Would you outsource yourself?

Leading UK IT chiefs were asked if their own job duties could be performed by a third party.

Outsourcing is set to become a fact of life for many IT staff and one issue often raised by many techies, IT professionals and IT managers is that the top IT exec--whether it is the CIO, CTO or IT director--never gets outsourced.

So we asked silicon.com's CIO Jury line-up of leading UK IT chiefs the ultimate question--would you outsource your own job? The result makes for interesting reading with seven saying 'no' they wouldn't but five admitting that they would.

Stepping up to the plate first was Bill Gibbons, CIO at Abbey, who said he would outsource his job if the remit of the project included the transfer of functions being performed by the senior executive.

"The key thing is to clearly separate the outsourced functions, the successful transition and ongoing management from a different role that is then required--that of managing this new outsourced relationship. The question is whether the executive(s) currently responsible are best placed in managing the operation or managing the outsource," he said.

Mark Foulsham, head of IT at eSure, likened the scenario to the "captain going down with the ship" but said he knows of several cases in recent years where IT executives have included themselves in the transfer.

"Selective outsourcing is appropriate for most IT functions as there are always areas which can be run better, cheaper and faster by others. But if an IT head is committed to the objectives of outsourcing then whether this is in totality or part he must consider his position as part of the change," he said.

Others said the CIO should be professional enough to do whatever is in the best interests of the company--even if this includes transferring his or her own role.

No to strategic outsourcing
But those on the 'no' side warned against outsourcing strategic responsibility. Graham Benson, information services director and CIO at Screwfix Direct, said: "In my opinion outsourcing only works for activities that are commoditized, and not intellectual property assets of an organization such as a business analyst. If the CIO is not a valued intellectual asset of the company then they should be replaced, not outsourced."

Simon Norbury, head of ICT at Westminster City Council, agreed, saying "outsource delivery, not strategic thinking" while Angus Waugh, head of IT at the National Audit Office, said IT strategy can end up "out of the control of the organization and in the hands of the outsource company".

Kevin Lloyd, CTO at Barclays, pointed to the regulatory issues for financial services firms of outsourcing that senior IT role. "In our case the Financial Services Authority expectation is that this role would remain internal to the company, in our governance structure."

Two of the CIO Jury said 'no' in line with their strategic policy on IT outsourcing. Colin Cobain, IT director at Tesco, said: "I don't believe in the wholesale outsourcing of IT departments anyway. It simply doesn't work long term." Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at ITN, said he wouldn't outsource his own job but that "I very much doubt I would outsource my team either."