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Offshoring IT: Good, bad or unavoidable?

In GLiNTECH's recent Future of Software Development in Australia survey for 2012/13, we asked 'the following question: 'What are your views on the offshoring of Software Development to other countries?’. What follows is some general analysis of the responses to that question. You can also view the full report by clicking glintech_the_future_of_software_development_survey_report_2011-12.pdf.

Of all the questions asked in the survey, this one related to offshoring provided the most polarising results. We had responses ranging from the impassive (“it doesn't bother me”), to the positive (“it’s a great idea”), to the unquestionably negative (“anyone sending programming work offshore should be shot”).

One of the recurring themes within responses were the perceived potential negative effects offshoring may have on Australia’s local developers in the long term, often in a “good for them, bad for us” sort of way. One comment in particular summed up a large chunk of responses in saying that offshoring is a “short-term gain for long term loss: there may be financial benefits, but Australia loses a generation of locally-grown software professionals who would otherwise be managing the future of technology in this country”.

That led into responses indicating some blunt thoughts on offshoring; “seriously and practically doesn’t work”, “do not do it” and “bad idea” are all short quotes that summed up the feeling of many. There was also further negative reinforcement from those who have experienced firsthand problems with offshoring, namely “poor quality and long turnaround time” and that “it doesn’t save the amount of money that most companies think”.

There were positive responses too, though there were very few that did not come with some sort of caveat. Comments such as “if done correctly it can be very beneficial” and “it benefits both sides when it works. The getting it to work bit is the challenge” suggest a degree of pragmatism.

There were plenty of other comments adding to this attitude; “good for maintenance, not for new development”, “fine where there are clear specs and the cost-benefit is there”, “works with small, discrete, well documented units of work but fails with larger projects as there is a disconnect”, “excellent, but security is a concern”. These are all indicators of the potential benefits of offshoring, but also allude to pitfalls.

However, amongst all that, the overriding theme was one of acceptance. For many, offshoring is simply “unavoidable”, “an unstoppable force” and “almost certain to continue”.

Click glintech_the_future_of_software_development_survey_report_2011-12.pdf to view the full Future of Software Development in Australia 2012/13 report. Feel free to discuss the report on twitter by following @GLiNTECH or using the hashtag #FODSD.