Monday, November 29, 2004

Free Market

My previous post brought up an interesting, and hopefully not overly discussed, conversation topic: outsourcing software engineering to India.

This topic has been hot for the past number of years, and I think I fall in the minority when I say that I am not against outsourcing to India if the market in India can produce the same quality software products that are being produced here at a fraction of the cost.

I am not saying that I hope to have my job outsourced to India. What I am saying is that in a world where I believe in free markets, when competing for business, the company that can offer a product or service of equitable quality at the lowest price should win the business.

If I am unable to compete with the engineers from India, should I be angry with disloyal American companies who outsourcing? If my salary is much higher here than it would be were I living in India, should I fight for laws to prevent money from flowing out of our economy and into another? As a local consultant, am I offering services that can be easily replaced with foreign labor? Should I, instead of trying to stop open competition, figure out a way to offer a service to US companies that cannot be outsourced?

And if the implementation of a design spec can be outsourced, can the initial analysis also be outsourced? How about the project management? Are there things that we, as software engineers living in the United States, can offer that cannot be outsourced? Should we, as an engineering community, focus on growing our unique skills and ensuring our place in the world market?

So the question is this: can India offer the same quality software end-product that a local consulting company can offer at a lower price? I am leery of the possibility because on the projects in which I work, constant communication with my customer is paramount to success. I wonder how the communication barrier is overcome when dealing with an implementation team that lives in another culture. I am curious if anyone out there has experiences, good or bad, with outsourcing software engineering to India.

2 comments:

ubiquity said...

I work at a software company that outsources projects to pakistan and I have been responsible for communicating with the offshore team. My cultural background is pakistan, and have been educated in canada. In my opinion, what it really takes to get quality software from offshore teams is a middleman who speaks both languages, and exists in both cultures. In addition, there needs to be a manager of the development team, who is an effective communicator. The offshore programmers themselves are niether creative nor intelligent. The offshore manager ensures his team understands WHAT needs to be done - not why. My job is to communicate precisely and effectively to the offshore manager - who understands the why, and is able to analyse the how. The other piece is rigorous and continuous QA, followed by precise and effective feedback. However, if the offshire manager is a dumbass, the project goes down the drain. So far, i have experienced success and failiure. Code quality is top notch - but the 'implied' requirements were too much for a bunch of unintelligent programmers to derive. I hope to be taking a project offshore shortly : in the process I will train an offshore manager and select an intelligent team. If the team is selected wisely and made to understand the importance of intelligent communication... its a gold mine.

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