Thursday, January 31, 2008

Outsourcing It---fast Return on your Investment

Source :
Information technology (IT) systems meet high standards of processing integrity, while offering round-the-clock availability, security, and good performance. In today’s cut-throat competitive environment, business organizations face the enervating challenges and pressure of delivering IT functionality in a real time crunch. In such a time-bound scenario, organizations find outsourcing of their information system activities as a tempting option.

IT outsourcing occurs when a business organization contacts another organization to get an IT function performed rather than performing itself. IT outsourcing has grown in popularity as an efficient, cost-effective and expert solution designed to beat the challenges of systems implementation, maintenance, security and operations. Nowadays, organizations intend to opt for offshore IT outsourcing so as to curtail costs and related taxes and maximize gains backed by quality services.

There is a list of some tips for successful outsourcing:

? Defining the objectives
? Outsourcing for the right reasons
? Answering some key questions concerned with core competencies, cross-functional impact etc
? Using a methodical approach involving planning phase, analysis phase, design phase, implementation phase, operations phase and termination phase
? Considering all stakeholders
? Getting the right people involved
? Understanding the vendors
? Choosing the right relationship
? Negotiating a sound contract
? Using performance incentives and penalties
? Establishing a relationship management structure and processes as part of the contract
? Using objective performance criteria
? Emphasizing on the development of the people involved in relationship management
? Managing the issues related to people

Outsourcing IT is a big bonus to booming business organizations. This cost-effective technique renders a list of benefits that can be classified into three broad categories enumerated as below:

? Operational Benefits

? Performance reports and measurements are made available to buyer organization by the supplier firm.
? Round-the-clock support at a fraction of the cost is made available to the clients.
? Service level agreements (SLAs) are established by the supplier firm.
? Service quality is greatly enhanced.
? Gaps due to attrition or economic downturns are avoided and overall staffing levels are adapted as per the client’s requirements.
? IT professionals are fully trained on the latest technologies.
? Scalable solutions rendered by supplier firm support mergers and acquisitions.
? Start-up time on entering the new market is tremendously minimized by outsourcing solutions.
? Service provider companies also take the management of non-essential core functions.

? Technological Benefits

? Service provider companies keep a track of latest and advanced technologies thereby gaining access to IT expertise, which in turn renders scalable and robust IT solutions to the clients.
? Service provider companies use established standards of equipment and software requirements, thereby saving a considerable proportion of time and money.
? Service provider companies also make use of approved lists of reliable vendors, thereby promising excellent quality of goods and services.

? Financial Benefits

? Billable hours are accounted for and hence IT cost is made visible by the service provider firm.
? Utilization of the extensive knowledge base of IT professionals of the service provider firm results in remarkable cost reduction.
? Outsourcing solutions significantly limit the required capital investment thereby channelizing the available financial resources for more purposeful and strategic activities.

To conclude, it would be apt to say that in today’s business environment outsourcing IT is quite an attractive option and forms an integral part of an organization’s overall business strategy. The rationale behind pursuing this remarkable technology involves its multiple benefits. A well-chalked out strategy, due heed in service provider selection, conscientiously drafted contract and good monitoring of the outsourcing IT services delivered will assist the organization in reaping the profits it expects.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Custom Software Development Offers you Comprehensive Software Solutions!

A customized approach in developing and executing a software development project yield satisfactory results and with custom software development companies offering tailored solutions to software development projects, the clientele worldwide is now favoring only those companies that promise customized execution of their projects.

By approaching an offshore outsourcing software development company offering effective custom software development services, customers avail a whole range of benefits. Some of these advantages are:

* Customized applications are meant to suit specific requirements of the customer and as such they are far better than general software applications.

* Unlikely to the customized software products, some of the software tools developed via an uncustomized procedure are embedded with additional features not required by for the client. In such a case, the money and efforts utilized in developing those software products are wasted and altogether the software products thus developed fail to yield satisfactory results for the client, he starts hesitating to approach the same software development company for another software requirement.

* There are software development companies that provide cost-effective web application development and custom software development services. The services provided by these companies can be availed of by visiting the company's website and contacting them via the contact procedure mentioned in the site. However, while searching for a custom software development company online, sometimes customers stumble upon several IT companies that offer excellent services to the client at cheap prices.

It is definitely better to get hold of a customized software solution for example an ecommerce solution at cheap prices from a renowned company than opting for software development companies that don't take specific care of client requirements and lack behind in tailoring their business processes to meet the requirements of the client.

So next time when you have a software requirement, always look forward to a software company that has proven expertise in the field of custom software development!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Software Development Process

In these techno-savvy days’ the need of software is versatile. In each and every sphere of human life software play a great role. In fact, it originates from the users’ needs and requirements. Starting from understanding the basic requirements to the coding and final testing the process continues. The first and foremost thing is analysis and understanding the particular purpose of desired software to make it effective. Maximum of the end users who use such software might not be aware of the process and steps involved in. Software Development. These are the days of outsourcing and end users for whom software is made might not be aware of its development process. Having a basic knowledge of how software is made may prove to be beneficial for the business organizations that implement and use such software.

Software Developmentprocess or lifecycle is a systematic process consisting of various stages during which software is developed. Understanding the requirement of the desired software is the first and basic thing of a software development. Software engineers first chops up the need into modules to make effective software.

Second is the specification analysis stage. Specifications are most important in terms of user’s need and requirement. This is a diagnostic stage where needs are defined that requires to be solved. After studying users’ system developers’ note down the various points to be focused during software development. Next is the Architectural analysis or conceptual representation of the software system. In this phase, the software's overall structure is defined along with its various nuances. A software development model is prepared and it is now ready for coding. Coding is the stage where design is reduced to code through various computer programming languages. Languages are used as per the requirement of the particular applications.

Next to coding is the testing stage. During the process debugging is done which are committed at previous steps. Testing is done to ensure that coding done is perfect and work together in harmony with other process.

To know more about the software development process of our company, visit our company website. We specialize on software development and application development website designing and development. We also outsource various software needs of various business organizations.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Offshore Software Outsourcing

Offshore software application development outsourcing has led to vegetative industry growth around the globe. Software needs to undergo a step-by-step process before it is available for general use to leverage best industry practices at minimum cost, meeting international standards and industry norms. Nowadays, everyone of us, an individual or an enterprise wants to be at the top, but just gaining the top positioning won’t do; retaining and maintaining that position is of utmost consideration. Outsourcing software applications to offshore companies has strong impulse to monetize spending of business players.

Software outsourcing gathered strength with increasing number of sources available in present IT-edge, requirements delivery in possible least time, less skilled personnel available, discrete communication and inefficient management of various modules within a large enterprise. These corporate players started looking and relying on third party for better management at lesser cost and remain competitive in the global marketplace. These are the few factors that led big companies to outsource their software application development to offshore companies where they find time zone difference from eastern countries most attractive, cheaper human capital, rich resources, and skilled professional and low processes cost. Market analysis shows gradual penetration of investors in Indian market and other developing countries. We find increased productive, managed easy solutions where full control remains in the hand of outsourcing companies.

40% of the Fortune 500 companies including GE, Lucent, Oracle, Microsoft, Motorola are leveraging the outsourcing model. The list is growing depending upon the onsite and the outsource resources available. Offshore Software Outsourcing is the most leading area of outsourcing. Cost saving by adopting this model can vary from 40% to 70%.

Manipulating overall strategy (considering failure and success) we find overall the offshore outsourcing campaign is a success. Objective is to maximize the ROI, remain competitive and reduce upbringing cost.

Remember offshoring software outsourcing is not always the solution, so before moving to it, the best approach is to find the niche requirement and then find solution to the root problem. Proper synchronization between onshore and offshore team members, improved processes, and better time management and growth opportunities for both developed and developing countries are among few benefits that offshore software outsourcing companies are enjoying.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to get what you need from your business software

Source :
Improving pro/ductivity is a constant challenge for businesses of all sizes. With the growing demand for advanced integration and security capabilities to go along with everyday application use, small businesses are especially reliant on having efficient and comprehensive desktop tools to help them stay ahead of the game.

Jason Brommet, senior product manager for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Canada, notes, "Our studies have shown that SMBs have to deal with a lot of the same pains as larger organizations. That is, resource constraints - both human and financial. They need tools that can help them enhance the productivity of their workers and make the most out of their technology investments."

According to an SMB survey by Microsoft, more than 60% of respondents saw technology as an enabler to increasing profits and growing their customer base. A similar percentage said they relied on technology to track vital information, such as contact and sales data.

One area to a business can gain considerably more efficiencies is in business applications. Most users overlook many of the features in their business software. However, those unused features may be the key to increasing the productivity and efficiency of your business. Upgrading your business software, along with the proper training, can deliver considerable time and cost savings.??
Some areas where maximizing business software can deliver results include:

* Improving collaboration - Emails, calendars and scheduling are all vital tools for today's worker. With advanced integration capabilities, it's faster and easier for users to schedule/change appointments, access contact information, review/transfer documents securely, and communicate with their peers and customers. Combine those capabilities with mobile access and the productivity gains grow exponentially.

* Reducing time spent on searches - The better the search capabilities of your operating system and software the greater the time savings for your staff in the office and on the road. For search-intensive applications especially, such as extensive graphics archives, inventory or contact information, native search capabilities can deliver noticeable results right out of the gate.

* Minimizing outsourcing requirements - When it comes to presentations and marketing materials, many SMBs often find themselves outsourcing a good portion of the creative functions. Features such as graphics libraries, customizable templates and drag and drop capabilities can help users produce their own professional looking presentations and materials, while ensuring a consistent look and feel to all materials.

When Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 was launched last November of last year, Brommet says it offered a several features that have been specifically designed to address the demands of the SMB market. "A number of key enhancements have been added to help people use the tools at hand. It offers a very pragmatic approach to allow users to focus on key tasks and work much more quickly and easily."

Business Contact Manager in Outlook for example, lets users integrate a number of functions - such as scheduling, calendaring and tasks - for easier management. They can bring all their contact and customer information into one place to manage sales leads, opportunities and interaction points.

Native search and online help capabilities deliver faster results, saving time and resources; while features such as Live Preview allow users to view changes prior to including them in documents. Added creative libraries and formatting components also help users create and publish a wide range of professional looking marketing publications for print, e-mail and the Web that include their own brand elements, including logo, colors, fonts and business information.

Businesses finding new-found efficiency

For Gemma Moore, owner of Kincardine, Ontario-based MG Moore Designs, moving to the Microsoft Office 2007 system is playing an important part in helping her growing company meet project deadlines and manage its client base - without putting a burden its in-house resources.

"For a small business in this industry, a desktop solution that is easy to use, enables fast access to the right information and helps manage customer contact information is a must," says Moore. . With a high number of graphics files and other data residing on its system, the company also needed a tool that would help it reduce the amount of time spent searching for information.

With Business Contact Manager, she says the company is able to organize and manage all of its customer contacts, prospects and lead information in one place. It can also create, personalize and track direct marketing campaigns and centralize project-related information. "The biggest advantage is the simplification of everyday IT tasks and the ability to accomplish more with the resources we have."

Recycling and composer container manufacturer Busch Systems in Barrie has found new ways to improve collaboration by upgrading its business software. "We don't have the cycles to waste because of computer downtime or barriers to collaboration," says Operations manager Marty Pepper. "It is critically important for us to provide our people with the right tools to get their work done efficiently and effectively,"

With many employees spending a significant amount of time on the road, the company needed to improve their ability to collaborate and work on documents. With faster search capabilities and a more secure desktop environment, employees can now complete their tasks quickly and easily -from formatting spreadsheets to sharing presentations - while in the field. "The ease with which they can now accomplish this means time savings that can add up to hours," says Pepper

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Outsourcing the User Experience

Source :

User experience outsourcing can achieve high-impact results for your software application and your bottom line. But it’s important to understand and avoid the inherent pitfalls in the outsourcing process.

Outsourcing has gotten a bad name for itself recently, in some measure because of the growing popularity of outsourcing to overseas markets in an attempt to reduce costs.

But outsourcing the User eXperience (UX) of a software application, website, or Web service is a horse of a different color. Although cost-saving can be a goal, UX work (including user research, analysis, and user-centered design) is much more frequently undertaken as a form of transformational outsourcing—it is used to improve the quality of the application and undertaken to have impact on the bottom line.

The drivers for engaging a UX firm effort may come from business initiatives (new functionality, an upcoming new release), brand and marketing (the need to upgrade an image or an outdated look), or simply feedback from clients, customers and users of an application: customers may be complaining that the application takes too long to complete; it may be hard to find critical information or functionality on a Web-based service; there may be too many calls to Technical Support for your product.

A redesigned user experience can be a critical tool to help companies:

Improve the quality of an application or suite of applications Attract or retain customers or users Increase sales Improve usability or “findability” of key features or content. (See Fig. 1.)

Common Pitfalls

When you decide to engage a UX vendor, you can’t help hoping for that perfect “honeymoon” scenario: you hire the outside vendor, they hand you results in a couple of months, you plug in the deliverables, and you sit back and wait for your bottom-line results to mushroom upwards.

But in reality, outsourcing the user experience is more like an internal project than a “black box” purchase of outside labor. It requires focus and participation from you as client to be most successful. You also need to avoid the more common problems and pitfalls that can derail a UX project.

Pitfall #1: Resistance from Existing Team Members

Introducing a new vendor to your existing design, development, or user experience team is bound to ruffle a few feathers. In some cases, there may be a single team member who thinks he or she is being replaced and, as a result, may get a little distressed, angry, or difficult to work with during the process.

Alternatively, your existing (external) development or design group may feel competitive with the UX vendor and will endeavor (consciously or unconsciously) to sabotage your UX project. An example of this is when one or more developers responsible for implementing a new front end wait until the deliverables come in before informing senior management that the design is “simply not doable” in the timeframe.

The Solution

Tactics that can successfully minimize resistance from team members include:

Getting people involved. Team members involved in implementation may be invited to requirements-setting sessions, for example, so their voices can be heard. Establishing clearly defined roles for the key players involved in implementation. Be sure that roles do not overlap too much, particularly with the vendor’s role. Defining a clear feedback process. Feedback from you and your team members to the vendor should be funneled through a single point-person (e.g., the project manager for the project). This gives team members a voice, while ensuring consistent and consolidated communication.

Pitfall #2: Inadequate or Unrealistic Requirements

Put simply, you will not get results from an outside UX effort unless there is a good set of requirements established as the first step in the effort. Without a requirements document of some kind, there is room for miscommunication, misinterpretation, and even finger-pointing at later stages of the project.

Requirements are often made that are vague, poorly worded, or inadequate in scope. This is usually the result of not taking adequate time to complete the “needs analysis process.” Conversely, you can have too many requirements, if you leave the vendor to collect requirements from stakeholders separately.

The Solution

Ideally, the setting of requirements is a joint effort at the start of a UX engagement, between the internal manager/stakeholders and the UX vendor. I call this work stage the needs analysis step. Make sure your UX vendor includes an adequate amount of resources and time to complete this stage.

During needs analysis, the UX team will collect information from you on subjects including your short- and long-term business goals, your technical constraints, your users or customers, and the scenarios for use.

By the end of this stage, you should have a mutually agreed upon, crisp definition of the requirements for the user experience, including things that must be in the design and what the users must be able to accomplish. Metrics for success can be included as part of the requirements, but they should be appropriate for the timeframe and budget (i.e., don’t expect to triple sales on a small five-figure budget or within a one-month timeframe). Be realistic.

Pitfall # 3: Surprises in the Deliverables

You’re not alone if you don’t like to be surprised in your deliverables from vendors. You’ve signed up for “X” and you expect “X” to be delivered.

But UX projects can go awry when clients and vendors don’t communicate about the nature of the end product. This can include poor definitions from the vendor about the total number of deliverables, the schedule for deliverables, or the form each deliverable will take.

Some clients expect the vendor to keep redesigning a front end “until it’s right,” for example, but the vendor may be expecting to do a maximum of two rounds of design reviews, plus a polish.

The Solution

Make sure the proposal or contract details (and explains, if necessary) the nature of the UX deliverables, including the expected format(s), and the number of rounds of revisions for each key deliverable. This is particularly important for flat-fee projects. Provisions for additional requests and timeframe extensions should be made as well.

Strategies for Successful UX Outsourcing

It’s not just about the vendor. As the client, you need to take a few steps to ensure success in any user experience project:

1) Establish your shared (stakeholder) goals. It’s up to you to get the stakeholders in the same room and discuss your reasons for bringing in the vendor. Before you start the engagement, try to define your shared vision for success, and what you ideally want out of the process. It helps enormously to have the stakeholders on the same page.

2) Outsource for discrete deliverables. If you know what you want upfront, you are more likely to get it from your vendor. Examples of some common user experience deliverables include:

  • User research (including usability testing of an existing application, or interviews with your client base)
  • User-centered requirements (user scenarios, task analysis, requirements documents)
  • Look & feel deliverables (key pages or all pages of the application in Photoshop files or production-level graphics)
  • User interface specifications or wireframes
  • Entire front-end design

3) Involve team members early and consistently. To avoid resentment and resistance to the outsourcing effort, engage your existing team members in the process, and establish clear roles between them and the outside firm for the duration of the project. This helps eliminate the “us versus them” mentality and the negative feelings that can sabotage an important redesign or UX project.

Eliciting input from team members will also help the outside team create better user experience deliverable(s) for your company. And by involving team members early, you set the stage for ownership of the final design or hand-off of project deliverables, which will help you take your software application further, faster.

Meryl Enerson is president and founder of Enervision Media, Inc., a user-centered research and design consultancy. She has assisted numerous organizations in evaluating and improving the user experience of their websites and applications.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Gartner Predicts Strong Outsourcing, Weakening Business Intelligence Markets

Source :

I don't know what is more disconcerting: the large number of predictions and prognostications that we usually see being publicly made about the forthcoming IT spending year as one year ends and a new one begins, or the lack of such auguries--at least publicly--from the usual suspects in the IT consulting racket. But at least some of the analysts at Gartner have the itch to predict, and they made some calls recently about the outsourcing and the business intelligence software markets.

The amount of money that companies worldwide spend on outsourcing is just staggering. In 2007, the global outsourcing market accounted to $408 billion in sales, according to Gartner, and will grow another 8.1 percent in 2008 to reach $441 billion. Interestingly, the number of big bang outsourcing deals done by large public companies with a single outsourcing provider are down, according to Gartner, falling by 50 percent in 2007. Some of the decline is also due to the fact that outsourcing is common place, and deals are not reported as if they were novel--any more than companies talk about switching from one server platform or ERP system to another. But you can bet that the outsourcing giants based in India will continue to try to make some noise, as their businesses are growing at an approximate 40 percent rate in the United States and 60 percent rate in Europe; spending on offshore outsourcing services is still three times higher in North American than in Europe, however.

More details about the outsourcing market are available in a new report, entitled Gartner on Outsourcing, 2007-2008, which you can get here. Gartner is also hosting the Outsourcing Summit in Washington, D.C., from May 19 through 21 to dice and slice the complex outsourcing market for its customers.

"Other countries will continue to emerge as challenges to India for a number of reasons," explained Ian Marriott, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the authors of the report. "Strong demand is putting a strain on the available Indian labor force, while staff attrition and cost increases remain high. Global companies continue to accelerate their demands for a presence in countries other than India, and providers are seeking to expand their geographic footprint of delivery centers accordingly. More-sophisticated buyers are seeking a multicountry strategy to minimize risk and align nearshore and offshore delivery centers with their primary time zones. Although India's offshore revenue will continue to grow, the country's share of total offshore spending will decline slightly in 2008."

In the business intelligence area, Gartner is projecting that growth will slow in the wake of vendor consolidation, price competition, and mature products and customer bases. With Oracle acquiring Hyperion, SAP buying BusinessObjects, and IBM buying Cognos, you might think that aggressive pricing might settle down now that some competition has been eliminated and something akin to an OPEC cartel for BI software would evolve. First of all, that would be illegal, and second, Oracle, SAP, and IBM did those BI acquisitions to be competitive and to sell more products and services to outside of the BI realm. Giving a sneak peak into the future of BI software and services sales, Gartner's analysts say that the market will grow more slowly at 12.5 percent in 2007 than the rate set in 2006, and that by 2011, when the market will crest above $7 billion globally, growth rates will be in the single digits. Gartner calculates the compound annual growth rate from 2007 through 2011 (inclusive) to be 8.6 percent, in fact.

Basically, the remaining BI software vendors are going to try to make it up in volume. With North America, Western Europe, and Japan already accounting for five-sixths of BI sales worldwide, you can bet that the remaining players will be chasing opportunities in fast-growing and green-field markets, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and such. The mid-tier players, such as SAS, Microstrategy, and Information Builders are going to be fighting hard to compete, and smaller players such as Arcplan, Panorama, and Qliktech are going to have to ramp up their sales and marketing efforts, too. Luckily, the SMB space is large and underserved in so many markets, including BI software. For most SMB customers, business intelligence is synonymous with "Microsoft Excel."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CSI: Open Source

Source :

While "CSI" is well known in popular culture thanks to the "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" TV shows, the former head of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) is pushing a different use of the acronym.

Stuart Cohen's CSI is the Collaborative Software Initiative, an organization he started after the Linux Foundation absorbed the OSDL a year ago.

"I wanted to focus on broadening the scope of the organization," Cohen told "They chose to focus on the operating system only."

Cohen's CSI is all about applying the open source model to software development in general and not just Linux. It's an idea that originated with the OSDL Customer Advisory Council, whose members had been bombarded with various government regulations and were looking for a way to develop an open source project around compliance and regulatory issues.

A year ago after the OSDL became part of The Linux Foundation, Cohen left and set up shop as CSI. The goal of CSI is to help companies and organizations develop software using open source. In return, the companies save time and money on their projects.

The first project for CSI was an effort for the Financial Services Roundtable's BITS working group, whose members includes the largest financial services companies in the United States.

Cohen explained that a U.S. government regulation requires banks to assess, score and certify that vendors they use for outsourcing and which have access to confidential information are secure.

For the most part, he noted that the banks were using Excel spreadsheets for the initial part of the assessment. The spreadsheets could have thousands of cells in them to address all the questions the financial services firms need to answer. The inherent problem with a spreadsheet approach is that it is difficult to manage and offers limited multiuser capabilities.

"So what we are working on with them is an open source project called RegQ, which stands for regulatory questionnaire," Cohen said.

RegQ is an XML schema developed using an open source stack that provides the banks with a machine-readable substitute for tracking compliance using a spreadsheet.

The RegQ project is only part of a larger equation, though, for financial institutions as well as other software developers. Cohen explained that RegQ fits into a bigger operational risk-management system that banks may be using.

"Ours is just the front-end, data-gathering tool to get information into the databases," Cohen said.

Cohen estimated that a typical operational risk-management system will cost $3 million to $4 million, including implementation. For the front end CSI is building, a software vendor could charge $800,000 or so to develop it.

According to Cohen, because a group of companies are coming together to build and fund the application in an open source approach, the cost could be limited to $100,000 to $200,000.

He said IBM, HP, Novell and Intel, all members of the CSI advisory council, are interested in working with the group on commodity or industry standardization. This collaboration could create a software platform for customization, he added.

While CSI's first effort is in the financial services sector, Cohen sees a broad appeal for his approach. He said he expects CSI's second project, which will be announced in the coming weeks, to show just how broad the applicability of the approach can be.

Cohen did not elaborate on the particulars of the second effort.

"Compliance and regulatory issues are a real focus area, but it's truly a diagonal that goes across industries," he said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Programmers as Channel Surfers

If a program is to be a work of literature, then where does that leave object-oriented programs? In the era of functional decomposition, programs were built around algorithms and data structures. They executed in a single thread as a sequence of steps and subroutine calls, not unlike a story. Our object-oriented programs, on the other hand, don’t have such a fixed path of execution. Whether server or client applications, they start up multiple threads and make heavy use of message passing and asynchronicity. The essence of a program is not in a sequence of steps and subroutine calls but in the subtle relationships between classes spread across many frameworks and subsystems, relationships such as inheritance, aggregation and collaboration. So how does one read a Java application like a story? The whole idea of object oriented programs seems at odds with literate programming.

It may help to view your program less as a novel read in a single sitting and more like a TV show that is tuned in once a week by busy people with short attention spans. The purpose is still to engage and inform, but you need to keep in mind your audience could be jumping in to the story just about anywhere. Like a viewer flipping through channels, happening upon an interesting show, there’s a good chance that the first time a colleague comes across your code is clicking through the frames in a stack trace. They will be debugging an application trying to understand some unexpected sequence of events and will stumble upon one of your classes. Or they might drop in to use some small part of your API. Maybe they jump into your code to extend some capabilities, add a new feature, or make small changes as part of a global refactoring. They just want to know enough to get the task done and keep going. They might watch an episode but then move on.

There are a lot of practical implications to this approach but for this article I’ll just focus on one: give the user the information they need in the context of just “dropping in.” Think about the questions they might have looking at your code in a debugger: What is this class for? What elements are in the collection? Where did this member variable get set? Don’t make them work to find out something you could have made apparent with very little effort to begin with. Your goal is to give them enough information about each element so they won’t have to get sidetracked tracking down other references to the element just to see how it’s used . For example:

  • Don’t make it a precondition for them to read a big design document on your intranet just to be able to understand what your GizmoClass is. Put the information as close to the artifact as possible. In the code, or at least in the same directory as the source.
  • Document all your classes and interfaces. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not about spending more time writing comments. Instead, keep it as simple as possible. Avoid verbosity and forms. Just a sentence or two to explain what the class is (especially helpful if you couldn’t come up with a really good name). Maybe say what it’s used for. That’s usually about as much as someone needs to know. Refrain from a huge exposition on the overall design or the justification for the class. Save discussion of the class members for the member comments themselves. And if you can’t think of something meaningful to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t duplicate information in an Interface and a Class. If you have to pick one, document the interface. Focus on the interface for describing what something is or represents, and in the implementation, anything noteworthy about the implementation.
  • When declaring variables of collection types, if you say nothing else in the comment you should at least state the actual type of the elements of the collection.
  • Method javadocs are critical for the casual audience, but not because they will show up in the HTML documentation. Most IDEs will provide javadoc comments in a tooltip or property sheet, saving the user the step of clicking through to the declaration, or opening up the javadocs in a new window.
  • Make variable names as descriptive as possible. Not just your member or local variables. People tuning in to your code the first time will have a much easier time decrypting your for loops if instead of i or index you use names like row, month, or customerNumber.
  • Consider “Hungarian Notation” for variable names. Many developers find this convention ugly and onerous, but you can’t deny the value of immediately recognizing a variables scope without having to jump to its declaration. There’s a wide spectrum of adherence to this principle; from the old C++ practice of limiting the convention to member variables with a ‘_’ prefix on one hand, to an array of prefixes identifying the scope of every variable.

The point of this is not to enumerate a list of documentation standards for your programs, but to get you to think like an author and empathize with your audience. Use your own experience learning and debugging other people’s code to determine what your audience needs from your documentation. Give them whatever they need to keep them from changing the channel before your program finishes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where is Internal IT Going?

Source :

Nitin Karandikar raises some interesting points about IT outsourcing and the . He references an Information Week article: The Second Decade Of Offshore Outsourcing: Where We’re Headed that looks at the changing relationship between enterprise customers and offshore IT providers; how the outside providers are evolving into longer-term strategic partners rather than cheap labor body-shops. Nitin goes into much more detail and I recommend looking at his post.

This trend raises some interesting questions. If the outside partners become more strategic, will they become tied to one enterprise so the chain becomes simply an extension of the enterprise for accounting purposes? If not, how can you really be strategic for multiple enterprises, especially if they are in the same market?

The next question is the evolving role of internal IT. With more strategic work done outside will there be anyone left? I hope so because someone has to architect and orchestrate these forces. This orchestrating becomes more complex because the possible increased decentralization of IT development through such enterprise 2.0 tools as mashups. IT could play a great role here orchestrating these business team developers and helping to share the expertise and experience of individual teams across the enterprise. That is what I read that the IBM CTO is doing, see CIO-led Collaborative Innovation through Enterprise 2.0 at IBM: A Useful Model.

Then you add SaaS into the mix with more hosted applications than internal development, internal IT coders might become an endangered species, while internal IT architects will become even more important. Those remaining IT guys are also more likely to be early adopters of new consumer tools on the web so they can become scouts spotting what next to bring inside the enterprise. I think there should always be a role for internal IT. The survivors will be the nimble and the smart.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Recipe For Outsourcing Your Software Development


your software development can save you time and money if you know what you need. Too often US companies attempt to outsource without a good understanding of what their software should do, and this is the biggest cause of outsourcing failure. It is unreasonable to expect your outsourcing team to have a menu of software, pre-prepared, so you can just select the items you want.
Ever go to a restaurant with a picky eater? They tell the waiter in excruciating detail how they want their food prepared. And heaven forbid that the food arrives different from what was requested! Back to the kitchen it goes to be “fixed” to make the picky eater happy.

Sometimes US companies hire an outsourced partner as if they were going to a restaurant. They select the cuisine based on the flavor of the technology they require. Chinese .NET or Indian Java? How about some Russian C++? Unfortunately there is rarely a menu for the exact items you might like to order from an outsourced team.

Are you approaching outsourcing your software like you are walking into a restaurant? Are you expecting the outsourcing team to advise you, like an attentive waiter, on the way your software should look, be prepared and presented to your customers?

Instead, bring your own recipe when you start work with an outsourcing team. Unlike your dining experiences, you cannot ask for the daily special. You have to provide a specific description of what you would like to have, and how it should be prepared. Without such a recipe, your outsourced software development efforts can be starved for success.

Poorly specified software is often the result when “subject matter experts” are involved. Subject matter experts, or SMEs, know a lot about a particular subject, like IC design, business process workflow, inventory management, etc., but very little about designing software. SMEs can struggle to get their ideas encoded in the software. They need to work with someone that knows the best way to design and develop software.

Sometimes, there is a fear of getting bogged down in the details. Since some software executives are great with people, they feel much more comfortable hiring a person to handle the details. They know how to manage a person here, better than they can manage an offshore team of programmers in a remote offshore location.

One Accelerance client is in this situation. The CEO wants to outsource the development of a new software product. But there is no specification. In this case Accelerance is acting as a virtual CTO, responsible for the design, and development of the client’s software.

The client is essentially saying, “Design the software for me, and I’ll tell you if it matches what I am thinking.” This can work because the cost of outsourcing is so low that rework and multiple design iterations are affordable.

This type of arrangement only works when paying on a Time and Materials basis. There is no way to offer fixed pricing because the end product is not defined.

Of course, not having a specification may not stop you from asking for a fixed price bid! In this case, you can outsource the creation of a specification that defines your software for a fixed price. Then the resulting complete design specification is used to create a second fixed price bid for writing your software.

Another factor comes into play when you pay a fixed price amount for a software design specification. You usually have to pay at least half up front. This is to protect the outsourcing company from delivering a specification for creating the software and then not getting paid.

Because software design often occurs at the beginning of a relationship, both parties seek to minimize their risk. You minimize your risk by selecting an outsourcing team with a proven track record and great references. The outsourcing team reduces their risk by getting partial (sometimes full) payment before starting.

There are multiple deliverables that should be produced during the design phase of creating your software, whether you do it yourself, or outsource the design:

* Marketing Requirements
* Storyboard Demo
* Functional Specification
* Multiple Release Milestone Schedule
* Detailed Task Schedule for First Release
* Detailed Design Specification (optional)

Unfortunately, software development has not progressed to the point where ready-made modules are available to order and combined to create your software. There is not yet a menu of choices available to anyone that is hungry for new software. Instead, you must provide your own recipe for what you need. The good news is low cost outsourced software design and development resources are now available to create your custom software to meet your exact specifications.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gartner Says Worldwide Outsourcing Market to Grow 8.1 Percent in 2008

Source :
The global outsourcing market continues to grow at a steady pace, with a forecast growth rate of 8.1 percent in 2008. But healthy growth rates for outsourcing do not necessarily mean that user organizations are without challenges.

"Although user organizations often have fundamentally sound procurement organizations to initiate outsourcing contracts, for many, their IT sourcing strategies and governance structures are still immature, lacking altogether, or misaligned with enterprise objectives," said Kurt Potter, research director at Gartner. "Because these organizations lack the basic building blocks for successful vendor management and outsourcing success, expected cost savings and other benefits are difficult to obtain. In extreme cases, the lack of needed trust and control to optimize the outsourcing relationship results in deal failure. Also, more organizations focused less on outsourcing for cost savings than in previous years and more on using providers' global delivery models to access the right skills at a reasonable price, wherever they are."

Although outsourcing continues to grow, publicly reported IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO: 18.22, -0.14, -0.76%) contract values decreased overall by 50 percent in 2007. Part of the explanation for this apparent discontinuity is that as the outsourcing market matures and becomes more commonplace, there is less publicity of deals. Companies are simply outsourcing more, but electing to use a multiprovider strategy and more deals are simply smaller in size, with many of these deals not large or ground shaking enough to report.

"In 2008, we expect to see some early adopters of multisourcing to consolidate around fewer providers to reduce their service integration costs and harvest the benefits of better relationship management with fewer strategic suppliers," said Mr. Potter. "Because of multisourcing complexities often associated with handoff points between competing providers and unclarified vendor management processes, some organizations will consider prime-contractor outsourcing models or the appointment of new vendor management roles in their retained organizations."

Buyers increasingly are moving work to lower-cost, offshore delivery centers. Although cost remains a major driver for global delivery models (GDMs), more-mature users are seeking ways to better support their business needs. Indian providers gained traction in Europe in 2007, but faced strong competition from more-established vendors with GDMs. Indian providers are growing approximately 40 percent annually in the U.S. and 60 percent annually in Europe. Although spending on offshore services is three times higher in North America than in Western Europe, the gap is closing.

"Other countries will continue to emerge as challenges to India for a number of reasons," said Ian Marriott, research vice president at Gartner. "Strong demand is putting a strain on the available Indian labor force, while staff attrition and cost increases remain high. Global companies continue to accelerate their demands for a presence in countries other than India, and providers are seeking to expand their geographic footprint of delivery centers accordingly. More-sophisticated buyers are seeking a multicountry strategy to minimize risk and align nearshore and offshore delivery centers with their primary time zones. Although India's offshore revenue will continue to grow, the country's share of total offshore spending will decline slightly in 2008."

Gartner believes that the outsourcing market has reached a tipping point with regard to utility delivery models, and that change and innovation will take hold and accelerate in this area through 2008 and beyond. More providers are developing utility-based offerings across infrastructure, application and business process domains. The trend toward software-as-a-service (SaaS) is gaining the most traction, with major software vendors, such as Microsoft and SAP, and large Internet players, such as Google and Amazon, making announcements about new SaaS offerings and mass-customized software platforms. User organizations need to realize that the utility delivery model is a viable alternative to traditional outsourcing, and they should seriously consider utilities in their sourcing strategies.

Additional information on what happened in outsourcing in 2007 and what Gartner expects in 2008 is available in the Gartner report "Gartner on Outsourcing, 2007-2008." The report is available on Gartner's Web site at DisplayDocument?ref=g_search&id=560809&subref=simplesearch. (Due to the length of this URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste this hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL address field.)

Gartner analysts will further discuss outsourcing trends at the Gartner Outsourcing Summit, taking place May 19-21 in Washington, D.C. The Gartner Outsourcing Summit is the only event that provides a comprehensive view of the entire outsourcing market -- infrastructure, application and business process outsourcing, global delivery and the use of offshore providers, as well as issues and trends about new delivery models, such as software as a service. The Summit provides unbiased, road-tested advice and best practices necessary for setting outsourcing strategies and objectives, evaluating and selecting the right service providers and managing relationships with them. Many of the 50-plus content sessions will feature case studies and panel discussions presented by end users and industry professionals. For complete event details please visit the Gartner Outsourcing Summit Web site

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Outsourcing growth expected in 2008

Source :
Global outsourcing is predicted to grow by 8.1 per cent this year as companies turn towards smaller contracts.
Analyst house Gartner forecasts healthy growth rates worldwide in the IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO) markets.
More companies are favouring smaller deals and splitting services between several providers and countries, the Gartner report found.
This shift away from large high-value deals is partly responsible for the fact that publicly reported BPO and ITO contract values fell by 50 per cent in 2007.
But organisations are also still failing in their IT sourcing strategies and governance structures when drawing up outsourcing agreements, Gartner said.
Kurt Potter, research director at Gartner, said in a statement: "Because these organisations lack the basic building blocks for successful vendor management and outsourcing success, expected cost savings and other benefits are difficult to obtain."
Spending on offshore services is three times higher in North America than in Western Europe but the gap is closing, with Indian providers becoming more popular in 2007, growing 40 per cent in the US and 60 per cent in Europe.
Research VP at Gartner, Ian Marriott, said other countries will continue to emerge as challengers to India, and added that strong demand is putting a strain on the Indian labour force, with staff attrition and cost increases remaining high.
There is an increasing move towards lower-cost, offshore delivery centres but companies with a history of outsourcing services are also seeking providers that better support business needs.
Software as a service (SaaS) is emerging as a viable alternative to traditional outsourcing for user organisations, with vendors including Amazon, Google, Microsoft and SAP making announcements about new SaaS offerings and mass-customised software platforms, Gartner said.

Outsourcing Market Will Remain Robust in 2008

Source :

IT outsourcing deals don't garner the splashy headlines they did just two or three years ago, but that doesn't mean enterprise customers are suddenly averse to turning to outside providers for help with their most important technology projects.
In fact, according to Gartner, worldwide outsourcing spending will grow about 8.1 percent this year to $441 billion, up from $408 billion in 2007.
But rather than locking themselves into multi-year contracts with one vendor like IBM, Accenture or EDS, more and more CIOs are taking a buffet approach, signing several smaller-sized deals with multiple providers that can deliver specialized products and services that address specific business objectives.
The emergence of the software-as-a-service model (SaaS) (define) is also playing a pivotal role in changing the way companies evaluate their sourcing needs, giving companies a viable alternative to traditional outsourcing providers and forcing these same vendors to either partner with or develop their own on-demand delivery model.
"SaaS is still in its infancy but it's fast becoming a viable option for a portfolio of services and software people are using," Kurt Potter, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview with "We're finding that many companies are looking to SaaS options to minimize the customization that traditional outsourcing vendors and projects typically require. They're testing and adopting it in areas that don't conflict with other core architecture areas."
Gartner surveyed IT executives at 191 small-, mid- and enterprise-sized companies in North America to find out not only how much they plan to spend on outsourcing in the coming year, but how they're sourcing strategy and priorities have changed in recent years.
Most telling, according to Potter, was the fact that 65 percent of the companies queried now say they have a formal enterprise sourcing strategy in place. In 2005, Gartner found that only 35 percent of companies had developed a disciplined process and method for determining how, where, when and what to outsource for its disparate business units.
"That's a big increase," he said. "Basically, it all starts with each company's strategy. It defines how you're going to get these services. And we've found that it's more about the process than the price. If a company doesn't have the sources and needs them, it doesn't really matter what it costs. You still need it."
Developing strong IT governance structures and properly aligning either outsourced and SaaS-based projects with business objectives is crucial remain the biggest challenges for companies of all sizes.
"[We're] seeing our clients set up internal processes and applications to create a service model for other internal organizations to leverage," Hemant Ramachandra, managing director of BearingPoint's Technology Solutions unit, wrote in an e-mail to "This can be software-as-a-service or even application as a service. Setting up the right governance structure is critical to ensure that outsourcing is leveraged appropriately."
Last year, IBM extended its leadership position in IT outsourcing market share with 8.1 percent, followed by EDS and ADP at 5.3 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.
Among vertical markets, the financial services companies outpaced manufacturing, government and health care, spending more than $186 billion in outsourced services and equipment in 2007.
"It's clear that outsourcing is a business tool that's not going away," Potter said. "But it may not be right for everybody."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Outsourcing market reaches 'tipping point'

The outsourcing market has reached a "tipping point" with regard to utility delivery models, and change and innovation will take hold and accelerate through 2008 and beyond.

Analyst firm Gartner explained that more providers are developing utility-based offerings across infrastructure, application and business process domains.

"The trend toward software-as-a-service is gaining the most traction," Gartner stated.

"Major software vendors, such as Microsoft and SAP, and large internet players, such as Google and Amazon, are announcing new offerings and mass-customised software platforms.

"User organisations need to realise that the utility delivery model is a viable alternative to traditional outsourcing, and should seriously consider utilities in their sourcing strategies."

The analyst firm noted that the global outsourcing market continues to grow at a steady pace, with a forecast growth rate of 8.1 per cent in 2008.

However, Gartner warned that healthy growth rates for outsourcing do not necessarily mean that organisations signing up for such services will always get a good deal.

"User organisations often have fundamentally sound procurement organisations to initiate outsourcing contracts," said Kurt Potter, research director at Gartner.

"But many IT sourcing strategies and governance structures are still immature, and are lacking altogether, or misaligned with, enterprise objectives. "

Potter added that, because these organisations lack the basic building blocks for successful vendor management and outsourcing success, the expected cost savings and other benefits are difficult to obtain.

"In extreme cases, the lack of trust and control to optimise the outsourcing relationship results in deal failure," he said.

"Also, more organisations focus less on outsourcing for cost savings than in previous years and more on using providers' global delivery models to access the right skills at a reasonable price, wherever they are."

Gartner maintained that, although outsourcing continues to grow, publicly reported IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing contract values decreased overall by 50 percent in 2007.

Part of the explanation for this apparent discontinuity is that there is less publicity about deals as the outsourcing market matures and becomes more commonplace.

Companies are outsourcing more, but electing to use a multi-provider strategy, and more deals are simply not large or ground shaking enough to report.

"In 2008, we expect to see some early adopters of multi-sourcing to consolidate around fewer providers to reduce their service integration costs and harvest the benefits of better relationship management with fewer strategic suppliers," said Potter.

"Because of multi-sourcing complexities often associated with handoff points between competing providers and 'unclarified' vendor management processes, some organisations will consider prime-contractor outsourcing models or the appointment of new vendor management roles in their retained organisations."

Potter added that buyers are increasingly moving work to lower-cost, offshore delivery centres.

Although cost remains a major driver for global delivery models, more mature users are seeking ways to better support their business needs.

Indian providers gained traction in Europe in 2007, but faced strong competition from more established vendors with global delivery models.

Indian providers are growing approximately 40 per cent annually in the US and 60 per cent annually in Europe .

Although spending on offshore services is three times higher in North America than in Western Europe , the gap is closing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rise of hosted IT spells gloom for outsourcers

Source :

This year will see in a shift in the IT services market as firms turn to direct sourcing from hosted software providers, rather than traditional outsourcing opportunities, according to industry experts.
Richard Sykes, chair of the Outsourcing Group at IT trade association Intellect, pointed to the difference between direct sourcing and classic outsourcing as “very high productivity server farms at work rather than thousands of IT professionals”.
In reaction to recent reports about Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to outsource around 3,000 IT staff to three services providers ­ EDS, AT&T and T-Systems­ Sykes said this would be a “conservative deal” that is unlikely to achieve maximum cost savings. “Shell could become more
A new book due to be published tomorrow by Nicholas Carr, ­famed for his IT Doesn’t Matter article, also promotes the direct sourcing model.
Carr argues that the cost benefit to firms through use of large utility computing providers, whose economies of scale would dwarf in-house efforts, will eventually lead to on-demand software dominating firms’ IT infrastructures.
“It may take decades for companies to abandon their proprietary supply operations and all the investments they represent. But in the end the savings offered by utilities become too compelling to resist, even for the largest enterprises,” he explained.
Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst Quocirca, pointed out that the biggest barrier to Carr’s model is mindset. “For large organisations in particular, it would be a very brave CIO and COO who would go the whole hog. The first time there’s a break in connectivity they’d suddenly say, ‘Hell, we can’t do anything at all’,” he added.
According to Sykes, the trend by small and medium-sized enterprises towards direct sourcing deals will also result in fewer contracts involving Indian locations because the services are more automated and less people intensive.
The movement to locations for offshore services other than India is an outsourcing trend set to continue in 2008. Indian provider Cognizant has about 500 professionals in Shanghai and plans to double the headcount in the next 12 to 18 months, according to Henry Yang, head of the firm’s China Development Centre.
Meanwhile, experts are playing down reports that Indian offshoring giant Wipro is looking to acquire Capgemini. In late December, a Hindustan Times story said that a bid is expected to take place in January. Ovum analyst Phil Codling said the deal made little sense “in terms of business strategy and logic”.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Five Offshore Outsourcing Predictions For 2008


Plenty of change lies ahead in the area of offshore outsourcing, which has evolved from a little-used practice to a mature industry in less than 10 years. Here are five predictions for offshore outsourcing in 2008:

1) Businesses that use offshore outsourcing will devote more time and effort to ensuring the success of such projects. Occasional problems with bad software code, miscommunications, and high staff turnover haven't been enough to turn companies away en masse from offshore outsourcing -- many are too hooked on the personnel cost savings -- but they've been enough to demand greater oversight on offshore deals. This also will have some companies working in closer partnership with their offshore providers.

2) More offshore work will go to Latin America, China, Eastern Europe, and other low-cost locations as India struggles to deal with its tightening IT talent pool. Service providers in India say they're working hard on the problem, going as far as to retrain science graduates to become technologists and scouring the rural regions of India for talent. But these measures smack of desperation, and India's talent problem isn't going away anytime soon.

3) India IT salaries will continue their annual double-digit increases, rising perhaps even higher than the 15% range suggested by Indian service providers, but not so much that U.S. companies won't continue to be attracted by the cost savings/skill level combo offered by Indian technologists.

4) India will decline as a location for telephone call center jobs for U.S.-based companies. People are impatient by nature, and even more so when on the phone with a customer service rep talking about a bill they owe or a problematic product they've purchased. Add even a slight language barrier, and you've got customers demanding to speak to managers and e-mailing complaints. Meanwhile, turnover rates for call center reps serving customers during U.S. daylight hours are high in India, since they're night-time jobs there. Even high-level execs at India offshore firms have admitted to me that call center work is an increasingly unattractive business. Look for U.S. companies to bulk up call center staffs in rural, low-cost areas of the U.S. where labor is cheap, and in Canada, for their English-speaking customers.

5) If the economy tanks in the next year, offshore outsourcing will suddenly become a much more interesting topic on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. The U.S. unemployment rate for IT is still very healthy right now, about 2%, and most Web-based development skills are in high demand. But if a recession hits, layoffs may follow, and presidential candidates will be forced to be more definitive on the topic than they've been to date.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Offshore Regulations: What to Worry About


As the offshoring debate heats up, CIOs are scrambling to meet the demands of current and pending legislation. Here's what's real, what's not and how to cope.

THE SIMMERING DEBATE over offshore outsourcing boiled over on Feb. 9, when the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw, blandly asserted that offshoring was good for the economy. And while Mankiw's statement may be defensible, or at the very least arguable, its timing and tone revealed a political ear of the purest tin. Not surprisingly, his quote landed on the front page of newspapers nationwide, along with charges that the Bush administration was advocating sending American jobs overseas.

Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, for example, citing Mankiw's remarks, suggested that the White House would have to explain its support of outsourcing to millions of unemployed Americans. And Republican Rep. Don Manzullo of Illinois—where a lot of manufacturing jobs were lost due to offshoring—even called for Mankiw to resign. (He didn't.)

In any event, offshoring in general, and the Mankiw quote specifically, will more than likely be central to most every campaign this fall—including the presidential, especially given that the media has been raising a hue and cry over the exportation of U.S. jobs offshore. (For more on how the media and companies are wrangling over outsourcing, see Trendlines.)

And the legislating and politicking have already begun. By the end of February, state legislatures had introduced 27 bills designed to restrict offshoring. Two bills giving preference to state contractors have recently become law. And while such measures may have a minimal impact on the general profile of offshoring as practiced today, they may be considered the opening salvos in a battle that will only heat up.

"My personal view is that [the debate] won't end until the day after the election," says Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by many accounts the most powerful pro-business lobby in the country. "It is hard to imagine this being kicked off the front page."

Cutting costs by hiring cheaper foreign labor may help the economy in the long run, but that's a hard position for elected officials to take. If voting for laws that restrict offshoring helps politicians win elections, overwhelmingly they will do so. However, as is often the case in politics, many of those votes are more about posturing than policy making. Richard Shell, a Wharton School professor of legal studies and management, suggests that offshoring is the type of issue where lawmakers vote in favor of a bill and then use parliamentary techniques to kill it after the fact. "To be able to say that they proposed or voted for [an antioffshoring bill] is a very responsive thing to do," he says. "Actually limiting outsourcing is very hard."

Groups on both sides of the issue are drawing lines in the sand. The business community has made preserving the right to offshore a top priority. On the labor side, activists are lobbying for measures that restrict offshoring (mostly at the state level) with hopes of establishing a precedent and foundation for national antioffshoring legislation.

And once again, CIOs are caught in the middle. Public-sector CIOs and those whose companies have state or federal contracts face the most immediate risk from legislation limiting how they can source their work. Health-care and financial services CIOs face some elevated risks because of the sensitive nature of the data they handle. The legislation that could affect most other CIOs, however, is in the form of disincentives and obstacles, not outright bans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and other organizations that oppose antioffshoring legislation acknowledge that they cannot stop all antioffshoring efforts from materializing. Therefore, CIOs need to start preparing for the inevitable and thinking about how to mitigate (or possibly eliminate) the effects of the legislative highballing down the political road.

With Government Contracts Come Government Restrictions

To date, the most common antioffshoring bills prohibit companies with state and federal contracts from sending their work overseas. The only federal offshoring law in this category, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Craig Thomas (Wyo.) and George Voinovich (Ohio) and signed last January, restricts companies with federal contracts from outsourcing that work overseas. Indus Corp., a software development and IT support services company, signed a 10-year, $175 million contract with the Department of Transportation in May 2002 to provide IT support for the federal highway administration. And while the company has an operations center in Bangalore, Indus President and CEO Shiv Krishnan says his company no longer uses it for work on any federal contracts. IT support and software development are "fertile ground to offshore," he says. "But we have a contract with lots of restrictions."

Indus, like other companies with contracts covered by the Thomas-Voinovich provision, must be careful to keep its government work separate from its nongovernment work; and its workforce for government projects separate from its nongovernment workforce. Krishnan stresses that the background checks required for employees who work with government data make it next to impossible for his organization to send work offshore. And, in fact, he suspects that this is precisely what future legislation will do to offshoring.

An amendment, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and passed by the Senate in March, would expand Thomas-Voinovich to include state contracts funded with federal money. (It has yet to come up for a vote in the House.) Many state bills already prohibit the use of state funds for offshoring. George Newstrom, secretary of technology for the state of Virginia, which has four antioffshoring bills pending, says that the public sector is particularly vulnerable since it is funded by taxpayers, who feel that the state has an obligation both to preserve and create jobs.

Nowhere was this dynamic more apparent than in Indiana, which last year put out an RFP to upgrade the systems that run the state unemployment insurance program. The winning bid was $15.2 million from TCS America, the U.S. subsidiary of the Indian IT outsourcing giant Tata. (The next closest bid was $23.3 million.) Work on the contract was scheduled to begin last October. But the irony of a state outsourcing its unemployment benefits project didn't go unnoticed or unremarked, and within a few months Indiana lawmakers proposed legislation that would prohibit sending state contracts offshore. Meanwhile, faced with mounting pressure, the governor canceled the TCS contract in November. And in March 2004, Indiana enacted a law that would give a 1 percent to 5 percent preference to Indiana companies. (For example, a bid of $100,000 would be calculated as $95,000.)

The state's IT procurement process changed even more substantially. "The reason why Indiana companies could not bid [on the unemployment contract] was that they weren't large enough," says Chuck Martindale, the commissioner of the department of administration for Indiana and the head of procurement for the state. "We had put together a project that they couldn't bid on."

Now, the state will attempt to break large IT projects into smaller chunks that it can source separately. "We are doing what we can with policies and procedures to maximize the opportunities for companies that have a presence in Indiana," says Martindale.

Virginia is trying to avoid becoming the next Indiana. The state is facing a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, and there is pressure for IT (and all state agencies) to cut costs. But Newstrom says he has already ruled out offshoring as a way to do that. "If we were in a private setting, we would offshore," he says. But he isn't. So he won't.

Health, Finance and Other Privacy Quagmires

Antioffshoring groups have targeted health-care and financial services companies. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has spoken about the need to restrict where companies send consumers' data. Both California and Arizona have introduced bills that would make it illegal for health-care providers to send their patients' records outside of the United States for transcription, and California would also restrict companies from sending individuals' financial data offshore.

Partners HealthCare CIO John Glaser admits that he is "a little more wary" than ever before when it comes to offshoring, primarily because hospitals rely on the government for reimbursement. Therefore, he says, there's "a greater degree of political entanglement." Partners offshores about 1 percent of its work in the form of transcriptions, radiology reports and low-level IT work. "I'd be stunned if there was legislation that stopped this," he says. Nonetheless, he's mulling over changes he could make that would strip patient information from the data Partners sends offshore.

A major insurance company that asked not to be identified undertook such a project that played out over two years. The company's rate-calculating systems are developed and tested in part offshore. Because of concerns about privacy and identity theft, the IT group built a utility that masks personal information such as names, Social Security numbers and addresses. Offshore developers cannot match the financial information to individuals. At first, a supervisor offshore who has gone through a background check had the authority to turn off the utility if necessary; but a few months ago, even that exception was eliminated, as the company sought to further tighten control and make certain that no offshore workers could access personal data.

The fact that the system already masks personally identifiable data means the company won't have to undertake such a project in the future in response to regulation. In addition, the company is lucky its development work is offshore, while maintenance is performed in the United States. The development work requires a test environment, rather than live production data, so the company won't have to readjust its work processes to satisfy potential privacy legislation. Most companies, however, do the reverse. "Ninety-nine percent of offshore is support and maintenance, which means they are running production data," says the insurer's CIO. If the government restricts customer data from being sent offshore, "they could essentially cut down that entire tree."

How Offshoring Can Make Retailers Look Bad

Without an outright ban on outsourcing (which parties on both sides of the issue agree is unlikely), the government is powerless from prohibiting most companies from sending work offshore. But it can make it harder. There is one way for the federal government to directly impede the offshoring practices of companies that aren't government contractors or in already regulated industries: visas. The two existing programs used to bring technology workers into the country, the H-1B and the L-1, have recently come under scrutiny. Both facilitate offshoring by allowing overseas workers to come to the United States for training. (For more on the link between offshoring and high-tech visas, see "Backlash.") Both Democrats and Republicans have introduced legislation that would tighten the rules on granting these visas and close the loopholes that allow these workers to be contracted out.

However, it is more likely that the government will take indirect action to discourage the employment of foreign workers. Sixteen states have introduced "right-to-know" bills that would require help desk and call center employees to disclose their location to consumers before conducting business—essentially creating a public relations headache for companies that offshore such work. Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry has sponsored such a bill.

These bills and others, such as a Daschle bill that would require companies to give employees 90 days' notice before their jobs are offshored, are calculated to cast companies that offshore in a bad light with their customers. Steve Williams, CIO of Mattress Giant, says that they are blatant attempts to smear corporate reputations. And they're working. Williams, who says that his company doesn't offshore development, is afraid that if he did, his "competition may utilize the fact that I have outsourced 20,000 jobs overseas." While Williams is an avid supporter of free trade, he says that a CIO would be crazy to start offshoring between now and November.

Some states will probably pass right-to-know laws between now and the election. On the federal level, the most likely outcome is legislation that would provide job training, health benefits and income support to IT workers who have lost their jobs to foreign labor. Jay Gardner, CIO of BMC Software, says that he would support such a measure, even if his company had to pay for it. He considers that to be the right approach for the government to take.

"I am concerned that legislation might take the wrong approach that would be politically popular, but not in the best interest of America in a global corporate environment," Gardner says. Nonetheless, "if all [offshoring] had to be turned off tomorrow—if we couldn't do any offshoring anymore—I still have a base of people to do those same jobs," he adds.

The Sky Is Lowering, Not Falling

Despite all the attention offshoring has received of late, relatively little is likely to happen between now and the election that will put a serious crimp in the practice. The Communications Workers of America is the largest organized labor group specifically targeting offshoring, and even they know that they have to pick and choose their battles. "We're not going to stop offshoring; we know that," says Tony Daley, research economist for Communications Workers of America. "We're [just] trying to set some rules for the market."

The forces opposed to antioffshoring legislation are better organized, richer and more sophisticated in the ways of leveraging influence. And they have made blocking restrictions a top priority. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Josten, for example, says that if the Chamber has to sacrifice every item on its 2004 agenda in exchange for preserving the right to offshore, his organization would consider the year a success.

Ultimately, public opinion will be the main factor in determining whether any antioffshoring legislation will pass. A March USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll reported that of 1,000-plus adults surveyed 58 percent said that preventing jobs from going overseas would be a very important factor in deciding whom they would vote for this fall; 27 percent said that it would be fairly important.

In light of these numbers, Harris Miller, president of ITAA, acknowledges that some legislation is inevitable. "Congress is going to want to say they did something," he says. Miller hopes that "something" will be restricted to job retraining benefits for white-collar workers, similar to the benefits that manufacturing workers now get when their jobs are sent overseas. (See "Offshored IT Workers May Get Training Benefits.")

When these bills do, in fact, pass, business groups like ITAA will make an effort to blunt their impact. For example, the Dodd amendment that restricts how states can use federal funds was itself amended to exclude signatories to the World Trade Organization agreement on government procurement (including many European and some Asian countries, although not India and China), and makes the amendments subject to a review by the Secretary of Commerce.

"We're lobbying," says Miller. "That's what we get paid to do."