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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Can you give me a few examples of IT jobs that cannot be moved to another country, and why?

    Exclude the ones where physical and cultural proximity is important -- requirements, sales, UI design, customer hand-holding.
    • by ziggy (25) on 2003.12.27 15:53 (#26840) Journal
      Can you give me a few examples of IT jobs that cannot be moved to another country, and why?

      Exclude the ones where physical and cultural proximity is important -- requirements, sales, UI design, customer hand-holding.

      A good portion of government and defense related IT jobs cannot be moved offshore. Some of that work is done by offshore subcontractors, but certainly not all of it. And there is a limit to how much can be sent offshore due to political, legal, security, or privacy issues. With added regulations on patient privacy, medical IT may soon fall into the same category in some countries.

      There are economic drivers in play here, too. While the German government may send lots of Euros to the US for software licenses, there is also a huge incentive to keep software development in-country. Many of the same issues are in play in Canada. Some of these factors are "soft cultural issues", but certainly not all of it.

       

      Ultimately, the reason why IT jobs cannot be moved entirely offshore are tied to physical proximity, responsiveness, quick turnaround, or all three. Many projects need fast turnaround times, or need onsite resources.

      I've worked on projects over the years where being in the same city was just barely acceptable, and the project would have cost less, been delivered faster or delivered with fewer bugs with an on-site developer. I've also worked on projects where the developer and customer were in the same timezone, ~100mi apart, and the distance and limited face-to-face communication and impeded progress. Similarly, on projects where team members are separated by 3 or 5 timezones, coordination becomes adds a noticable drag to the project. Separating the team by 8+ timezones adds a lot of drag to the project.

      I've also worked on projects where development on a "date driven project" was agonizingly slow with the entire project team under the same roof. Sending part of the work to an office 2 miles away was just unacceptable, whether that was in the same company or a contractor. And I've seen projects where proprietary knowledge was involved, and sending any work outside was not an option; sometimes work was sent to another office (with cheaper labor), other times it was kept in the same office (with more customer involvement).

      This is not to say that all development should always be done in house; it's more an observation that the futher the participants are separated, the more drag on the project. And many times, some or all of this drag is just unacceptable.

      Now, I don't claim that my experiences paint the totality of IT work. I do claim that there are enough disincentives against offshoring for a great many projects, based on the limited amount of situations that I have experienced personally. This does not invalidate the need or desire to send work to Ireland, Australia, India or Iowa, but it does tend to invalidate the proposition that all IT work will inevitably flow to the provider with the lowest labor cost.

      • Hang on a minute. I thought the gist of your post was that offshorable IT == lower-skill IT. So I asked for examples of IT jobs that were so high skill they could not be exported.

        Now your objections are more about the whole outsourcing concept, which applies within as well as outside the USA. (Hawaii is quite a few timezones away.)

        Did I misunderstand your original post? Otherwise I'm still waiting for examples.
        • Hang on a minute. I thought the gist of your post was that offshorable IT == lower-skill IT.

          Not quite. I started out by saying, «the high-wage "developed world" does not have a monopoly on brilliant people...». Martin Fowler recently wrote [martinfowler.com] about ThoughtWorks, and their experiences with development centers in Bangalore and Melbourne. For example, he concludes (in part):

          As I write this, offshore development is very fashionable, but it's still too early to really understand its true stre

        • So I asked for examples of IT jobs that were so high skill they could not be exported.

          Actually, I was arguing the inverse -- it's not that high-skill jobs will not be sent offshore, but rather the jobs that will be sent offshore in pursuit of lower labor costs are low skill IT jobs.

          For example, accounting systems are a very well-understood domain for IT. Yet each large company's accounting system has unique wrinkles. At the very large end of the spectrum, it's not a problem amenable to a generalize

          • I think I see what you were saying now. So the limits to outsourcing have to do with the separability of IT from domain knowledge. Since the domain knowledge resides in the USA, the more interesting jobs will reside in the USA.

            That may be true for the short term, but I'm not sure about the long term.

            • one day soon if not already, important customers/markets will not be American.
            • even for American customers, domain knowledge isn't all that tied to the USA. American companies consult around the world too.
            • So the limits to outsourcing have to do with the separability of IT from domain knowledge. Since the domain knowledge resides in the USA, the more interesting jobs will reside in the USA.

              That's a good chunk of it. Some work will remain here (or in Canada, or Switzerland, or ...) because there's a critical mass of learning and people available to crack a problem. There's no reason why India or China can't become the leading center of computational astrophysics, but NASA Goddard will probably remain on

      • A good portion of government and defense related IT jobs cannot be moved offshore.

        Nearly all our Goverment and defense related IT here in Denmark is done by a US company - OK most og the workers are danish, but the owners and the management is american.

        It bothers me quite a bit, but it doesn't seem to bother the goverment, who happily sold our CPR (Central Person register, cnf. the US Census and the registry of births and deaths rolled into one - it contains your current address social status and so on

        • OK, it's not outsourcing the IT jobs, it outsourcing the management, but I think that it's even worse.

          Right, this is neither outsourcing nor offshoring IT. There are similar situations all over Europe, where foreign companies (usually American) are employing locals to do work for the local market. The jobs are staying in-country, not moving to Elbonia because IT costs are cheaper there.

          The same thing is happening in the US: instead of direct employment, lots of jobs run by contracting organizations