Editor’s note: Vivek Wadhwa, the founder of two software companies, is an executive-in-residence and adjunct professor at Duke University. He is also the co-founder of TiE Carolinas, a networking and mentoring group. This article is reprinted with the permission of BusinessWeek.
DURHAM, N.C – A common misconception is that today’s outsourcing trend was driven by the tech industry.
Even The Wall Street Journal ran a recent front-page article saying that Silicon Valley had helped power India’s outsourcing boom by shifting sophisticated technology jobs there. While the industry does indeed outsource, it has had a minimal impact on the trend as a whole, according to new research. The leading outsourcers have actually been large corporations such as General Electric, Citibank, and American Express.
Many of them sent abroad their IT systems, which are different from the innovative software products that tech companies develop. In fact, few tech companies outsource core product development, because it just isn’t practical to send this type of innovation offshore. Most are small or midsize businesses and can’t achieve the economies of scale that larger businesses stand to gain from outsourcing.
The tech industry has never made up more than 15% of the outsourcing market, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Ashish Arora, who has researched outsourcing extensively. Banking, finance, and insurance account for about 40%, followed by telecom (17%), and manufacturing (12%). Arora includes the product development that companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, and Cisco perform in their offshore locations in his estimates.
New research by Columbia University professor Amar Bhide helps explain why tech companies don’t outsource core product development. Bhide interviewed the CEOs of 106 tech companies and concluded that the problems with outsourcing innovation greatly outweigh the advantages. His report, set to be released on July 20 at the Kauffman-Planck Summit on Entrepreneurial Research in Dana Point, Calif., suggests fears of outsourcing in the tech industry are greatly exaggerated.
For full text of Wadhaw’s column see the BusinessWeek link.