Outsourcing is literally my worst nightmare

We went to live in Switzerland with my wife a few months ago. The banking system here is in need of (ever-cheaper) IT workers, so it wasn’t very difficult to find a job here.

I already have resisted outsourcing from the gut but now I completely made up my mind that I want never to work for a company made its money out of this.

What is outsourcing all about?

Wikipedia says: ‘Companies primarily outsource to avoid certain costs – such as peripheral or »non-core« business expenses, high taxes, high energy costs, excessive government regulation/mandates, production and/or labor costs.’

It is my understanding that it means: Let’s get others to do the work that does not mean much to us as cheaply as possible.

It doesn’t bother me that I work pretty cheap compared to others. This is the even-handed dealing of the world and there always will be a man who makes more money than I do. I don’t really care.

The fact itself that I have to work on a project which is really not so important, kills my motivation: a system of no weight, a kind of administrative stuff which – besides helping the customer to save costs – has absolutely no effect on the world. I do unnecessary things. This does not inspire me at all and I am not proud of it, in fact I definitely am ashamed of it.

Many persuade themselves that taking part in the development of an incredibly big system and that many people cannot do it. And not everyone has 10-15 years of experience in this area. Perhaps. But this is an unnecessary knowledge because it exists for a sole purpose which is not very important but means money. It does not inspire people and it does not give satisfaction to anybody.

Perhaps the fact that I work on a not so important thing – which does not add any perceptible value to the world – might be compensated with professional challenge in my work.  Just a little refactoring here, some automated testing there and then there are a few interesting algorithms, and perhaps we can improve the processes in order to make us more agile.

But, by essence, the big picture does not change. Professional criteria do not really matter in these projects, just the cheapness: how many people work on the project, how much expense does it entail and for how long?

Once in a while the cool project manager gives way for the pressure of a team to do what they think is important. Let them have some fun.

These customers/project managers do not believe in that we do. And they do not care about it. Business is business and there I am – the IT, the employee – who does not have to understand why (s)he does what (s)he does. (S)he just puts the company to expense.  (S)he is the necessary evil.

These people just don’t get what discipline and TDD mean. By testing strategy they mean a separate testing team who tests the system completely through its user interface. Automated testing only means Selenium (/PhantomJS/Tosca, etc.) testing for them.

They do not know the importance of the incremental and iterative development. Likewise, they do not know why it is so important to say no for some things instead of promising everything, and relative to what they promised – in the press of frustration and stress – much less work will be done.

What I have problem with is the scope.  The departments – in my point of view, a faceless body in the midst of their political skirmishes – created the business requirements based on the available annual budget. No one cares about the fact that an incredibly complex system has to be developed which could be understood by no one and the 80% of its functions are absolutely unnecessary. They decided that. And there is the budget. And from here the project manager enters the picture: the paramount consideration is the compliance with deadline.

And what about quality? You only have to look at the user interface of these systems. It makes my stomach rise. Code rot is appearing at the very same time when the code is being written.  The system is being patched all the time because it is full of bugs. But after all who cares if the system had reached its business goal?

Indeed this is the real world, and not everything is in black and white. Much could depend on good luck. But I do not want to leave myself to chance.

I am grateful for the opportunities given to me by people who gave me jobs and with whom I worked. I learned much from them and with them.

But now I do not want to engage in goals which do not concern the world and in soulless work to be done in a low professional manner.

I do not want to be outsourced. Not individually, nor as a member of a team.

I never want to work on a project for a single customer.

I would like to develop products. Products which excite their users and have an effect on the world. All this in a fellowship and with people who are forward-thinking and consider the goal – we work hard for – as important as me.

This is what I am looking for.

9 thoughts on “Outsourcing is literally my worst nightmare

  1. The problem of outsourcing is misunderstood here. The concept is that there is somebody, who can provide particular component of the value stream cheaper and in equal quality, e.g. we want to outsource operation of CRM system currently operated by 10 internal people, so there is a company, which operate CRM system for its several customers and taking over our system means for them to hire 1 more people. Saving is created by eliminating 9 people from the chain. In reality however it does not work like this. For the reason of misunderstanding managers outsource CRM to external company, for which this is its first and only customer. Company hire those 10 people, put some 2-3 managers on the top of it, put its own profit margin on the top of it and all this is invoiced to the company. Company managers are happy, because head-count was reduced, and this is what matters. The fact, there will be an invoice from the external supplier, and which will be around 2 – 3 times the cost of head count is irrelevant, because it is now different line in the budget. If somebody questin this, the typical answer will be “we can terminate contract anytime, while people we have to pay during leaving period”. And I do not speak here about competence and knowledge, which will be lost to the outside world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Michal,

      Thank you for your insight.

      I, as a software developer, believe that many outsourced jobs are nonimportant jobs, that do not add any perceptible value to the world.

      If I feel the job, that I have to do, is meaningless to me, it does not matter how efficient I am in it or how the entire value chain is built up at all.


    • Hello Gabor,

      Thanks for the advice 🙂

      If the most important value in a company’s culture is money, then you can expect that every decision at every level will be based on money. Employees’ “human needs” like honesty or mutual trust will be usually ignored.

      I believe and do know that there are many companies out there who think differently.

      I recommend reading Frederic Laloux’s fantastic book about Reinventing Organizations to see positive examples of this.


    • Claiming that the banks are thieves is an extremely dangerous standpoint for many reason.

      First of all it is capable to anger people that may lead to very bad actions, like those we just have witnessed last Friday night in Zurich. It is natural to hate people who you owe and banks do lend money, thus banks and bankers were always target for hate. But for actions that were performed by some of the employees of a bank hating the bank as an organization is the same as if you hated IBM machines for producing Hollerit machines used to record the jews before and during the second world war and thus adding to the efficiency of the killings. Some of those employees knew what the machines were going to be used.

      The second problem is that if the organization is blamed committing felony — which is a nonsense — then you miss the opportunity to find the persons who are responsible. Fortunately the appropriate governmental investigating organizations did not make the mistake and they did find the people and helped the banks to improve their processes and control measures to prevent further similar actions.

      It does not mean that there will be nobody using the means provided by a bank as an organization to rip off people for their own benefit. Banks close doors of fraud opportunity and adapt their processes and continuously amend their culture.

      Working for a bank as an IT expert you can be part of the changes to help a bank to be more honest, develop more secure processes that will lessen the opportunity of thieves. István did not sell his outstandingly pure and honest soul to anybody. He just got into an unfortunate position that made him bitter and write this article. He is kind enough not to reflect to your offending words about selling his soul.


  2. Szia István, itt mi a sztori vége?:
    Once in a while the cool project manager gives way for the pressure of a team to do what they think is important. Let them have some fun. … és? Mi történt?


    • Hello Tibor,

      So you are interested in the end of the story 🙂

      We wanted to add some extra integration tests to the code base just to make sure that everything is working properly. The PM finally allowed us to do that.

      The consequence was: we found several bugs much earlier, and later, during the testing phase, we had no serious issues.

      I think it was a good decision from the PM to allow us writing some integration tests 🙂


  3. Pingback: Outsourcing, Do It Right | Java Deep

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