Domestic Sourcing: Overcoming the 'India of the United States' Stigma

Don Tennant

Question: What happens when you depict the people doing IT work at offshore locations as brain-dead, incompetent misfits who lack any substantive talent? Answer: It might come back to bite you when you want to do that same work at a domestic location instead.


Next week, the IT trade association TechAmerica will present a couple of free Webinars aimed at promoting low-cost domestic locations as alternatives to offshore outsourcing. A Feb. 17 presentation will focus on identifying and retaining a workforce for low-cost domestic sourcing, and a Feb. 18 offering will concentrate on how to make the model work. TechAmerica is introducing both Webinars this way:

For over two decades, sourcing for services across both IT and Business Process sectors has gone global. The shift "offshore" has caused vigorous debate among industry, government, and the media on the impact of globalization on U.S. innovation, and the socio-economic effect on the U.S. workforce. In response, IT services providers have been examining ways to deliver more cost effective IT solutions domestically by looking at new U.S. locations as potential sourcing destinations.

Both Webinars, moreover, will feature presenters from the state of Maine. A Feb. 17 participant will be John Dorrer, director of the Maine Department of Labor's Center for Workforce Research and Information, and the Feb. 18 Webinar will feature Peter DelGreco, vice president of operations at Maine & Co., a private, non-profit corporation that assists companies that locate in Maine.


And that's not all. DelGreco will also take part in a TechAmerica-sponsored live event in New York on the morning of Feb. 17: "Opportunities in Domestic IT Sourcing: Think Globally, Act Locally."


Clearly, the state of Maine is working hard to promote itself as a prime domestic alternative to offshore outsourcing. The problem is that the offshore-bashers have generated such a negative impression of the work that's accomplished offshore, and the people who do it, that there's a backlash against the idea of doing that work here.


Last July, the Portland Phoenix in Portland, Maine, carried a report about a then-upcoming TechAmerica event that was promoting Maine as a low-cost alternative to going offshore. Under the headline, "Maine -- the India of the United States?" the Phoenix scoffed at the idea:

Here's a press release announcing Maine's latest economic development effort: portraying our state as a cheap place to put call centers, without having to go offshore. Thank heavens for our state officials' hard work painting us as people who will sit in cubes and read scripts about stuff we don't understand for cheap money. What will they think of next? Just going door-to-door and begging for money to give to Mainers?

What a shame that there's such a widespread perception that the work done offshore is nothing more than incomprehensible call center operations, and that as a consequence, the people who are working hard to promote domestic locations as offshore alternatives have to battle the very constituents who would benefit. How unfortunate that companies like Rural Sourcing Inc. in Atlanta, which is striving to promote rural locations throughout the country as alternatives to offshore locations, have so much misinformation and disinformation to contend with.


Rural Sourcing CEO Monty Hamilton will speak on domestic sourcing next week at the 2010 Outsourcing World Summit in Orlando. He'll probably mention his company's centers in Arkansas and North Carolina, and the work they're doing for corporations like GlaxoSmithKline and Reynolds. He'll have a friendly audience of outsourcing professionals who understand that high-quality, high-profile IT work is accomplished in offshore outsourcing centers like India, and that there are good business reasons to move at least some of that work back to the U.S. if it can be done in a way that's economically viable.


Hamilton will no doubt appreciate making use of his time that way rather than having to spend it explaining why being "the India of the United States" isn't such a bad thing. Having his work handicapped by mindless India-bashing must get awfully frustrating. If only the people who engage in it could comprehend that.

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