Outsource vs. Insource
Over the last few months and year I have learned quite a bit about Outsourcing programming overseas and the IT job market in the US. The two are totally connected and interdependent. And what I am finding is a conundrum. First, the cost of software development has and will continually be driven down by offshore development, some of which I promote. So, you would think there would be less programming jobs and therefor more technology management jobs like web web manager, product manager, producer, project manager, Director, VP and CTO, especially to work with these outsourced teams from the Ukraine and India, for example. Trust me these outsourced teams have moved up to the point where their skill levels are often superior to US based programmers, so we thought programming jobs would go away.
More Programming Jobs, Not Less
The truth is, there are even more programming jobs being offered all across the US and less and less management jobs, especially here in South Florida at a time when outsourcing is easy and cuts costs. So what happened? And just understand, this is my opinion. Well first off, even when applications are developed overseas and sit on remote websites there still needs to be an accountable local representative who can manage or oversee the deployment of the system. This is the operations person or manager. The biggest drawback to outsourcing is flexibility and communications. You are not in the same room obviously, but Skype makes it seem like we are next to each other. When you have a programmer working with you in the same room (if you were the guy or gal in charge), you are more agile and you are more likely to fix minor things quickly. This is always going to be an issue with outsourcing.
The Heavy Lifting
The biggest positive with outsourcing is the cost and the speed of the heavy lifting. Just think about how you paid a mover when you moved last time. If you moved yourself, it probably took a longer time to accomplish the task, but in my experience I hired a moving company that showed up with 3 big guys who moved it all without any problem. Same thing with outsourcing. So when there is some significant application with a lot of technology that needs to be built, sending it overseas totally makes sense.
Less Management And Not So Good For MBAs…
But more importantly I see a flattening of IT management across both large companies and SMB (Small and Medium Businesses), meaning the need and relevancy of levels of people between executives and programmers has declined. So if you are building a building (similar to a big software program), companies, especially smaller companies, don’t see the value in hiring an architect or engineer if you follow the analogy. Smaller business owners see the value in the construction worker and in this case the programmer, because programming value is more tangible than management value, especially during a recession.
Flying Low And Blind
Whether this is a recession issue or not, what this means is that 90% of software ventures and technology projects, especially outsourced ones, are often flying blind. You don’t always require a project manager, but if you are spending more than $50,000 on a software project, you should have one. If your software project has tons of features, unique pricing and other complicated parts then you probably should have a product manager. If you are creating a product for the consumer market, then often you need a quality assurance expert. It sounds logical, but actually only larger companies have these roles, and these roles are declining in the IT profession compared with programmer demand. It tells me that (and I will put on my programmer hat on) that application development has gotten so much better over the years that entrepreneurs and basic users think they can take on these roles and are in fact becoming IT management experts themselves. I have met many of them out there! You would be surprised how may talented individuals have picked up these IT management skills. And some people are great at this, but experience in this area can make all the difference in getting a website or product to market.