Face Up to Outsourcing

I have the offbeat belief that vendors should build products that don't require constant care and feeding. Readers Respond: Face Up to Outsourcing

Im thinking about outsourcing my homes IT operations. I figure if big players such as Procter & Gamble and J.P. Morgan Chase are outsourcing their businesses to Hewlett-Packard and IBM, respectively, they must be on to something. No more will I have to try to figure out if it is the fan or the BIOS that is the root cause of my sons ever- overheating Toshiba laptop, or how to build security into my Linksys wireless network, or why I am too lazy to upgrade the one Windows Millennium system that constantly crashes. From now on, Ill call either Carly Fiorina or Sam Palmisano when my printer runs out of ink.

Of course Im not really going to outsource anything. You see, I have the offbeat belief that vendors should build products that dont require constant care and feeding. I have never considered outsourcing my toaster or television. Apparently, not everyone feels that way. There is a continuing push to IT outsourcing as major providers stumble over one another to announce the next big deal.

The lackluster economy, the need to manage costs and the need to focus on businesses core competencies are the most visible drivers of outsourcing, according to Richard Horton, general manager of global strategic outsourcing for IBM Global Services. To the list of usual suspects, Horton adds one surprise, given the large number of IT layoffs over the past year. "There is a real scarcity of certain skills and resources in the marketplace," Horton said. He lists high-end Linux knowledge, enterprise software development capabilities and knowledge of specific business operations as skills now in short supply.

OK, so the guy in charge of outsourcing thinks outsourcing is needed, but what about the people who have to decide whether or not to outsource? IT execs tell me their biggest concern is not outsourcing itself but the amount and the method.

"Outsourcing is never as good as it sounds. Its as if [the vendors] take the all-or-nothing approach. Why dont they phase in the deal so they can better validate their assumptions? The key is to understand what your [outsourcing] needs are and to manage the relationship," said Gary Bronson, IT enterprise operations manager at Washington Group International and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, in an e-mail message. While much of the spam in my in-box is about millions of dollars in hidden funds or some new wonder drug, Garys in-box is cluttered with companies offering "outsourcing help" using business buzzwords that contain as little valuable information as my hidden-funds messages.