Systematic Erosion of the American Technical Workforce
There are in some segments of the technical trades (ERP for one) a current shortage of skilled resources. The Big consulting firms, as well as medium to small, are facing a crunch of qualified candidates. Now, companies where you would traditionally find mostly experienced US resources, are placing less than qualiified Indian resources on projects desperate for bodies, at $100k plus salaries, and while this may meet tactical requirements, strategically, as has often been the case, it result in project failure.
The old argument about lower cost for Indian resources only applies to brand new resources or offshore resources...and even that is changing. Less and less American resources are actively recruited and enter the field, while more and more work is sent offshore further developing the technical infrastructure in India. Resource costs are continuing to rise, and Indian resources now command the same salaries in the US as their American counterparts.
In many organizations over the years, the minority of Indian resources have become the majority. When a PM needs to staff projects, they simply do not receive resumes from Americans. Much resourcing is now being performed by Indian resources, and they rely on their contacts with other Indian resources to provide leads and resumes, not on traditional pipeline building of qualified candidates.
Indian resources get coaching by their networking contacts on what to say for interviews. When cornered about lack of expertise on a project, many of these resources say, "I am hard working and can pick it up". We paying $100k+ for Indian resources without the proper skill set when we could simply hire college grads with a hunger to succeed, that would be overjoyed at this compensation.
When Indian resources do not have the necessary skill sets required for a position that they managed to get hired for, the argument is that they will network with other Indian resources to fill in the gaps in their knowledge on the job(even though these other Indian resources may not be qualified), work long hours to understand what they do not know (although many times the long hours are because they do not know what they are doing and wait until the manager is gone for the day to call a friend to help them do their job), and generally display a complete openess and willingness to so whatever it takes to get the job done (as long as they get full credit for the whole project if successful and none if it is a failure). Are these substantial reasons to pay them $100k to learn on the job instead of an American?
They promote themselves as experts during the interview process, supported by their Indian counterparts in HR and within the organization, but this is rarely the case. These network contacts usually refer them for the jobs and perform their "technical interviews". When a manager questions the skills of the resource, this only results in assertions by HR that they have already been approved by technical interview (by another Indian), and HR has accepted them.
The communication skills of Indian resources are, as a rule, not satisfactory for US business engagements. When Project Managers say cannot understand the resources that work for them, or when a client stares vacantly at the Project Manager after the Indian resource is finished speaking, one can only wonder why are these resources being hired?
Although most Indian resources have technical or engineering degrees, they typically have little to no knowledge of business processes. This results in resources, especially in ERP, that force clients to follow the processes that they understand, or that are suggested as standards of the packages application. This lack of developing critical business requirements agnostic of a technology tool, focused on optimal processes for the client organization, results in a system that does not deliver the acceptable value required.
For example, an client organization may have very specific, strategic reasons to design a Supply Chain solution a certain way. The client processes may not match the capabilities of the packaged application being delivered. A resource with a stong business background in addition to technical expertise will focus on the current processes, optimize them based on key business objective, develop a list of future processes and proceed with a mapping and gapping exercise against the packaged application capabilities.
Often, however, the Indian resources are only aware of the packaged application capabilities, having just read the user guide prior to starting the project (even though they said they were experts), and as a result, during requirements gathering sessions, they use scripted questions based on the systems capabilities, not what the client organization requires from a business process perspective.
Alternately, many American resources come from business first, and gain experience as a client in projects. This fundamental difference in experience and understanding is critical to the successful execution of project engagements. The problem is, there is no promotion of these resources from business in the industry, only a complete willingness to put pure technical resources in hybrid business/technical roles.
Delivery organizations understand this, and yet, to meet revenue targets, they are willing to deliver a sub-standard products using less than optimal resources from India. The industry refuses to provide detailed regulation and metrics for "skilled" resources. If they did so, then it would be apparent that current and backlogged business will take much longer to accomplish with skilled resources than market realities suggest with less than skilled resources. Delivery organizations are just throwing bodies at projects to close deals and increase revenue at the expense of client organizations.
The trend is that green card and ex-patriot Indian workforce expansion is only increasing in levels of authority and responsibility. This is resulting in a corresponsing increase of new H-1B's and other Indian resources being hired for projects, as well as promotion of the onsite/offshore model that ships development work to data centers in India. While some organizations have a fairly mature offshore model, and the cost is typically a fraction of onsite development in the US, as a rule, complex development is faster and more effective when you can walk through an office, knock on a door, and ask questions to someone face-to-face to clarify the work expectations.
The majority of IT projects fail; that is a known fact in the industry. Yet companies continue to rush forward with projects managed and delivered by resources that are not capable of doing so, and the result for the delivery industry overall is great: re-work or re-implementation. When the new business cycle starts, as it has strongly over the past couple of years, it starts with first implementations. Then after the many failures, additional cost, time and frustration on re-work for corporations that threw their money down the drain on poor resources. No project manager will be successful without the right resources.
There are less than optimal American resources assigned to projects, but typically, in my experience, the American resources have more respect for a work/life balance and do not think working 55-60 hours per week and only getting paid for 40 is acceptable (and this is a very common practice in the industry). This practice should be investigated, and all organizations penalized to the fullest extent. However, the Indian worker, working all of the extra hours to learn on the job, is only creating a false perception of a more dedicated employee. In my experience, the American worker completes the same work in a fraction of the time.
Unless US corporations are committed to hiring only experienced American candidates, developing skills in new American college graduates instead of H-1B's, and cooperatively work to support US programs designed to develop math and science excellence starting at the primary and secondary levels to ensure the re-emergence of solid technical infrastructure capabilities, the current erosion of the high-salaried American technical workforce will continue. And with the loss of these jobs, Americans lose much of the millions being paid in salaries that go back to India and do not stimulate our economy in any way.
This is not a problem with Indian workers, although they profit from the results. It is a problem with corporations choosing profit over quality at the expense of the American technical worker. Is there an answer to this erosion of the high-salary American tech jobs in the US?
I doubt it.