Don't make outsourcing
March 26, 2004
Discuss High Tech
The most dreaded word to high-tech
workers today is outsourcing. Newspapers, magazines and television
programs are filled with stories about high-tech jobs moving overseas,
to India and other countries, while high-tech workers in the States remain
unemployed. While the effects of outsourcing, both good and bad, are being
debated every day, the very nature of your work, and the relative anonymity
of high-tech workers, can make it easier to outsource your job. If you
want to protect yourself from outsourcing, you need to make sure that
management knows who you are, exactly what you do for the company –
and how well you do it.
Even though computers have been in the workplace for more than 2 decades,
it is a simple fact that management often has no idea exactly what high-tech
workers do for their company and how they contribute to the bottom line.
Worse still, in an effort to keep their jobs, high-tech workers often
try to stay “beneath the radar” of management, figuring it
is safer to “keep their head down” instead of risking getting
them cut off.
This type of attitude has led them directly into the path of disaster,
though. It is much easier to lay off, fire, or outsource a position if
you have no understanding of what that person does or how it relates to
the bottom line. As a vice-president, there is less stress involved in
outsourcing “the IT department” than “Douglas, that
great programmer who designed our latest product – or even John,
that guy who saved my virus-ridden project file just on time for the presentation.”
The desire of high-tech workers to stay outside the fray of corporate
politics has contributed directly to the outsourcing trend. Sure, money
concerns can drive outsourcing, but anonymity makes it easier to carry
In their face
Although no job is totally secure, if you want to protect your job from
capricious outsourcing you have to stand up and promote yourself and your
department. You have to make sure that management knows exactly what you
are contributing and how. Even more, you have to do this in the face of
disinterested, if not hostile, managers who may be actively trying to
ignore these benefits in order to justify their own outsourcing decisions.
First, every departmental success story needs to be touted to everyone
who will listen. If you have an internal IS department newsletter (and
why don’t you?) make sure a copy ends up in the inbox of important
executives. Make it easy for them to better understand your work in a
Make a business case for every project, every program, every network.
You may know the benefit of these systems to the company, but if you can’t
communicate it to management it is going to hurt you in the long run.
If you want management to understand exactly what goes into developing
a new order entry system, post the project timeline, with all associated
tasks, on a long wall outside your department. Make it easy for management
to see the complexity of the project and how you are progressing through
it. Take every opportunity to walk management past your “billboard”.
Take every opportunity to explain how important this or that piece is
to the whole and what the finished project will mean to the company.
If you are working in a customer service/support environment, start distributing
transcripts from particularly difficult or special support calls to everyone.
This is your chance to show exactly how you and your people directly affect
the bottom line.
Make sure you include names on every piece of material you send up the
line. Management needs to begin putting names to all those anonymous faces
sitting out there in the bullpen answering the phone, writing the code,
managing the network, etc.
Anonymity in high-tech work has never served anyone, but today it can
easily be a career-ending mistake. If you want to do something to postpone,
deflect or dissuade your company from outsourcing, you have to stand up
and promote the work you do. It may not be easy to justify your work every
single day, but if you don’t do it, you may not have any work to
justify at all. Don’t sit still and let the outsourcing steamroller
damage your high-tech career. Through simple promotion and communication,
you might not prevent outsourcing, but you certainly don’t want
to ignore it and make it even easier for management to send your job elsewhere.
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