As 2006 dawns, we can look forward to a fresh start and a chance—be it resolved—to do things differently and better. But one thing that wont change in 2006, we predict, is the trend toward globalization in many fields, including IT.
Looking back, globalization moved from hypothetical to mainstream in 2005. The subject was the topic of a best-selling book, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” by Tom Friedman, as well as many forums and seminars.
Companies large and small invested in India, China and other countries, as U.S. executives professed the virtues of global investment, global markets and global competitiveness.
Some of the few dissenting voices could be found among IT professionals. The sudden infusion of large numbers of low-cost, highly trained workers into the global labor pool wreaked havoc in the lives of U.S. programmers.
No one wants to hear how their layoff—or their unending job search—is the regrettable, yet necessary price that must be paid for corporate competitiveness according to the immutable laws of economics. At the same time, its impossible to turn back the tide of events by commanding that it do so. Neither major political party has taken up the banner of protectionism, probably because protectionism would cause higher prices for American consumers.
And who are we to say to individuals around the world that they ought not be allowed to better themselves, while we erect a wall to keep wages high, raising the price of products made here to the point of uncompetitiveness?
Tides that come in eventually recede. There will be no wholesale takeover of IT by India and China. Credible research says the amount of IT work that is done offshore is a single-digit slice of all IT work that is done for U.S. companies. Wages in India are spiraling upward; turnover there is high. In China, government fiat mandates the education of hundreds of thousands of engineers and the building of a plethora of software office parks—independent of demand. Its a bet that may pay handsomely; if it doesnt, the Chinese people will pay.
If globalization is a fact, what to do? We can be more productive in the software we do develop here—good code is not always the product of many hands. We can also become adept at managing offshore work. Companies that succeed in the world of a global IT supply chain will do so by making their needs clearly known and by being uncompromising customers.
We must educate our young people in skills that will enable them to deliver work of value to customers around the world. There is no need to push thousands of reluctant students toward engineering, but those who do study it will have to rise to make a difference through innovation.
The same technologies that have worked to flatten the world and to disrupt our IT work force also uncover new business opportunities. We look forward to 2006, a year that will be challenging—and global.
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