Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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6/17/2005
03:03 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Carlson CEO Sets Example for Execs Who Send IT Work Offshore

Eliminating jobs through outsourcing and offshoring can be a difficult decision for any business executive, so the temptation to downplay such moves is understandable. Who wants to end up on Lou Dobbs as an "Exporter of America?" But the fact is, outsourcing is taking a bum rap in part because executives won't talk about it--not even its upsides.

Eliminating jobs through outsourcing and offshoring can be a difficult decision for any business executive, so the temptation to downplay such moves is understandable. Who wants to end up on Lou Dobbs as an "Exporter of America?"

But the fact is, outsourcing is taking a bum rap in part because executives won't talk about it--not even its upsides.They won't talk about how it allows them to invest more in business development and strategic technology, thereby stimulating long-term job growth; they won't talk about how it greases entry into new, global markets; and they won't talk about how it gives them access to the best and brightest talent, regardless of location.

So with that in mind, it's refreshing to see Carlson Companies CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson talk candidly about her company's plans to cut up to 525 tech and business positions as a result of a seven-year outsourcing agreement under negotiation with IBM. Rather than hide behind "disclosure rules" or "privacy policies" or some other dubious excuse that executives often use when wishing to conceal unpopular business practices, Carlson Nelson is up-front about her intentions.

In a statement, she says the decision to outsource was "very considered and difficult." Nonetheless, she notes that Carlson is a company "that markets its products and services globally," and, as such, "must use global resources."

She is both correct and courageous--particularly so given that Carlson Cos. is private and thus has a lesser obligation to disclose details of its operations than publicly traded corporations, most of which are offshoring but won't say a word about it.

If U.S. businesses don't want lawmakers to limit their ability to place work wherever they like, then more CEOs need to behave like Carlson Nelson and explain offshoring's necessity, its benefits, and why they should be allowed to keep doing it. Running and hiding from the controversy is not helping.

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