Global CIO: Let's Put The Offshoring Bogeyman In Proper Perspective
We need to avoid getting caught up in the emotional flashpoints of offshoring and outsourcing without putting the extent of those practices into perspective.
While John Deere provides a superb example of a global corporation that is based in the United States, it's only one of many thousands doing business inside and outside this country with imports and exports, buying and selling, in manufacturing and services, in solo efforts or in partnerships. Outsourcing, and specifically offshoring, is but one part in that much bigger, more complex, and massively interlaced engine of global business in which almost 200 countries around the world are engaged.
CIOs are in a great position to serve as highly knowledgeable advocates for pursuing the right types of global opportunities at the right time, but those CIOs need to be able to frame their discussions in the broad terms and outcomes of global strategy and global business, and not just limit their involvement to detailed discussions of what certification levels various offshore candidates have achieved. That's important and essential work, but it's for a project manager, not for the CIO.
Rather, CIOs would do well to immerse themselves in global achievements and aspirations of companies like Deere and Lilly and Boeing and Nike: in the complex global webs those companies have built, where are the real sources of value? Is it centered on, as some ill-informed voices would charge, labor arbitrage? Or is it centered on a much wider and deeper strategy of joint ventures, licensing, partnerships, dealer networks, global innovation centers, globally standard processes, global-centric thinkers, and a vision that defines customers and prospects by what they do and what they buy versus where they happen to live?
In his classic poem "If," Rudyard Kipling says,
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you."
Kipling's timeless message is particularly pertinent in today's complex and high-anxiety world of business technology. And as the facts above point out, neither offshoring nor outsourcing are the cause of the pain an unfortunately large number of IT professionals are feeling today. Rather, they are relatively small pieces in an enormous and complex puzzle whose solution is still unfolding.
In such times, huge opportunities abound for CIOs to play a central role in driving global strategies and identifying global opportunities, rather than allowing themselves to be pigeonholed as only the interviewer of offshoring candidates. And all of us need to keep our heads about us and not attempt to assign blame where it very clearly doesn't belong.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.
To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.