Global IT Is Here to Stay

More IT organizations are seeking low-cost talent.

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer at home. Corporations will never embrace open-source software such as Linux. Unix is snake oil.

The history of the IT industry is littered with such discredited axioms. It may be time to add another to the list: Enterprises will never entrust offshore providers with anything but the most basic IT projects.

Squeezed by budgets that are continuing to shrink and customer expectations that are not, increasing numbers of IT organizations are turning to low-cost offshore talent. Forrester Research recently estimated that, by 2015, 3.3 million white-collar jobs—many of them in IT—and $136 billion in wages will shift from the United States to other nations. And just as offshore manufacturers mastered the building of cars and other complex goods, offshore IT teams are taking on increasingly multifaceted tasks.

This spells more tough times for Americas 10 million IT professionals, many of whom are already suffering in the economic slowdown. In response, some frustrated IT workers in the United States are demanding government action. New Jersey state legislators have considered laws forbidding state agencies from using offshore contractors. Such initiatives, while rooted in an admirable desire to protect U.S. jobs, are at best a band-aid. They overlook the fact that IT, like many industries, is now global.

Over the next decade, perhaps the greatest challenge for IT professionals and the corporations they serve will be coming to grips with IT as a global phenomenon. While some jobs will drain from the United States overseas, others may swing back as technologies change and foreign wage scales escalate. And the security issue will never fully disappear. If U.S. businesses want to move IT resources offshore, they should tell their customers where their data is and how it is being protected.

Meanwhile, U.S. IT workers should constantly hone their skills in relation to the global economy. It will always be necessary to stay current on technology, but IT professionals will also need to sharpen their business acumen to apply technology to achieve business advantage. And sometimes they may need to become experts at managing offshore IT resources from afar.