Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Offshore Developers:: threat to national security?

Brand Killer Robots reveal::
About ten years ago i met with a group of IT directors at a conference in London. The conference concentrated on business process outsourcing and the opportunities afforded by the booming global offshoring sector. My interest was in "software development", as i had realised back then that offshoring would offer me a low cost way of getting code produced, at the same time as giving me control over the quality of product, using the excellent communications methods afforded via the web. So i decided that the model should be marketing, project management and quality assurance in the UK and (as it happens), code building in Pune, India.

Anyway, i listened to speaker after speaker telling me and selling me the concept that sounded so neat. It seemed that i could get code developed, tested and accessible via the net within a third of the time and at 20% of the cost of here in the UK. It seemed that all i had to do was dip my toe in the water and give offshoring a try - see how it worked. It seemed like it was an absolute no-brainer and the route to an extremely profitable software enterprise.

But then i thought (as i often do) - what's the catch?

Here are some of the concerns i came up with.
1. Am i financing slave labour? Or worse still - child labour? How good would that look to my clients?
2. Is it more likely my code will be pirated, potentially damaging my revenue streams and bringing my brand into disrepute?
3. What happens if there is a dispute with the offshore company and my code somehow gets into the hands of my competitors?
4. What happens if i pay for code to be developed, which then gets reused for one of my competitors - who ends up paying a lot less - for code that i paid for?
5. We are used to having programmers at our finger tips - will my Project Managers really be able to manage what is effectively (an invisible development team)?
6. And most importantly of all: Am i helping to subvert national security by engaging with foreign spies. (How could i ensure my code will only do what is in the specification - and nothing more than that?)

None of this prevented me from doing business with offshore companies, but it did make me think about considering more than just the obvious benefits.

For help with offshoring strategies: email Stephen at

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