Offshoring by any other name

commentary Offshoring has hurtled back into the news recently amid moves in the corporate world to deaden its emotional impact through the use of business-speak.John McCarthy, an analyst with Forrester Research, said this week the term was being replaced by words such as "global sourcing" and "co-sourcing".

commentary Offshoring has hurtled back into the news recently amid moves in the corporate world to deaden its emotional impact through the use of business-speak.

John McCarthy, an analyst with Forrester Research, said this week the term was being replaced by words such as "global sourcing" and "co-sourcing".

"It´s all part of everyone going into the offshore witness protection program," McCarthy told CNET News.com. "They´re changing the title, but the activity is the same."

Some in the industry are unsatisfied with the merely neutral feelings generated by the terms mentioned by McCarthy. ZDNet Australia  has heard vague rumours some of our more enthusiastic proponents of business-speak are deploying the truly magnificent term "right-shoring".

However, questions still remain as to whether offshoring is being undertaken for appropriate business reasons or merely to "buy some time" for executives who are charged with making changes to an organisation.

Valda Berzins, a former chief information officer for Australia Post who now holds the equivalent position with the Victorian police, is in no doubt. While she argues some functions can be successfully offshored -- particularly those involving standardised processes such as help desks and data centres (although communication costs have to be taken into account) -- the savings from offshoring others may not be as high as expected and indeed may not even be there at all.

She told a forum that offshoring introduces new costs, especially in software development, while end-to-end testing of systems that are integrated with others both inside and outside the organisation cannot be realistically carried out at a distance. Training, support, enhancements and project management concerns must also be addressed in the context of an offshoring project.

"The politics say that offshoring is probably the way to go...it sounds like the right thing to do for the [CIO´s] career," Berzins said.

If Berzins is right, it is a real shame. While companies obviously have the right and indeed an obligation to assess the benefits of offshoring elements of their operation, employees deserve much better than to see their jobs disappear overseas because management just wants to be seen to be doing something fashionable.

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