back to article The best outsourcers fire themselves

Outsourcing. Let's talk about it. The agile and DevOps people can’t stomach the idea and will tell you that, intuitively, outsourcing something as core as software development ruins any chance of enterprise success. But whither comes this bone-deep skepticism among the cloud cognoscenti? Surely there’s value to be had. Surely. …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "My rule of thumb, then, with outsourcing software development, is to ask the outsourcer what their plan to fire themselves is. How long will they need to be around, exactly? If they don’t have one, then they’re likely planning on sticking around for a long time."

    More likely is that they've got the measure of your scope creep.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      "is to ask the outsourcer what their plan to fire themselves is."

      If I were that outsourcer, my response would be along the lines of "so you wouldn't consider us sitting on your board of directors then?"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Citation needed....

    ....for outsourcers delivering innovation and good quality, and leaving the outsourcee in a better place than they found them.

    Outsourcing is a doomed concept. I'll wager the average overhead per outsourced employee is higher than the client employee, that the average assets per outsource employee are higher than the client, that the average outsourcer margin per employee is higher than the client, and my final wager is that the actual productivity of the outsource employees is significantly lower than an onshore inhouse setup. This inevitably sets up an outsource for dismal performance and failure to meet expectations.

    The client then guarantees failure by a long procurement process where the buyers are far less experienced and far less well resourced than the vendor team, where the final decision is largely on who bid the lowest, and where the client doesn't understand how and where the outsourcer makes their margins. Usually they don't even question basic contradictions like cost per outsource employee in the agreement versus the turnover per employee in the outsourcer's accounts.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: " the final decision is largely on who bid the lowest"

      That is not always the case.

      I have personally experienced putting in a bid that I knew was lower than that of a very well-known (and expensive) IT Consulting outfit, and I lost to them despite the fact that I was less expensive.

      I fully expect the reason to be that I was invited to bid in order to lower the price of that firm.

      This happened twice. The third time I was invited to bid, I refused to participate. The company representative pressed me to explain, and I answered "I don't see the use of wasting two days of my time on drawing up a proposal, since you're only going to go with <redacted> anyway".

      The conversation ended pretty quickly after that, and I have not been invited to bid since.

    2. Number6

      Re: Citation needed....

      Outsourcing works well when you've got a well-defined package of work that needs doing, you haven't got internal staff available to do it and you won't need those staff once the work is done. Or it's a longer-term thing but only for a day or so a week and it's easier than trying to recruit a part-time employee to fill the gap.

      Most of the horror stories are missing one of those requirements, usually the 'well-defined package of work'.

  3. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Commonly, a friend told me as I was sailing slices of rare steak through L'Entrecôte’s green sauce, outsourced projects boomerang back to the in-house staff.

    It's like Bong, but not as funny.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      It's not Bong?

      I guess the typos are because "Garland of Flowers" has moved on to other projects.

  4. HmmmYes Silver badge

    First, dont muddle IT - provisioning of computery services, computers, support, cables, etc - with Software development.

    Thats the first major mistake people doing outsourcey make.

    IT is a lot easier, being a commodity thing.

    However, most outsourcers mess up that as their people dont have knowledge of the business or setup.

    Outsource software development? Only if you are are outsourcing an stand-alone lump to specialist. And they've got to be around to support it for the product lifespan. If you dont know the product lifespan or if the 3rd party will be around then you are taking on a big risk, and its needs to be monitored and managed.

    As far as outsourcing to cheaper country goes .. well,, they either have the skills, in which case they wont be cheap for long. Or they dont have the skills, which is why they are cheaper.

    In 95% cases you really should not outsource.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      99% of commercial software development consists of a user interface to put data in or get data out of a DB. If you think that isn’t a commodity you need to put the crack pipe down.

      1. HmmmYes Silver badge

        Nope. You're figures are wrong.

        Screen -> DB is a lot but not that much.

        99% of commercial software runs without you knowing it runs.

      2. Milton Silver badge

        "99% of commercial software development ..."

        "99% of commercial software development consists of a user interface to put data in or get data out of a DB. If you think that isn’t a commodity you need to put the crack pipe down."

        Quite wrong. Your grasp is so shallow that you must be on the board of FTSE500 company.

        The majority of significant software development is, and for at least 20 years has been, integration: making all those disparate systems talk intelligently and usefully to each other in the same way that different parts of your business communicate with one another and with external businesses.

        Unfortunately, integration has historically been both quite diffiicult (though it's now getting easier, at the expense of some monstrously bloated libraries and insanely overpowered silicon) and also invisible. Whereas a fancy database interface may have the bright colours and graphical bits that Sales & Marketing folks fondly imagine is "value", they cannot see 99% of the underlying nasty, detailed, complicated, fine-tubed plumbing. The idiot who turns the tap arrogantly demands "How hard can it be?" because he knows nothing about how clean, drinkable water gets from a reservoir to his kitchen and he personally couldn't plumb so much as a toilet cistern.

        So integration constitutes a Trifecta of Doom: it is critically important; difficult to get right, requiring lots of time and money and skills; and invisible to the generally greedy, lazy, short-sighted halfwits in the executive suite.

        Therefore it doesn't get priority. It doesn't get properly resourced. It gets done badly if at all. The software devs get blamed, because they were not given the tools for the job because it, the job, was never understood by the beancounters in the first place.

        This among other things brings us to wrong solutions sought by aforementioned greedy twits, and outsourcers are brought in: who send their Sales 'A'Team to schmooze the idiots on the board, knowing full well that in due course, once they've got the work, the actual coders will be a 'D' team. The outsourcers: (a) don't have vital domain knowledge, (b) require extensive micro-management, (c) work to a stifling bureaucracy specifically designed to maximise their revenue at every single turn, for so much as a changed comma in a spec, and are (d) soon using your budget to train their 'D' team staff so that they can charge more for them elsewhere.

        In due course, your business ends up as a life support system for the outsourcer. The parasites have so thoroughly colonised and hollowed out the host that to get rid of them would kill you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Post Outsourcing Fun

      My job went to India in 2016. There were just two of the twenty odd staff assigned to work on the project that even had half a clue.

      One year later those two, now skilled in the tooling we were using have gone to pastures new.

      The people that are left don't have a clue.

      Fast forward to March 2018 and the company that I worked for have pulled the plug on the outsourcers because their normal state was TITSUP. Support tickets going back 6 months are still open.

      Last week I got a call asking me to go back. Cue my ROFL and with a smile on my face telling them NO.

      I had a lovely 'I told you so' moment but the PHB's in the USA didn't have a clue about what we did.

      The company has lost several contracts since they went down the outsourcing path.

      It didn't save them any money at all.

      1. HmmmYes Silver badge

        Re: Post Outsourcing Fun

        They lasted a year. Wow you were lucky.

        Most competent staff in India - and there are few - are gone in a quarter.

        The Indian outsource industry is staffed by people who have about 6 months knowledge of something at about 10+ employees.

      2. HmmmYes Silver badge

        Re: Post Outsourcing Fun

        Yep.

        Companies must cinsider - How will it cost us if it all goes to shit?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've heard of internal stuff being outsourced to Companies setup by VPs of the very Company doing the outsourcing.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Ive been party to a good few outsourced fuckups. Ive not seen it. Thats not to say it doesnt happen - theres no sense or accountability in outsourcing. Anything goes.

      What i have come across is Oh, weve got x heads on it in India.

      Ok give me their names and cvs.

      Then i sent someone over to meet everyone. I tell them some ones coming, and hes to meet everyone in the team, no excuses.

      Ive never found 50% of the supposed head.

      Indians lie like a you and I breathe.

      And, unlike uk or us liars, indians carry on lying when they are found out. They actually double up. Its fucking incredible to witness.

      I cannot operate a business with that kind of shit.

      The indians ive worked in the states are broasly ok. Indians in india - nope.

      1. AmyInNH

        "The indians ive worked in the states are broasly ok."

        - "Hang my coat on the back of my chair so my boss thinks I'm in."

        - Stolen equip., found for sale on eBay.

        - Stolen equip., to furnish her husband's startup.

        - Manager told "in the other facility", MIA for the summer when parents flew in to visit.

        - (prolific) 1 month off a year, off the books, for vacation "home".

        - Deliberate bug creation, for easy days when assigned the bug.

        - US wages and benefits, when employee was not even in the US.

        - Remote login to spouse's company, to cut and paste code.

        And that's just over the course of two years.

  6. juice Bronze badge

    Outsourcing reminds me of Danegeld...

    In that you pay lots of money for something that's meant to be a one-off (maurading vikings or a new platform), but inevitably, you find that you have to keep out paying more.

    Outsourcing a project can work well when you're dealing with something relatively immutable - a new phone system, a new building - something which will sit there and Just Work after completion.

    Software by definition is mutable, especially these days when you're often integrating with external systems which are subject to change according to someone else's whims and priorities.

    Fundamentally, if you find yourself using outsourcers on a long-term basis, then you're generally better bringing the process in-house. It may cost more on paper, but it gives you a lot more flexibility and facilitates better support and change processes - no more arguing over what's covered by the contract!

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing reminds me of Danegeld...

      By golly, I think you've hit the Next Big Thing: Plunder As A Platform (PAAP). I look forward to Mr. Cote's weekly articles to explain the principles of the same.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "My rule of thumb, then, with outsourcing software development, is to ask the outsourcer what their plan to fire themselves is. How long will they need to be around, exactly? If they don’t have one, then they’re likely planning on sticking around for a long time."

    That's a fantastic way of undermining a partnership before it has begun.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      But realistic.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    this

    Quote : Finding in-house talent is a constant bugbear, though likely fixable with a small bit of thought.

    Yeah... how about... offering more money to hire programmers, and a training budget for your current staff

    Or is that too far outside the blue sky thinking box to be a decent paradigm for you..*

    *Sorry... was at a meeting all yesterday playing buzzword bingo

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      More money to staff is put on the Company Payroll sheet, and that is a nuisance to keep up when you are facing shareholders who want a better ROI.

      Outsourcing firms are put on Expenses, which are Tax Deductable and therefor more palatable because they save money - as far as shareholders are concerned.

      Because shareholders these days have about as much commitment to the future of the company they invest in as a pimp has commitment to the well-being of the girls he manages - ie a week's worth.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sharing is caring

    Reading this was therapeutic.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VP will be long gone, with his bonus for cost savings, before the offshored hits the skids.

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