Column: Outsourcing poses career threat

Outsourcing--for many IT workers the word can be as bad as hearing your company is downsizing, unless you're part of the team to which work is being outsourced.

Outsourcing--for many IT workers the word can be as bad as hearing your company is downsizing, unless you’re part of the team to which work is being outsourced. Helpdesks in particular tend to get outsourced. Running a helpdesk takes up a lot of a company’s time and effort. With technologies also getting increasingly complex, many companies prefer to outsource the helpdesk rather than continually re-train team members so they can give the best service to callers.

This trend has helped specialist helpdesk companies and distributors selling automated helpdesk programs set up shop in New Zealand in the past year.

Besides not having enough staff or funding to support in-house IT investments, data research company IDC has found some companies no longer have the inclination to set up helpdesks because they feel their own IT departments are not satisfying their needs. A survey of more than 200 New Zealand companies by consultant Rowan Smith, who conducted the study covering about 20% of the market for IDC Research earlier this year, found the popularity of outsourcing the information technology functions is continuing to rise.

Smith found the key factors in outsourcing decisions are service levels, service quality and security. Interestingly, Smith reported cost is not a major issue; instead service and security are the priorities. Nearly half those surveyed suggested they were already outsourcing, intending to outsource, or expected to be considering it in the next four years.

IBM has capitalised on the swing to outsourcing more than anyone, its revenue from that business topping the $US40 billion mark worldwide since entering the market in 1991. IBM New Zealand services manager Glenn Yoder says this country is experiencing the same trends as overseas, with companies preferring to outsource IT because it isn’t their core business. These companies want the benefits but none of the responsibility for support, maintenance or managing day-to-day operations of information technology.

Which leaves any IT workers they may have hired in the meantime in an awkward position. In the United States, where “corporate downsizing” or “rightsizing” is seemingly endless, where AT&T can lay off 40,000 employees over three years and barely an eyelid is batted, network managers have come to realise their IT jobs are not lifetime positions.

The advice they offer is for IT professionals to keep their skills up to date, either through company training programmes or by doing it in their own time, at home or through night courses. Another important thing to remember, they say, is to keep smiling through the hard times--personality can be the deciding factor in who stays and who goes; management is more likely to keep on an enthusiastic person.

Taking total responsibility for your career is another common emphasis--not just through training, but by making yourself and what you are doing as visible as possible. Join user groups and industry associations--for any training they might be offering and for contacts which could come in handy in future.

Get to know the IT business and how it is helping your customers--expressing your job in terms of the business processes you are assisting rather than which technology is cool at the moment will give your bosses confidence that you are part of the company’s overall direction, rather than an expensive add-on.

If the unthinkable does happen and you find yourself without a job, keep on training as much as possible and work your contacts--many jobs are never advertised but are filled through word of mouth. Most of all be flexible--be prepared to relocate, to take a drop in salary if it will mean you end up learning new skills. Send CVs to companies you would like to work for or have heard may be looking for staff. And read widely.

Or you could try to get a job at the company to which your former employer has outsourced your old job--after all, you’ve certainly got the experience and it’s a growing business.

(Keenan is Computerworld’s careers editor. She can be contacted at

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments