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Programming The Almighty Buck United States IT Technology

The Changing Face of Offshore Programming 670

Posted by michael
from the giant-sucking-noise dept.
teambpsi writes "BusinesWeek Online has an opt-ed piece on the trend in offshore programming pricing going up, with domestic rates going down. As a contractor, I've seen the downward pressure on contract gigs now to rates lower than what I was charging over five years ago. Dell Computers recently announced that it was bringing its customer service back on-shore, I wonder if this might be the start of some bigger trend -- maybe 'buy american' could be our new battle cry ;)"
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The Changing Face of Offshore Programming

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  • battle cry? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Slowping (63788) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:23PM (#7853179) Homepage Journal
    maybe 'buy american' could be our new battle cry ;)

    Wasn't that Walmart's battle cry for years... until it became convenient for them to forget it in favor of another battle cry that generated yet more money?
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:28PM (#7853211) Journal
    Why doesn't freetrade work for the consumer? After all my goverment wants to make it illegal/claims it is currently illegal for consumers to import drugs from canada.

    Why is it ok for large companies to benefit from freetrade but wrong for regular people to?

    As for your doctor comment, some hospitals are sending xrays/mri scans oversees to be read.
  • Re:Whinging (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alan Cox (27532) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:39PM (#7853301) Homepage
    I would disagree. The bigger companies do think about such costs. Thats why you get a 25-50% saving when the salary difference is way higher. Similarly they are careful what and how they use very cheap but possibly lower quality resources. So for example who you get for a long distance phone billing problem depends on how much you spend a month.

    Places like India are getting more expensive because they are getting way better at doing the jobs well. The experience and infrastructure is now there. Much of the really low grade work now goes elsewhere.

  • by JediDan (214076) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:40PM (#7853306)
    Very true.
    Dealing with customers every day I continually hear them expressing their love/hate of tech support, but as long as the person they are speaking with has little or no accent, they immediately calm down.

    No slant against the other nations of the world intended - indeed our company offices in India have great technical support records, but there's a reason we don't have customer support services based over there.

    It'll be good to see what the trend is for non-software merchandise as well. This christmas had way too many "American" Companies selling new products with 'Made in China' stickers. :/
  • Buzz word compliant (Score:2, Interesting)

    by synergy3000 (637810) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:41PM (#7853311)
    It is all buzz word compliant. I bet if you had set up shop in some low cost city in the US and claimed you had outsourcing capability you would have had plenty of contracts lined up. Heck, call your company Outsource Synergies. Of course you don't have to let them know that what is outsourced is your ATT billing and only because ATT did so. You can hire local programmers, admins at a decent wage and still make a profit. It is all about the buzz word. In certain cases the buzz word does become the reality without necessarily having to be.
  • by vkg (158234) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:50PM (#7853369) Homepage
    Indians, Pakistanis or Chinese. Really.

    I'm an Indian, and let me tell you, the culture is racist to the core. Hell, even within the race there's the caste system, and don't for a minute believe anybody who tells you that it's dead.

    Most cultures are ferociously racists: the only exceptions are places where there are too few people of other races to even notice (some parts of England, say, are pretty chilll) or America, where the fight against racism is a big historical driver.

    This is one thing which I think Americans have got right and can teach the world: how to deinstitutionalize and stigmatize racism to the point where basic values change for many, if not most, people.

    Seriously: I think that America has an incredibly tolerant and non-racist culture over all. Festering throwbacks excepted.
  • Re:Whinging (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:50PM (#7853375) Homepage
    I know you are a troll, and I shouldn't feed you but hey, It's 2004....

    The smart companies never moved their programming and tech staff from in house, as they knew that the only way to get the best quality was to keep it at home.

    We had a few phb's try and convince the CTO and the CFO that moving the entire development staff to an outsourcing firm... they almost suceeded until the old man (read that as the dude that built this company..) that hold's 51% of the stock said, "no way in hell. there is no security, no quality control, and no way for us to completely control the process." he went on about how only fools would trust another company with their secrets and their future.

    The old man did this on one of the telecasts in front of the whole company intentionally making the Executive staff and the phb's look foolish for chasing small dollar returns for giving up the stable.

    A company with strong leadership that actually looks toward the future sucess does not chase the easy dollar.

    I'm not whining, I'm proud to have a leader in the company that isn't as incompetent as the management that thinks like you do.
  • by Bozdune (68800) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:52PM (#7853387)
    I moved four projects to India with reasonable success. We did not use a lowest-cost provider; instead, we used a company that charges more than Wipro or Infosys, but fields better talent than they do (in fact, they cherry-pick from Wipro and Infosys for new recruits).

    Here are my conclusions:

    1) We were able to ramp up faster than if we had tried to hire locally.
    2) We were able to overcome personnel issues more quickly -- the vendor was able to add higher-powered programmers very quickly when they got into trouble, and "swarm" the problem with bodies. In our case (simple Web apps) it worked, although there are situations in which it obviously would not have worked (mythical man-month, blah blah blah).
    3) The quality of the finished product was reasonable. Call it B/B-. Which was OK for us, maybe not good enough for some, but acceptable.

    It turns out that if I had hired a much smaller number of local programmers as permanent employees (consultant rates would not have worked) -- very good ones at market prices -- and they had performed up to expectations -- I could probably have brought the same projects in on the same schedule for the same price. I probably would have ended up with a better architecture, and better code.

    So maybe it's a wash. Except, I would have had the following problems:

    1) Hire/fire. When the work was over, I didn't need the teams any more. With the Indian vendor, I could cut back without worry. With permanent hires, I'd have a serious morale problem.
    2) Risk. If my gunslingers ran into a problem, I wouldn't have been able to "throw bodies" at it. My budget wouldn't have allowed for that.
    3) Maintenance risk. The Indian teams can be scaled way back, but I could still keep 3 people on the project for continuity. If I scaled back my own teams similarly, I'd only be able to save one job, and if that person quit, I'd be hosed.

    So there are a lot of subtle factors that play here. The Business Week guy alludes to them, but doesn't really itemize them well.

  • Mind you, I'm as pro-capitalism as they come, so being driven by the battle cry of "returns!" is a good thing, IMHO.
    When someone starts a company, (s)he does it with the purpose to earn the salt on his/her potatoes, makeing the world a better place could be a second objective, but mainly it's like any other job.

    I'm not a capitalist, but at the moment capitalisme is the most succesfull. It would be nice if we would be working to better ourselves and rest of humanity, but so far no one has figured out how to make that work in the real world. Even communisme has a leathal flaw in it nobody so far was able to remove (They had to build a wall around their country to keep their inhabitants inside, think that says enough)

    I guess there's still a lot of work ahead.
  • by vkg (158234) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:54PM (#7853398) Homepage
    Try getting a job in India.

    Seriously, they don't make it easy for foreigners.
  • Almost right (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:54PM (#7853399)
    Liberals believe that group achievement is enhanced by providing for individual security, while a libertarian believes that group achievement is enhanced by individual freedom.

    Almost right. It would be better to say that liberals believe that group (really government) control enhances individual freedom.
  • by bangzilla (534214) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:56PM (#7853406) Journal
    I visited an independent car manufacturing plant in Fremont CA a few months ago. Interestingly they were building Toyotas and Hondas, all right hand drive, for export to Japan. Remember the days when car manufacturing was moving to Japan? Seems that our automobile industry learned how to adapt and is now reversing the trend. Perhaps software engineering will follow suit. It *never* ceases to amaze me how primitive Fortune 5000 IT development shops are. Oh yes, there are plenty of groups, teams, even divisions doing great work with new processes and technologies -- but on the corporate level few can answer basis questions such as "how many developers do you have?" "where are they located?" "On what are they working?". There is little standardization of processes, metrics are a pipedream and reuse is seemingly unachievable. Evolve or die!
  • Re:Whinging (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ergo98 (9391) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:57PM (#7853411) Homepage Journal
    Places like India are getting more expensive because they are getting way better at doing the jobs well.

    They've been very good at what they're doing for several years now. Instead they're getting more expensive because they've gone from being a "secret" for a couple of companies to leverage the first-world education (for some) with third-world wages, to being a well known fact that every organization and their brother is racing to join the trend. Obviously there are a finite amount of highly trained, intelligent software engineers in India, so there is now competition for their services. Hence you have salary inflation. I've heard that the ascent of salaries has been absolutely dramatic. Capitalism at work.

    Much of the really low grade work now goes elsewhere.

    Some time ago there was an idiotic outer-worldly statement by one of the execs of one of the big outsourcers that if Indian developers got too expensive, they'd just switch to Vietnam, etc. This is so ridiculously imaginary that it boggles the mind. India, as you know, is a hot spot because of three things:

    -They have a fabulous education system for some
    -They are a reasonably stable, generally low corruption country
    -Because of being a British controlled area, they have a large number of English speakers

    Without all three of these factors, it's a no-go except in exceptional circumstances. It's for this reason that even in the high-education countries of Russia and China they are only a drop in the bucket compared to India. The idea of other areas like Vietnam is just absurd.
  • by musicmaster (237156) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @02:07PM (#7853471) Homepage
    A few weeks ago I checked the internet for the outsourcing sites. I was really amazed at the prices quoted (for example: an Outlook clone for a few hundred dollars). So I wondered how this works in real life and what experiences people have with those services.

    A few sites:

  • Re:Whinging (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alan Cox (27532) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @02:33PM (#7853661) Homepage
    The notion that India is somehow special is laughable. Similarly India is already outsourcing work to other cheaper countries. Not just companies picking cheaper alternatives to India for outsourcing (and for plenty of products language is not a barrier) but Indian companies themselves taking on entire IT projects internal to India or external to it and then outsourcing bits of the work.

    There are a lot of countries with good education systems, relatively little corruption and the infrastructure to support IT businesses. most even have well developed health care systems too - most of eastern europe for example fits the bill very nicely, as do countries like Brazil.

    India also has problems some of the other countries don't - very high loss of hours to industrial disputes, extremely inflexible labour laws in some situations and the ever simmering border disputes with Pakistan.

    The Indian governments own models are in part based on assumptions about call centres being a temporary not a long term phase of Indian business that will either move on or be automated out of existance by speech techology.

  • by vkg (158234) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @02:43PM (#7853731) Homepage
    Ok, I see what you're saying. And it all makes sense to me.

    The part of the premise I don't buy is that a global middle class is possible. Seriously.

    If we budget purely in money then, yes, it could potentially happen. But the problem is that that planet won't sustain that much more growth: the middle class is supported by enormous resource consumption, and cheap labor elsewhere.

    I don't know of any solution to this problem within our current resource constraints: if everybody is moderately well off, the planet it toast. If only the very rich have access to resources, the poor are toast...

    Phrased in those terms, it's impossible to see a way out. And I don't know where to go from there.

    India and China can't afford to raise environmental and social standards to western levels until after going through an economic transformation, and the only way the could fuel or spark such a move is trade with the west. If we won't trade with them until they are where we are, they'll never get there at all.

    But I don't know what to do about that. Right now, it's working in as much as it's building an infrastructure in the third world and while it's hurt Americans, it's not hurt them to the point of starvation. But is it a long term solution? I just don't know.

    I see your doubts clearly.
  • by the_duke_of_hazzard (603473) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @02:45PM (#7853758)
    "Most cultures are ferociously racists: the only exceptions are places where there are too few people of other races to even notice (some parts of England, say, are pretty chilll)"

    I don't understand this. The most racist parts of Britain are the places where there are very low and very high proportions of people from ethnic minorities.

    America is a comparitively racist and generally conservative culture, hence the need for institutionalised safeguards against racism and paranoia regarding it. It's not anywhere near as bad as Australia or Austria, and few places are as bad as India. An Indian friend of mine's father described Pakistanis as "sub-human". He's considered a bit left-wing by his friends.


  • It isn't just accent. It is huge, huge, huge cultural differences. Sometimes you would be able to understand their words more easily if it weren't so difficult to believe what they are saying.

    About two weeks ago I was helped by a Microsoft tech support person in New Delhi, or maybe Bangalore, I forget which. Some otherwise correctly running Windows XP computers had trashed themselves so that it was impossible to run the Recovery Console. The MS tech support guy had absolutely no clue about how to fix the problem, although he did have plenty of time-wasting ideas. This is not unusual, of course. The Psychic Friends Network [karmak.org] is sometimes equally as good as Microsoft technical support at understanding bugs in Microsoft software.

    What made this technical support call different is that the Indian Microsoft technical support guy was the most arrogant person with whom I've ever talked. He made Larry Ellison [forbes.com] look humble. He was cheerful enough, but entirely useless doing technical support because of believing that I am an inferior who should believe any lie he tells me.

    After a while, for me it stopped being a support call and began to be an interesting social interaction. In Hindu culture, if you don't belong to one of the castes, you are an untouchable, a person below any of the castes. Obviously, I don't belong to any of the castes, so you know where that left me. To him, I was of the social class that cleans up after bodies that have been burned on a funeral fire, or empties latrines, or eats dogs.

    Many, many Hindus are little influenced by the caste system, but this guy seems to embrace it completely. Whenever I would tell him that it was obvious that what he was saying was untrue, he would tell me another lie. No amount of mentioning that what he was saying was obviously incorrect stopped him. To him, anything that popped into his mind should be gold to someone like me. I would say, "You invented that; there's no reason to think that whatsoever", and he would just cheerfully continue with another invention.

    If you aren't familiar with the arrogance and disconnection of the Hindu caste system, here is a quote [forumhub.com]: "By his very birth a Brahmin is a deity even for the gods and the only authority for people in this world, for the Veda is the foundation in this matter." -- Manusmrti 11:85.

    For another example of Indian arrogance, see this story by an Indian : Hindian Arrogance on a Tourist Bus [geocities.com].

    We hear a little about the problems of outsourcing technical support, but things are a lot worse than most stories say.
  • Re:Silly Programmers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @02:56PM (#7853837)
    One of the problems I have had forming a union at a domestic outsourcing call center is that the people who have jobs now are way too worried about losing them.

    Which is ironic - the staffing models they use at these places totally gives workers the upper hand. I mean if we all walked out one afternoon they would seriously lose face with out clients.
  • by vkg (158234) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @03:06PM (#7853887) Homepage
    The middle class: "people who have something to lose," effectively, might survive.

    But what if they survive largely through shifting the basis of their wealth from unsustainable to sustainable resources?

    Things we can assume about the future: basic resources like food are likey to be more expensive. Oil is likey to be more expensive. Energy is likely to be more expensive.

    But other kinds of comoddities could get cheaper: computers, communication, entertainment etc. are all falling in relative cost of production, for example.

    So I can imagine a future - a working, reasonable, healthy future - where transport and production costs encourage bioregionalism in agriculture, but there's a vibrant global culture based on cheap communication. You still have a middle class, but they measure their wealth in terms of music and movies and books and travel rather than in terms of fifty different pairs of shoes and four cars.

    It could happen, perhaps.
  • by Colonel Panic (15235) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @03:52PM (#7854230)
    2) Risk. If my gunslingers ran into a problem, I wouldn't have been able to "throw bodies" at it. My budget wouldn't have allowed for that.

    Since when does throwing more bodies at a problem help? It's kind of like saying that you've got one month to make a baby so you go out and get 9 women pregnant in an attempt to meet the schedule.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @04:36PM (#7854482) Homepage Journal
    Here's the funny thing about the accent issue: call centers have been outsourcing to India for years. Aside from saving money, 24-7 operations find it useful to have a call center where the time's half a day ahead of the U.S.

    So why don't you hear a lot of people complaining that their airline or credit card company customer reps can't talk good American? Because there are plenty of well-educated Indians who speak fluent western English. All they need is a little practice on their idioms and pronunciation, and you can't tell them from a native of Duluth. Not over the phone anyway.

    So it's perfectly possible to run an operation out of Bangalore or Dehli without communication problems. And yet you hear all these horror stories. I have a few myself: I subscribe to techwr-l, and we often get lame questions from Indian writers, usually basic grammatical stuff even a American 4th grader or a Slashdot editor would know.

    My inference is that the companies driving the offshoring trend aren't satisified with the pay differential between San Jose and Bangalore. So they don't hire people with degrees from India's universities or engineering schools. (Which produce a lot of good people -- I've worked with some of them.) They hire folks whose educational achievements culminated in one of those "learn programming in 2 weeks" schools. Their English is hard to follow, not because of their accents, but because its one of the highly-localized English dialects that Indians use amongst themselves.

    Here's another horror story. If you're a tech writer in the San Francisco Bay area, you've noticed a lot of headhunters trying to fill a very strange job in San Ramon. What's in San Ramon? A bunch of engineering outfits that decided that rents in Silicon Valley were too high -- never mind a limited local talent pool, if people want to keep their jobs, they'll commute or move. One of these outfits is the development arm of what used to be Pacific Bell, now a nameless subsidiary of SBC.

    You need massive databases to run an RBOC, and this one has fallen way behind on database development. People complain of billing errors and outdated listings. There's a hair salon in San Rafael that can't get SBC to put its Yellow Pages listing in the proper category -- for two years running it's been listed under "Massage". Which sounds funny, until you consider the kind of lowlifes who respond to a massage ad for "Curl Up With Kelly".

    So these guys in San Ramon are scrambling to update the software. They need a tech writer who can document their work. Said writer needs to be able to read source code in half a dozen languages, including the venerable Revelation Basic [4reference.net]. Oh yes, and the writer has to work for $25/hour.

    Well, I have the skills and I need the work. But that's hardly a reasonable wage, especially considering the two-hour commute. (It's a short term contract, so relocation is not practical.) I'd be better off working at the Starbucks down the street.

    When I pointed out the absurdity of offering entry-level pay for a job requiring advanced skills, I was told that all the costs were measured against the alternative of moving the whole operation to India. Which is total nonsense. I'm sure there are plenty of Indian operations that could engineer a fancy database from scratch, and do a good job very cheaply. But SBC doesn't even want to spend that much money. They want to continue hacking 20-year-old code running on legacy platforms. Do they think that India is swarming with experts on the PICK database system?

    The whole offshoring thing is just the latest development in a nasty long-term trend. Even before the dotcom bubble burst, Wall Street was dominated more and more by numbers dweebs, people who have no understanding of the industries and businesses they're investing in, and have an idiotic obssession with the bottom line. They hate costs more than anything. Even if you're turning a

  • by GCP (122438) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @05:35PM (#7854863)
    I don't deny the caste consciousness still strongly present in many Indians, but I don't think it's relevant here. We Westerners are exempt from the system. I've worked in India and with Indians in the West, and among the many perplexing cultural differences I've run into, the inclusion of *me* in their caste system was never one of them.

    I think that what you encountered was just an individual personality. I've had these experiences with Indians, too (especially bureaucrats who wanted to prove their importance), but I've had similar experiences with people everywhere. I've managed a tech support group in the US and some of my own people acted this way (until I either stopped it or got rid of them.) It wasn't correlated to their skill level either, just to the degree to which they seemed to feel the need to prove to others that they were smarter (which seems to afflict geniuses and idiots in roughly equal proportions.)

  • by michael_cain (66650) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @05:36PM (#7854872) Journal

    In part, the offshoring (and all outsourcing) trend is driven by the fact that it is difficult in the US, and other developed countries, to decrease nominal wages. A firm may have to cut the price of its goods by 10% in order to compete. But if the firm's workers have not become more productive, so that the value of their labor has decreased by 10%, it is quite difficult IN PRACTICE to cut their wages. In general, the only way to do so is to lay off the existing workers and hire new ones at a lower wage rate. Doing this effectively, at least in the US, tends to put the firm in violation of age discrimination laws, as the highest-paid workers are generally the oldest ones. Outsourcing an entire department avoids that particular problem. And as long as you're outsourcing, you might as well look for the cheapest alternate source that you think can do the job.

    Several of the comments above have been from consultants who say that the rate that they can successfully charge for their services has decreased sharply. What the firm pays a consultant is determined for each project; changes in the supply of and demand for consultants comes into play each time, as does the firm's view of the value of the project. The same is not usually true for an employee. Last year we had a hot project in a new, highly profitable area; this year we're doing maintenance on older, less profitable products; but the firm will have difficulty changing the wage rate every time they move someone to a different project.

    One area where this plays out in a particularly frustrating fashion is with teachers. My kids' high-school teachers are no more productive than my own teachers were 30 years ago. The classes are just about the same size and the material they teach is roughly the same. Pundits point at standardized test scores and assert that the quality of the product has declined in the last 30 years. That's true in another sense as well -- I am almost sure that the average real wages earned by people whose education stops at high school (real wages being a measure of the value of their contribution to the economy) have decreased over that period. Simple economics would suggest that real wages for teachers should have declined (which may, or may not, have occurred). Given that the value of many of the benefits that teachers receive as employees (health care, pensions) have increased sharply over time, the real salary rate should have gone down a LOT.

  • Re:We let them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by willtsmith (466546) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @06:23PM (#7855129) Journal
    Those fund and investment pools carry enough votes to run the company, but they don't.


    THEY CAN'T. Because investor groups AREN'T allowed to nominate board members. THE CEO nominates the board members. The shareholders can vote them up or down.

    The foxes are indeed guarding the henhouse.

  • Re:I am not afraid. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by archilocus (715776) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @08:00PM (#7855855) Homepage

    Management bandwidth seems to be the number one problem with international engineering and development efforts.

    I've been invovled with a couple over the years and very few have come off satisfactorily. In the main this was not because the grunt level developers couldn't communicate or weren't technically able enough it was more about a lack of control from management.

    Either they couldn't specify the business objectives clearly enough or they simply didn't have a grasp on what was actually being done.

    Managing a software project is difficult as it is. Managing one over time zones and across international boundaries just adds to the level of complexity. If you don't have the people to control it you're going to be up the creek without a paddle...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2004 @08:52PM (#7856143)
    I am a white american who has lived in Japan for quite some time. This is an everyday occurence here for Japanese-speaking foreigners. Japan is the most racist nation I can imagine.

    Let me try to put it in perspective... American persons living in Japan, you account for less than .3% of the population. The total number of non-japanese people hovers around 1 million, and thats out of a population of ~130 million. More than half of that million are korean or chinese people who have lived in Japan all their lives. You dont know what its like to be a minority until you have lived here.

    In Japan there are no anti-discrimination laws. Apartment rental agencies all have an option on their listing form to specify whether youll rent to Japanese Only, or to exclude certain races from being able to rent. Over 90% of the forms opt to sell Japanese only. If you want to buy a home phone line but you cant write your name in kanji, TOUGH, you have to have a name that can be written in kanji so you can get your official stamp signature so you can purchase it. Sucks for westerners :P

    Anyway, I just wanted to give some credibility to this guys anecdote. Its not them being polite, its just a passive racism that stems from living in ignorance of other nations.

    Oh, its also interesting to note that the vast majority of japanese people associate black people with crime, and they call hip-hop music, BLACK MUSIC. Need I go on? :/

    You can say a lot of bad things about America, but its definitely about as racism free as we have in the world today.

    -Ken
  • Cost efficiency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ya8282 (731399) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @10:37PM (#7856706)
    I work at an overseas CMM Level 5 IT company in Korea that started offshoring recently and have been working with a team of guys that we brought from India. Though I just started with the company as a software developer, I almost immediately became a member of their team and a full-time interpreter -- though I was much closer to being a manager as many people at the company prefer not to deal with them.

    I can't say much positive about their attitudes and work either, though I don't want to stereotype all ethnic Indians. Whenever I visit their cubicles, they are browsing the web or chatting with their buddies rather than completing their assigned work. I wasn't receiving any respect from certain members of the team, mainly because I had fewer years of experience in software development. However, it certainly did not appear that they had the four years of experience in Java cited on their resumes. I was reviewing their code and fixing major logic errors in code and the grammar mistakes and typos made in the comments. This was work they could have easily done themselves in the very lax 3 week deadline they had to fix their 3-5 test cases. Instead, I spent two weeks fixing their code and writing the documentation that they had "written". I asked one guy to fix a mistake in two of his test cases, pointing out the error and explaining how he could fix it, and he got really angry at me and sent me e-mails about me being the newbie. Since I was not the manager he refused to change his code.

    My co-worker has been also working in India for a few months and he does not appreciate the attitudes of certain programmers either. Some of them decided to change some of the code our company had written causing several bugs to appear in the build. None of the developers would take blame for it, though it was probably obvious who had changed it from the PVCS logs.

    These experiences have led me to decide to transfer departments and work with people that have experience that actually counts, even if they are not involved in software development (which I hoped to pursue by finding an overseas job and obtaining experience with the company).

    There are two questions companies should consider when making the decision to offshore (outsource) to India which directly relate to cost efficiency:

    1) Do we fully understand their culture and will conflicts in culture present a problem? In other words, how much additional money and resources will be spent on interpreting and managing their work, making sure that they maintain a certain level of quality?

    2) Are we just outsourcing to become trend-followers, blindly following the reocmmendations of McKinsey, Gartner, and Accenture to find cheap labor in India and China? Do we know exactly how much domestic labor will cost in current times (older BW article [businessweek.com])?

    It's my opinion on getting them to be efficient workers is that you need an Indian motivator/manager who understands their culture very well, is older than them and has a more impressive resume. Then, have someone from your company who is very knowledgeable about business processes and the related field, in this case software development, communicate the requirements to the Indian manager.

    My manager has been assessing the quality of their work to present to our CTO whose initiative was to increase our offshoring in India. Does anyone have a good way to measure the the value of a software developer which includes factors such as cultural differences and communication problems?
  • by Tjp($)pjT (266360) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @11:03PM (#7856830)
    It's much more likely that your support representative was arrogant because these jobs go to the top-notch -- people who are used to being at the top of their classes all the time.

    They are really in trouble if the nations top-notch talent is doing tech support. This does not bode well for the staff doing their high-risk programming (guided missiles, space operations, etc.)

    So most likely they are among the better educated and think they are better than they actually are, much like some number of support specialists I've run into in the US, from Sprint PCS Vision specialists (over 100 hours logged to solve one problem, solved by one smart tech on the last call in under 10 minutes by resetting the password on my PCS mail account machine access, which was somehow out of step with my normal web access, wonders of seperate databases) to the good folks at Microsoft tech support where the few I knew worked at one of the MS contractors for support and while knowledgeable had holes in that knowledge that were vast.

    The short of it is I think the support job gathers that style of personality for some fraction of its staff. Folks who think they should be working at5 a more advanced position, but lack the skills.
  • by Mad Marlin (96929) <cgore@cgore.com> on Friday January 02, 2004 @01:43AM (#7857919) Homepage
    It depends upon how you define "cost". There is a very high cost for the 1st unit of a drug - which covers all the research and infrastructure requirements. After that, the incremental cost of producing more units is usually pretty low.

    You have to amortize the cost of development over the whole run. The production costs for most medicine, or technology for that matter, are generally only a small percentage of the cost. Computer software is on the extreme end of this example, with practically no unit production cost at all, but huge development cost.

    If Americans are allowed to import their drugs freely from countries like Canada, then something like this will happen. Don't get me wrong though, I support the plans to re-import drugs. Why should we pay for Canadians' drugs? Let's break it now.

  • Thailand (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@nOspam.gmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2004 @03:46AM (#7858443) Homepage Journal
    I speak Thai pretty well. Sometimes people on the phone won't realize that I am a foreigner. When I go to order food from a vendor on the street, though, as often as not he will not listen to me and look at my Thai partner for a translation. If I am alone I often get something not at all related to what I ordered. People pre-judge others. It's just a fact.
  • Re:Accents (Score:2, Interesting)

    by devnullify (561782) <ktims@gotroPLANCKot.ca minus physicist> on Friday January 02, 2004 @05:24AM (#7858670) Homepage
    And, believe it or not, they piss off the on-shore techs while they're at it. They'd lie to customers about 'talking to a supervisor' or whatnot, and transfer them to our call-centre...which is (obviously) strictly forbidden by HP policy, and strictly enforced at the call centres here in North America. Not to mention not documenting calls properly, phoning about previous calls and trying to dump callers on us...it never stopped. I'm sure we were just as vocal as the customers were, and everyone on up the chain of command knew it.

    Thank god I got out of that job, and not because of the off-shore people. It was just awful...

  • There are Indians who do treat foreigners as untouchables. I experienced the Brahmin arrogance while in India, and it was easy to recognize again in the technical support person.

    The major point of my comment is that those who employ Indians are experiencing a much larger problem with cultural differences than they generally realize. Microsoft seems to have no mechanism for recognizing these kinds of problems, so no one in authority will learn of them, and they will continue.

    For more elaboration about this problem, see this comment from an Indian: #7856623 [slashdot.org].

    The underlying problem is that the documentation of Windows XP is VERY poor. If it had been better, I would not have needed to talk to a technical support person. The technical support people learn from the documentation; in this case various pieces of information in the documentation were subtly misleading, in error, and absent.

    Software companies generally use customer problems as a profit center. There is an element in the companies that view customer problems as good for the company.

If bankers can count, how come they have eight windows and only four tellers?

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