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How Offshoring Affects IT Workers


offshoring illustration

IT jobs requiring interpersonal interaction or physical presence in fixed locations are less likely to be sent out of the country.

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CACM Administrator

The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor in the January 2011 CACM (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2011/1/103186).
--CACM Administrator

As someone who has known offshoring for years, I was drawn to the article "How Offshoring Affects IT Workers" by Prasanna B. Tambe and Lorin M. Hitt (Oct. 2010) but disappointed to find a survey-type analysis that essentially confirmed less than what most of us in the field already know. For example, at least one reason higher-salaried workers are less likely to be offshored is they already appreciate the value of being able to bridge the skill and cultural gap created by employing offshore workers.

I was also disappointed by the article's U.S.-centric view (implied at the top in the word "offshoring"). What about how offshoring affects IT workers in countries other than the U.S.? In my experience, they are likewise affected; for example, in India IT workers are in the midst of a dramatic cultural upheaval involving a high rate of turnover.

While seeking deeper insight into offshoring, I would like to ask someone to explain the implications of giving the keys to a mission-critical system to someone in another country not subject to U.S. law? Imagine if the relationships between countries would deteriorate, and the other country would seize critical information assets? We have pursued offshoring for years, but I have still not heard substantive answers to these questions.

Mark Wiman
Atlanta, GA

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AUTHORS' RESPONSE:

With so little hard data on outsourcing, it is important to first confirm some of the many anecdotes now circulating. The main point of the article was that the vulnerability of occupations to offshoring can be captured by their skill sets and that the skills story is not the only narrative in the outsourcing debate.

The study was U.S.-centric by design. How offshoring affects IT workers in other countries is important, but the effects of offshoring on the U.S. IT labor market merits its own discussion.

Misappropriation of information has been studied in the broader outsourcing context; see, for example, Eric K. Clemons's and Lorin M. Hitt's "Poaching and the Misappropriation of Information" in the Journal of Management Information Systems 21, 2 (2004), 87107.

Prasanna B. Tambe
New York, NY
Lorin M. Hitt
Philadelphia, PA


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