Monday, October 31, 2005

An advantage, really?

It's always fun being the Devil's Advocate on things. If you question assumptions enough, you at least force a new way of thinking at times. It is not something that comes naturally, but something or the other keeps happening which may make you do it. I recommend it - helps you clean out the brain like nothing else.

An advantage that comes up when magazines and newspapers talk about outsourcing to India is that there is a 12-hour time difference, which makes handing off work easy. We work, they sleep. Vice versa. The cycle continues. The citi never sleeps.

After talking with different people who have some experience in this (outsourcer and outsourcee), I realized: what a load of bull.

See, the basic assumption is: work is seamless. You do some work here in the US, and then the work continues in India while you sleep. Only one problem: in programming, no one works on the same code at the same time. As in, if I start writing a function, it's not like someone in Bangalore is going to continue writing it after I shut shop and go home at night. Most of the time, whole modules are handed off to India, with requirement specs and all that blah.

And what if there is a doubt, or an unresolved issue? The person in India is working on something, and he has a problem at 2:30 PM. He shoots an email to , say, me, the person he's liaising with. It is 2:00 AM here (Pacific Standard Time), and I definitely am not checking my email till, say 9:00 AM when I get to office. I reply to him. He receives it, and it is 9:30 PM in India then. Unlike BPO companies, programmers work the same hours everywhere. No night-shift stuff there. So, he's gone home by then. If he has a niggling issue, there is another 24-hour turnover before the issue is resolved.

If it is too knotty an issue, it may involve me coming in early and him waiting till late to actually do a conference call and resolve the issue.

In fact, I know of people here on client projects from Indian companies who take calls late at night (say, 10 PM) at home or on company-provided cellphones, because it is a more earthly hour for his team in India to talk. That of course isn't necessarily possible all the time .

I am slightly confused: where is the value add in the 12-hour time difference for any programming company? Other advantages including the human capital angle and cost of course apply. But this twelve-hour lag advantage thing is bugging me now.

Maybe I am missing something. More experienced campaigners may pliss to explain.

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