Kirk Evans Blog

.NET From a Markup Perspective

Rory on Outsourcing

There is a a great Roryrant on last night’s West Wing episode involving outsourcing which is already stirring up controversy within hours of its posting. 

Some viewpoints put the crosshairs on the slackers, citing some kind of industrial Darwinism theory. Right now, it is the slackers that go back to flipping burgers.  How long will it be before you are telling Sam Gentile and Ted Neward that you want a combo 3 with extra pickles?  The episode threw around some amazing numbers, on the order of 3.3 MILLION lost programmer jobs over 10 years.  Hopefully some of that was artistic license and shock value from the writers. But 3.3 million surpasses the number of Excel macro writers by far and dips quite heavily into the line of business Morts and well into the pool of Elvii (plural of Elvis?) as well.

I disagree that the overall job mortality rate could really be that vast.  Part of the reality is that major technology corporations aren’t going to outsource development of their major products… you don’t outsource your own intellectual property lest you create your own competitor who can produce goods cheaper than you. Microsoft is not going to outsource all of its development.  The fact is that you don’t pay multiple millions for a guy like Anders just for grins, and you don’t hire away a large portion of DevelopMentor if you are purely focused on bottom line numbers.  Quality will count over quantity, and there will remain a need for companies to leverage expertise instead of simply producing.

That’s the rosy view.

The pessimistic view sees even a slight dip as a precursor to something horrible and permanent.  A combination of history and hysteria scares us into thinking that butterflies can affect weather patterns. Outsourcing is happening and will continue to happen.  Companies will always seek means to create products cheaper, and consumers will continually look to the market to increase competition while reducing cost, sometimes at the expense of quality. Yet this does not mean that jobs are necessarily lost, they are just realigned into different sectors. Maybe flipping burgers isn’t in store for over 3 million currently employed developers… someone has to deliver all those androgenous clothes to The Gap.

How can we expect to keep “the high-end architecture jobs“ when we can’t even agree on what architecture means?  We toss around vague terms like SOA almost in an attempt to justify the complexities of software development while the platform vendors all show the flat simplicity of their solutions. All the while I write this (and you all read this), someone in Bangalore was just paid $2.50 for surfing the Internet while you just got paid $25.00… you both did the same thing and provided the same value to your company.

SteveV’s comments to Rory’s rant reminded me of part of the West Wing episode, spoken by Leo:

“Those ‘Made in the USA’ labels you see on clothes?  I heard that even those are made in Mexico now.”