Wednesday, November 07, 2007

[Misc] Software Engineering and Outsourcing in a "Flat World"

I am just reading the book from Thomas Friedman "The World is Flat", definitly a recommended read. Friedman explains (with a quotation from Carly Fiorina, the former HP CEO):
"The dot-com boom and bust were just 'the end of the beginning'. The last 25 years in technology, said Fiorina, have been just the 'warm-up act'. Now we are going into the main event, she said, 'and by the main event, I mean an era in which technology will literally transform every aspect of business, every aspect of life and every aspect of society.' "
I am actually willing to believe that, however he also brings loads of examples of companies, from HP over Mircosoft to Walmart that do extensive outsourcing activities particularly in China and India.

O.k. I also knew that, but I was not aware of the actual amount of work that has beeing moved from the US to Asia and former eastern-block countries (e.g., like Boing is outsourcing to Russia). Outsourcing from research activities to tax-counselor work to journalism (e.g. Reuters) to supply-chaines that spin around the whole world and produce on direct customer needs.

First I wonder if this is also true for European companies, and more important: have I overslept that development particularly related to Software Engineering? (btw. in that context an American manager expressed the fear, that if this is continuing as it started, the only thing that is left for the American workforce will be to sell hamburgers to each other - if they then still have the money to buy them, I would like to add).

Of course I heard about outsourcing to India... but the typical impression I got was that these outsourcing projects were a rather mixed experience. Thomas Friedman is painting this in much brighter colours than I did observe it myself (as a distant observer). I wonder: does any of the reader here has actual experiences of the "flat world" when it comes to Software projects? Does it really work to do SE projects mainly by using electronic communication? I am not speaking of open source projects, where every participant is more or less following his own agenda, I am speaking of a specific piece of software that needs to be designed for a specific customer with specific needs in a specific time-frame. Does this work for non-trivial undertakings?

Any actual experiences, comments?


ChristophD said...

"Thomas Friedman is painting this in much brighter colours than I did observe it myself (as a distant observer)."

I found this to be the fact all throughout the book, at least until I stopped reading it because in my opinion Friedman is overly convinced by his own point of view. In fact I'd sum up my criticism by saying that the world isn't nearly as flat as Friedman makes it out to be in that book...

Alexander Schatten said...

I must say, that I think that many points discussed in the book are definitly worth considering. And again, I think it is definitly a recommended read, but again, I also had the impression, that he a little bit underestimates the problems that are associated in outsourcing activities. Particularly in developing countries.

however, I really do not have much experience here.

Shannon said...

good book!