Outsourcing Ins and Outs

Yourdon book tells IT professionals what they should and shouldn't do about the outsourcing trend.

Youre troubled by the idea of outsourcing and would like to be better informed? Forty-year industry veteran Edward Yourdon has written a book, "Outsource: Competing in the Global Productivity Race," to be published by Prentice Hall PTR in October that covers the A-to-Z of the topic.

Because the book is at once a primer and a detailed analysis, one might ask for whom it is intended, the novice or the expert? In Chapter 6, Yourdon provides a reason for his books breadth.

"Outsource" was written for 80 percent of IT workers. These workers, Yourdon says, are between the top 10 percent who are so skilled they are unlikely to be left unemployed by outsourcing and the bottom 10 percent who are expendable and should probably choose a career outside of IT.

Its important that this vast majority of IT professionals think about outsourcing and its impact on them seriously because, as the author explains, the current outsourcing wave is a sea change, not a blip. Yourdon said he believes well be feeling the effects of outsourcing, and offshore outsourcing in particular, for years to come.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about the lively debate among Silicon Valley industry executives about the relative about the benefits and negative effects of outsourcing.

What to do? Yourdon states that its better to take proactive rather than reactive action. But—heres the hard part—this action must be taken while you are still employed and relatively well off.

Even if things appear calm at your company, you should assess your skills and the value you deliver in a critical light, asking if your job really is indispensable and whether it might be done as well or better by a lesser-paid individual. You should also take the blinders off and look at whether your company might benefit from outsourcing, even if upper management hasnt said a word.

If the answers indicate your company might be better off without you, you should, like Noah, get a clue and start building your lifeboat. This might consist, Yourdon says, of finding an employer less likely to outsource or getting training in management-oriented IT skills not likely to be outsourced. In any case, it would be wise to embark on a program of self-improvement, task prioritization and networking. Sitting around waiting for a government training and employment program to materialize is not a good idea.

The most outsource-proof opportunities are likely to be found in innovative or specialized niches. Alas, Yourdon doesnt provide a list of companies, complete with human resource department phone numbers. Hence his subsequent advice: Be prepared to work harder, relocate or start your own business. Its not the kind of silver-bullet advice you might, perhaps unrealistically, expect in exchange for buying the book, but it does reflect sound common sense.

If you are considering leaving your company, the book also looks at questions of intellectual property—yours and your employers.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read a progress report on Proctor & Gamble Co.s $3 billion outsourcing deal with Hewlett-Packard Co.

For me, the most interesting part of the book comes near the end when the author offers suggestions for what national policies we should adopt. First, he says we should encourage permanent immigration rather than offering H-1B visas. With this, I heartily agree.

Second, we should invest in education. In addition to reforming public education, we should make college tuition payments tax-deductible. And we should further favor by tax incentives tuition paid for science, math and technology studies. Thats certainly worth considering.

If youre in the 80 percent of the IT pros Yourdon aims at, you should probably avail yourself of this thoughtful and detailed wake-up call.

Out and about

Hurricanes are like outsourcing in that it pays to take steps to protect yourself before they arrive, not after.

Holland & Knight (hklaw.com), a 2,500-attorney international law firm, with offices in Lakeland, Fla. (north of Tampa), found that its use of MessageOnes Emergency Messaging Service e-mail backup services were well-considered, once Hurricane Charley plowed into Floridas Gulf Coast on its way to doing as much as $14 billion in damage.

During the storm, power went down, and Holland & Knights offices were evacuated. Messages were routed to MessageOnes operations center, allowing 200 lawyers to access e-mail remotely.

Stan Gibson can be reached at stan_ gibson@ziffdavis.com.