There is something both strange and ironic going on right now. Remember the heated debate about the proposed increase in H1B visas just the other week? Well, earlier today Mary Hayes Weier made some interesting comments regarding the IT talent shortage in India. Among other things, research firm Gartner has gone so far as advising Indian CIOs to — wait for it! — outsource IT work.
Yes, you read that right. At the same time as American IT workers are up in arms about a perceived army of cheap, foreign competition charging the castle Gates (sorry!), the very same Indians that tend to drift into the crosshairs are now looking to send their own IT jobs offshore. It’s an odd twist, to be sure. From Weier’s article:
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that shows India on the verge of a talent crisis […] they start looking offshore, to Hong Kong and Singapore, for IT workers rather than fight for talent within their own country. The growing economy in India has created big IT budgets, yet India CIOs often can’t beat the big service companies like Tata and IBM at the recruiting game.
SAP career expert Jon Reed shared his thoughts on the initial H1B debate last month, so we figured it was time to check back in for an update on this latest development:
The irony of India soon having to offshore its own technical needs is a fascinating one. But how much does this really change the globalization of the information worker?
To get a handle on this story’s impact on the SAP market, we have to start with the assumption that offshoring trends in SAP follow a similar pattern to overall IT offshoring trends. Since the bulk of IT offshoring is done by large companies running either Oracle or SAP ERP platforms, this seems like a fair assumption.
So how does this news impact the SAP market? It’s a tricky question because the overall technical capacity across the world has not yet been fully leveraged by offshoring. However, this Information Week piece makes a good point: The cultural and language mix with India was perfect for U.S. based companies. Other countries may have the technical capacity but the cultural and language barriers might negatively impact the return on investment for offshoring.
Overall, I would say that this is good news in the short term for SAP consultants, in particular those based in the U.S. Any limits on the supply of qualified consultants means a corresponding uptick in rates is likely. But in the long run, as this author concedes, the
globalization trends are not going away. Ultimately, we are far from reaching worldwide technical capacity. It may take time to conquer some of the barriers, but I guarantee you there is a wave of entrepreneurs in Russia, Mexico, China and elsewhere working feverishly to do just that. I wouldn’t bet against them.
This means that the general advice I have always given SAP consultants about offshoring still holds: Try to avoid commodified skill sets, especially on the development side. Become indispensable by gaining a business process background, industry expertise, team lead experience, and crucial exposure to the latest SAP tools and releases. Yes, the offshoring question has gotten more complicated with India at capacity. But the long term trend of the globalization of the information worker is still in the adolescent stages. It will continue to grow, and functional work will eventually be impacted also.
There you have it: Potential short-term respite, but the worldwide globalization movement isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Use the time wisely — beef up your skills and make yourself outsourcing-proof before India increases capacity and/or other markets unlock the key to easier partnerships with U.S. companies.