If one topic has become a hot potato in both the political and employment realms, it is offshore outsourcing. Many companies that have shipped work to countries like India and Russia have claimed the cost savings and the quality of the output have increased efficiency, productivity and ROI.
Meanwhile, technology professionals have been crying foul, noting that the recent economic uptick does not include an increase in jobs. Some are pondering whether a high-tech union should be formed to stop the massive exodus of jobs across the Pacific Ocean. Some companies, too, have expressed hesitation about outsourcing, anxious about security concerns and frequent turmoil in regions where technology workers are selling their services.
Although economists have said offshoring represents only a tiny portion of U.S. employment, politicians have become increasingly focused on the topicanyway. Because jobs and the economy are turning out to be the number one issue in the upcoming presidential election, voters’ and candidates’ positions on offshore outsourcing could partly determine who sits in the White House for the next four years.
No matter which side a company takes, it seems this type of outsourcing is destined to increase, leading to a need for middleman companies that facilitate the process. One such firm, global staffing company Accountants In India (AII), hosted a teleconference Tuesday to discuss major outsourcing issues like security, ethics and workflow.
Issues, We Got Issues
Although the tone of the AII teleconference was to assure participants that work sent to India is safe and beneficial, there was still talk about the many issues that crop up when offshore outsourcing is introduced at a company.
KC Truby, the firm’s CEO, noted that AII was founded in February because he and cofounder Wayne Harding thought American CPA firms were not giving outsourcing a chance.
Some of the issues related to the tactic, such as costs, security, reliability and competency, were stopping some firms from employing an outsourcing strategy even when it seemed to make sense.
Since trying to build its client list, AII has heard other comments from some CPA firms that choose not to outsource. These include fears about political turmoil, workflow concerns, concerns about cultural clashes and suspicion about hidden costs.
Small World After All
Cultural differences have been brought up in the offshore-outsourcing discussion in the past, but Harding offered a new spin on what previously has been thought of as a problem.
“In the U.S., we have adopted the idea of entitlement,” he said. “We think we’re entitled to jobs. In India, it’s very different. They have a lot of respect and admiration for people who provide jobs for them.”
This attitude of deep gratitude toward an employer, coupled with the emphasis India has placed on teaching English to its residents, results in dedicated, competent employees, according to Harding.
The largest issue by far that companies bring up when voicing objections to offshore outsourcing is security. Transmitting sensitive company data to a foreign country is enough to make any CIO hesitate, at least for a moment.
However, Harding noted that because Indian companies are so keen on winning U.S. contracts, they have implemented many security measures that would seem quite severe if used in the United States.
For example, many employees are not allowed to have paper and pens or pencils at their desk. They work at terminals that are unable to download information or new software. Some infractions are treated as criminal offenses.
Harding emphasized that Indian employees are functionally the same as U.S. employees for a company, because they sign on to the same server and do all their work in that virtual space. No company data is transmitted or downloaded, minimizing the risk of a security breach.
“The security you have in place for your own firm is the same as for a staff member overseas,” he said. “They are under your rules and regulations.”
Winds of Change
During the teleconference, AII also brought in Nimi McConigley, vice president of global operations at the company. She became the first India-born person to serve in any U.S. legislative body when she became a member of the Wyoming State Legislature.
McConigley dispelled any idea that India’s workers are being exploited simply because they work for approximately US$8 per hour doing high-tech, skilled work. She noted that when she was in India in the 1960s, poverty was rampant and the government had adopted a policy of isolationism that barred foreign investment.
With so much work coming in from the United States, the overall change in India has been striking, according to McConigley. On a recent visit, she noticed a palpable air of high morale. “Economic stability is in reach,” she said. “100 million Indians have been lifted out of poverty.”
Because outsourcing is creating a large Indian middle class, McConigley noted that it could have a beneficial affect for a wide range of U.S.-based companies in the future.
“The increasing prosperity is creating what could be the best market for American goods,” she said. “You just have to look around the streets of Bangalore to see that it’s beginning to look like San Jose in the boom time of the 1990s.”