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Seeing offshore outsourcing from all sides

Reflecting the great divide on the merits of offshore outsourcing, readers sound off on the most controversial topic within the IT community.

When it comes to offshore outsourcing, readers are as passionate about the issue as the IT community at large. They are also as divided. We asked readers to share their thoughts on the connection between outsourcing, U.S. job losses and reduced wages. Some IT pros told us outsourcing was overrated, and others argued that offshore outsourcing was only the result of a global, competitive economy. Find out what your peers are saying about one of the most hotly contested issues in the IT community.

Everyone will be affected by outsourcing.

Mark Heckler

Oracle DBA

Everyone will be affected by outsourcing

Yes, the [outsourcing] trend is real and it is growing. We all would like to wish it away, but the facts indicate otherwise.

That said, the other white-collar professions are only now realizing that their functions can also be outsourced to foreign shores.

While I have not been directly impacted by offshore outsourcing, I have seen several instances of it and have watched friends and colleagues -- and their families -- endure the pain associated with it.

Businesses will do what is best for them and their stockholders; that is the idea behind the concept of 'enlightened self-interest.' It is hardly enlightened to make business decisions that sacrifice the mid- to long-term interests of the company for a quick tick downward in recorded costs.

Mark Heckler
MBA, Oracle DBA

You get what you pay for

I've been an Oracle DBA since 1994, and I've been working for a consulting firm since 2000. I've seen a lot of jobs go overseas (fortunately, not mine, so far). From what I've seen, the adage "you get what you pay for" applies here as it does in other areas of life.

With regards to programming, many times I've said [to offshore workers]: 'Here's the input. Here's the output we want. Here are the business rules. Figure it out.' Without very detailed specs, almost to the level of pseudo code, many of them are lost.

I've also seen that basic coding standards, such as indentation, are not followed. On a DBA level, I've seen almost the same thing. Many times, these DBAs will tell me they know how to do something when they don't, and naming standards go out the window.

Obviously, I have an ax to grind. I believe companies that outsource may save money now, but I think they will end up paying in the end.

Todd Reilly
Database administrator
Advent Inc.
Murray Hill, N.J.

India workers are more deserving

I am an Oracle DBA from India.

Think of it this way: You own a company. You take a service from Company A, and Company B offers you the same or better service at a cheaper price. What would you do? Select B, obviously!

The same is happening here. India is offering better services at very low prices. Why wouldn't a company opt for that? Gone are the days when countries relied only on their local people and isolated economies. Now, its a global village. In this vast village, whoever gives cheaper and better services will win.

P.D. Malik
Consultant (apps DBA)
GE Capital International Services Software United Kingdom

Ignore the hype and look to yourself for job security

Personally, I believe that analyst firms like Forrester Research [which predicts that 30% of U.S. companies will outsource their database operations in the next five years] are so far out of touch with reality that they do not bear listening to. They are a lot like Chicken Little, screaming that the sky is falling, when in fact it's just where it was yesterday. Wasn't it these same firms that predicted the death of client/server technology five to seven years ago? And here we are today, with client/server technology still healthy.

Yes, some IT jobs will migrate overseas, just as some manufacturing jobs did. But you'll note that some are still in the U.S. and will never leave. It's a matter of complexity and mission-criticality. The more uncomplicated or less critical the task, the more likely it is to migrate.

So why are DBAs unemployed? One definite cause is the dot-com meltdown. Many a DBA was employed in that mess. The second is the general downsizing companies are going through and the self-managing trends in the database engines.

What will keep a DBA fully employed is breaking out of the traditional DBA role. Many DBAs think the database is their sole responsibility. Well, it's not. But being a database expert is, which means knowing as much as you can about all of those new features. While you personally may not use them directly, having a knowledge that they exist and knowing how the development staff can use them to solve a business problem is very valuable.

Dick Goulet
Senior Oracle DBA
Oracle-certified 8i DBA

Five concerns about outsourcing

1. U.S. jobs: The U.S. lost manufacturing jobs overseas, so everyone turned to the service industry. Now we are trying to outsource the service industry.

2. Actual costs: The daily rate is only part of the cost. Managers only look at obvious costs on a spreadsheet. There are many other costs not normally taken into consideration, such as contract managers, project managers and quality people required on both sides, apart from the speed to get things done.

3. Problem solving: The ability to think around a problem only exists in a few offshore workers. If you tell them exactly what to do and when, they are fine. If you ask them to take on a task that requires thought and investigation, they seem to fall down.

4. Communication: Communication is impaired, which can lead to problems with clients and managers.

5. Morality: The money earned by Western companies is not re-invested into the foreign country's infrastruture (i.e., roads and health service, aiding the poor). The rich get richer and the poor stay very poor.

Christine Thompson
Development technical lead United Kingdom

How do we get our positions back?

How do we get the [DBA] positions back, as well as the salaries? I hate to say it, but I think we are similar to the auto workers of the 1970s. IT will continue to be in demand, but salaries will continue to erode. I would like to think that we could convince management that they get what they pay for, but this may take several disasters and cost the American public a lot in data integrity and loss. Until databases and data are seen as a valuable commodity, the people who support them will be continually discounted.

With leaders like Larry Ellison promoting outsourcing and overseas workers, it is difficult to change the practice. I have seen more and higher-level corporate positions filled by foreign immigrants. I am not against immigration; in fact, I believe it is what has made our country great. However, when you have so many unemployed Americans, it is difficult to watch corporations continually give positions to non-American citizens. It has always been difficult for women in IT, and now the competition is flooded with immigrants.

Judi Hotsinpiller
Administrative computing services
The University of Utah


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