It seems that the offshoring trend is becoming something of a recurring theme here at developer.*. Our latest article, by Kelly Nehowig, is called "Consider The Total Picture for Offshore Development." As you might expect from the title, Mr. Nehowig examines several often overlooked factors in the decision of whether or not to keep work in house or outsource it to an offshore firm. The article is based on an analysis of exactly that question that Mr. Nehowig performed for one of his company's clients. You can read the article here.
Given the recent attention in developer.* on the controversial issues related to the offshoring trend, I feel compelled to qualify my editorial position on the matter. We have many readers in countries where offshore development firms are major employers, and I would not want readers working for these firms to feel singled out. It is not my position that offshoring is inherently evil. Furthermore, if I publish material that is slanted against offshoring (such the article mentioned above and this recent interview with The Programmer's Guild), it is not because of any xenophobic tendencies or an underlying assumption that non-Western developers are not qualified. Rather, my feelings on the matter are a reaction to an apparent prevailing irrational exuberance for offshoring here in the United States.
Many companies, including a very large multinational one where I was recently a contractor, are diving head-first into offshoring and H-1b/L-1 contracting based on what I consider to be two false assumptions: one, that programmers and other technology professionals are interchangeable; and two, that lower hourly rates alone prove that offshore development is cheaper. Mr. Nehowig's article does a nice job of questioning these assumptions.
Certainly there is a place for offshore development, depending on the situation, type of project, business model, etc. Certainly there are successful projects that have been developed offshore. Certainly there are qualified programmers and good people working for offshore firms. Certainly other countries deserve a place in the global marketplace. My objection is that too many firms are not "considering the total picture," to paraphrase Mr. Nehowig. What we need is balance.
Finally, I will own up to selfish motivations as well. I live and work in the United States. I spent the last two months between jobs, and have many friends and colleagues who have gone without work for much longer. I'd like to see as many jobs stay in the United States as possible. I'd like those jobs to pay as much as possible. I'd like the software development profession to remain attractive to US-based high school and college students who are deciding on a course of study for their future careers. I'd like for the our Congress to roll back the H-1b and L-1 visa programs to levels that are more in line with their original intent. I'd like to see my many Indian friends and colleagues that are here now on H-1b visas stop being exploited by the agencies that employ them. I'd like to see corporate tax loopholes exchanged for new incentives that encourage US firms to keep jobs here. If all that sounds parochial, provincial, and protectionist, that is not my intent. I think competition and cooperation on a global scale is healthy. I don't think the United States and Europe should have a monopoly. Again, what I would like to see is balance.
I welcome contrary views. I would be interested in publishing letters, opinion pieces, articles, etc. from the other sides of this issue--perhaps from someone working for or owning an offshore firm.
As always, developer.* is actively seeking new authors. If you have an idea for an article, book review, interview, conference report, etc., then please get in touch. I have books sent by publishers waiting to be reviewed, and I am seeking short opinion pieces on anything related to the field of software development. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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