"Our people are our greatest asset", proclaims the corporate boilerplate. "Unless you work in IT," mutters the disgruntled techie as he clears his desk for the last time.
The great IT outsourcing boom has been going on for two decades now and, while there have been ebbs and flows, it shows no sign of abating. The latest Gartner figures put outsourcing as a global industry worth $288bn and growing at around five per cent annually.
It is increasing both in the degree to which it is employed and the number of options available. Organisations are faced with an embarrassment of outsourcing riches to choose from, with the many varieties of cloud (PaaS, IaaS, SaaS and their offshoots) jostling for position with more traditional co-location, offshore software development and managed services.
By listening to the pitches made by the outsourcers, one might think that an organisation could just pick and choose the most suitable option for each particular need, just as a chef might select ingredients, choosing each on the on the basis of price and quality.
Nice theory, but unless you are a small start-up that has decided to base all of its operations on standard-issue applications in the public cloud, IT outsourcing is always more complicated than that. For one thing, outsourced services need to integrate with what's already there; for another, making price and service quality comparisons between the offerings of competing suppliers and in-house technology can be fiendishly difficult.
Make the wrong choice and you can easily end up exchanging a complex, inflexible, expensive in-house environment for an even more complex, inflexible, expensive outsourced one over which you have less control.
Time to bring in the experts - except they were made redundant in the last reorganisation. So add consultancy fees to the contingency list.
"Outsourcing's like Ryanair," said the CIO of a large services company that restructured recently, in order to conduct more business online.
"It may look cheap but once you have got everything you want you wonder why you didn't build it in-house as it would have cost a lot less."
Whatever its nature, outsourcing means that knowledge, skills and sometimes staff are transferred from the client organisation to the supplier. Technical, coding, engineering, networking and systems administration skills all tend to be leached out of organisations, leaving a hollowed out IT team consisting of a few service managers and the occasional all-purpose IT technician.
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