Here’s an interesting take on the entire “Offshore” development paradigm that every American firm worth its salt has implemented.
Ed Burnette from ZDNet contends that over the course of time, most jobs in IT will deal with maintenance/sustenance of a product/system (since that’s an unending task, until the product itself is end-of-life-ed), as opposed to actual product development. In fact, he already sees this happening today:
“A colleague told me today that 70% of her time is spent maintaining the old version of the software as opposed to working on the next version. By maintainence I mean duplicating customer reported problems, fixing bugs, creating hot fixes and service packs, tweaking performance to address complaints, and so forth”
And it is these kinds of tasks, he says, that he would much rather see being done in India than here. According to him, right now it is the opposite situation:
You have a long list of innovative ideas and features that you’d love to put in the next version, but you’re unable to find the time. Management promises that you’ll be given time as soon as these maintenance things let up. But they never let up. Management promises to clear your schedule, to restrict maintenance to part of the team and let you have some breathing space. But then the next day a high priority gotta-have-it-now defect comes in. Experienced, highly qualified and highly paid developers become firefighters, running from one emergency to another. Meanwhile the remote teams, with no such baggage, get the new projects and growth opportunities, and produce quicker results because they can do it full time.
And then Ed calls for a reversal of roles. Actually, I’d say that has happened already.
Most Indian companies today deal with “Level 2 and Level 3 support”, and handle customer issues and product defects. The teams in the US, instead, focus on the next release, feature-adds, and longer-term strategic issues. It’s a lesser form of outsourcing (the o-word has come to imply really low-end jobs; call-centres), but it’s all about focussing on your core competencies, letting your top workers do what they do best, leveraging your talent pool to maximize value to the customer/client. From the point of view of a firm in the Unites State, you don’t want your top developers fixing bugs, handling customer issues, since that requires less creativity, less talent and more drudgery than true product/system development.
What about this situation from the point of view of India? Next: Part Two: Commoditization of Science, and Art as the Differentiator.