Persistent IT Vendor Outsourcing and the Demoralized Technical Workforce

I just realized why I’m so unhappy at work. I’ve been working on IT solutions for the past 4 years that are “foundational” meaning nothing innovative, nothing groundbreaking – just projects that have the purpose of being a backbone for operations: data warehousing hubs, reference data rationalization, clinical trial management systems.

These technologies are necessities – key and very important to core business activities and to the company’s persistant and perpetual push for ever greater efficiencies and 6 sigma success.

But exciting they are not. Innovative, they are not.

What’s worse is, the Fortune 100 company I work for, a multi-double digit billion dollar company with tens of thousands of gifted resources, is looking to external vendors with standard packages for innovation and fresh  new apps to help grow the business.

I understand – again – the cost savings on paper associated with “configuration” (even though it never truly is configuration, but customization with complexity that exponentially increases throughout any given program), but the integration costs in my experience and opinion – and I’ve run multiple integration programs – always adds in complexity and costs what is gained in a proven package that should theoretically reduce development and testing time.

In the end it is a wash, financially. Except rather than having a workforce of motivated individuals with high morale from a successful deployment and a vested interest in the prosperity of their creation, what results is demoralized, cynical techies that have been infected by the IT management and sponsorship belief that vendors with COTS (Configurable Off-The-Shelf) systems know the business better, have better IT skills and a more mature vision than they do.

The reality is the vendors don’t care about the core business. They are trying to maximize their revenue and they do that by getting the ear of VPs and sponsors and convincing them of the theoretical argument of savings with their eloquent consultant-speak.

At my company, we have an “innovations” group and this is encouraging. But instead of 5-8 techies, it needs to be staffed with the same rigor as other established, fully functional groups with a whole slew of business analysts, business architects, account managers, program managers and developers.

This is risky initially, and against current industry thought (and even best practices), but the dividends in my opinion and from my perspective would be great. The alternative business model – low risk, status quo – breeds a stale, bored workforce.

Walter Breuning, dead at 114, said, "embrace change"

Change is good and should be embraced. This has to be good advice as it came from a voice of longevity, Walter Breuning, who recently passed away as the oldest man in the world at 114. 

Although change always carries risk, the alternative has become a larger risk: the large, clumsy, stifling, lumbering company that is no longer attracting the best resources, but repelling it.

About Yorick von Fortinbras

YvF is a writer, musician that stays sane by being creative while navigating the demands of life, looking for those holes where a spark can get through.
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