The First Thing We Do: Lets Offshore the Managers

Opinion: It makes no sense to offshore application developers. But outsourcing management, now that's a tactic with some serious benefits! Disagree? Angus wants to hear your arguments, pro and con. Why should you keep your job when a programmer's g

This is going to be reader-participation week at Were asking your opinion on a revolutionary, if completely logical idea.

The best "pro" and "con" answers will receive a prize (a copy of my new book, "Management by Baseball — A Pocket Reader").

First, some background: The Vesuvian eruption of mail we received about the last column, Why Offshoring Will Always Be a Novelty, Never a Valuable Strategy, surprised me. I expected it to be a divisive issue. It wasnt.

Not one correspondent took issue with the underlying assertions—that the problems offshoring was meant to address cant be addressed by offshoring.

The problem is not lack of trained programmers in North America nor cost-effective methods for cranking out successful projects here; the problem is sloppy or incompetent or lazy management.

There were some super, insightful letters, which set me to thinking about globalization of high-tech work in general.

While no single correspondent directly suggested it, the uniformity of opinion led me to the following idea:

If the basic problem in American application development is American management, we should in-source developers located here in North America (where their proximity to the users enriches software quality), and outsource executive and other layers of management to offshore companies.

As unprecedented as this idea might sound, the common arguments for offshoring hold at least as well for exporting management as they do developers or call center agents.

Which arguments? How about:

Offshoring is most cost-effective when the work involved is a commodity. Since the problem seems to be (for whatever reason) that American executives dont function cost-effectively, the value-add of using American executives is very low. Projects run by these domestically-located individuals uniformly cost too much, take too long, and fall short of basic usability and quality standards.

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