Rural Sourcing: Why �IT Inbreeding' Is Unhealthy

Don Tennant

In my post, last week, I mentioned that the agenda of this week's 2010 Outsourcing World Summit in Orlando includes a presentation by the CEO of Rural Sourcing Inc., a company that promotes rural sourcing in the United States as an alternative to offshore outsourcing. I'm all for it, as long as the value of offshore operations continues to be understood and appreciated.

Whether we like it or not, companies are going to do whatever they can to keep their labor costs as low as possible, so the idea of working with outfits like RSI to tap U.S. labor markets where the cost of living is relatively inexpensive makes perfect sense. Providing employment opportunities in these markets is clearly an important, welcome strategy for U.S. companies to take. My only qualifier is that we need to implement the strategy in a way that doesn't degenerate into what I call 'IT inbreeding.'

When I've written on this topic in the past, I've explained that relying too much on ideas borne of people with closely related experiences and ways of thinking can be unhealthy. On one occasion in particular, I wrote about Optimal Solutions Integration, a Texas company that had outsourced IT work to an RSI facility in Arkansas. What struck me in that case was a quote by Gary Hart, vice president of global outsourcing at Optimal Solutions:

There's not much difference between my Texas accent and the one you get in Arkansas. On every level, it makes sense.

I took issue with that statement, and explained why:

It might make sense on some levels, but certainly not all of them -- at least not in the sort of world most of us want to live in. No matter how you look at it, Hart's accent comment is indicative of an attitude that values sameness over diversity. It bespeaks an insularity that's uncomfortable for anyone who has recognized the benefits of forces like multiculturalism and globalization.

Inbreeding as a practice is just plain unhealthy, and that goes for IT inbreeding as well. Turning inward isn't the answer. We shouldn't avoid different accents or different cultural norms or different approaches to business. Rather, that diversity needs to be sown, cultivated and allowed to flourish.

So when RSI CEO Monty Hamilton speaks at the Outsourcing World Summit this week, my hope is that the rural sourcing option is presented and received in a way that recognizes that, as with every option, there will be tradeoffs. Rural sourcing is a great approach that should be used whenever it makes sense. But we can't allow ourselves to overlook the fact that losing an outward focus that values diverse strengths and perspectives would be senseless. And just plain unhealthy.

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