companys founders built this platform so they could work together remotely, and it grew into an online marketplace.
"Weve built a work monitoring solution that can take a screen shot of my workstation" at any given time, Swart said. "We break down time zone and language barriers."
Swart said oDesk has witnessed many trends in the way the global work force is shaping up. One is that "workers around the world are getting paid what theyre worth. People are able to increase their wages regardless of their location."
In addition, Swart said he is seeing a lot more of what he calls "homesourcing," where workers who prefer to work out of their homes can ply their trade. "The stay-at-home work force has options," he said, noting that oDesk employs a "stay-at-home mom in rural Texas" as a technical writer. "We have several stories like that," he said.
oDesk, a venture backed by Benchmark Capital, Globespan Capital Partners and Sigma Partners, enables small to midsize businesses to take advantage of outsourcing where they ordinarily might not because of high entry costs.
In addition, the company recently added fixed-price jobs to its online marketplace, where the number of hours billed has grown an average of 14 percent per month since oDesks inception in 2004.
James Heires, founder of James Heires Consulting, in Dubuque, Iowa, said he has used the oDesk service on various occasions.
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"I have been using oDesk for approximately one year and am generally happy with the service, providers and platform," said Heires, who turned to oDesk because it gave him access to "low-cost providers who were readily available for work."
Heires, who said he has used oDesk providers primarily for software development and some graphic design, said he would use the service again, "but with some caution," he added. "Some providers work in organizations, then operate in a sort of bait-and-switch scheme where a ringer applies for the job, but a junior provider actually does the work. Usually this becomes evident only after an interview or, worse, after the project has begun."
Heires said he was able to save money by going with oDesk, but not necessarily time, because the developers often required "spoon feeding" of work.
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Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.