When TechRepublic member Mark Henryposted a message in our Technical Q&A asking other members about the increasing amount of programming work being outsourced to India, many members responded and voiced their concerns. Although a few mentioned some apprehension about the possibility of losing their own jobs to an outsourced programmer, the majority of members’ remarks involved quality concerns about the work being done so far away. No one disputes the cost-saving motive for sending work overseas, but is it the best way to satisfy programming needs and get good results? Here’s what some members are saying.

Location, location, location
When development work is outsourced thousands of miles away from the end users, many believe that the distance impedes the quality of work. Wayne Mack thinks that a developer should be in contact with users and their operations to fully understand their needs. Without this period of contact with users, the quality of the products will suffer.

“This [contact] becomes difficult when jobs are outsourced to different cities or states and almost impossible across countries.

“India is developing a large set of skilled programmers. Technical skills alone, though, are not what matters. Developers need to be in contact with users if software quality is ever going to improve.”

Project manager Neil Norr believes that programmers so far removed from users may have trouble making independent decisions if the specifications on a project aren’t perfect. If a company intends to outsource, Norr said it’s important to have a full-time liaison who understands your business needs.

Marc Lipshitz is a project manager for Nedcor in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company is using a highly skilled shop in India. In an effort to combat the distance problem, the company brings the programmers to South Africa for a year to teach them its “standards and methodology.”

What about time?
Time zones, too, may be a significant issue when outsourcing. When Neil Norr was involved with outsourcing development work to India, he was disappointed with the turnaround and said the time zone differences doubled the number of days needed to complete a project.

However, Jeff Dray, a technical writer and TechRepublic contributor from the United Kingdom, believes that the time distance is a benefit rather than a problem.

“You can put a project to bed at the end of your working day, mail to the programmers in India, and when you come in the next day, the job has been turned around overnight and is back awaiting sign-off and implementation.”

The bottom line
Despite some of the problems with outsourcing programming work, many members believe that it still makes sound business sense to send work offshore. TechRepublic member sanjeevg, a “proud Indian,” acknowledges that a firm may incur extra costs in communication or experience some delays but said the differences in labor costs make outsourcing attractive.

“Imagine $150 versus $25 per hour. This comparison seems even more bizarre when you come to know that the guy you are willing to pay $150 is an Indian anyway who, until recently, was working in India on a project for which his employer was charging an offshore client $25 per hour.”
Have you had experience with sending development work to India or other foreign locations? How has it affected your organization? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.