Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Globalization Dilemma

My present job includes "Pricing Manager" among the various job descriptions. Facing a challenge in getting IT time to fix our quoting tool (let's face it -- who hasn't had this problem at a company that is not Google?), I turned again as I have in the past to outsourcing. I have successfully used Guru.com in the past to find someone to do the work, but this time I turned to oDesk due to the nature of the work. Within days, I had found a Ukrainian developer with an amazing command of English and 20 years of experience in Java and Visual Basic including extensive work on Excel applications.

As I symbolic analyst, I often find this kind of experience troubling. When it comes down to it, most of my job could be performed anywhere in the world. I often suspect that most of the companies that hire me could find someone in India with my exact qualifications plus a Ph.D. and a background in computer science for 70% of my salary. George, my new Ukranian developer, earns $25 an hour for doing work for which I would probably pay $45 an hour at a minimum in the U.S. His English is so good that he knew the idiomatic phrase, "The devil is in the details." [Funny note of the day: in Ukranian, the literal translation of their equivalent phrase would be, "If your head is stupid on details, your legs go this way and that."]

On the bright side, this kind of internationalization means that local understanding and specialized skills can be in demand anywhere. For the market research expert in me, I find the outsourcing experience liberating because I know that some of my expertise and specialization in the U.S. consumer and B2B research market cannot be matched by someone else. Moreover, the internationalization gives me the opportunity to apply these skills to companies interested in selling into the U.S.

As a sidebar, I am in love with oDesk's awesome contractor time tracking tool called "Work Diary." It takes snapshots of your contractor's work periodically to show what they have been doing with their time. From the client's perspective, this approach gives me confidence that the contractor is working on my job when he says he is working. From the contractor's perspective, Work Diary makes it easy to track billable hours to your client and provides proof that you are billing for legitimate work if the client questions what is taking so long on an hourly project.

I foresee a future in which the percentage of work done on this kind of contract basis goes up dramatically. I can imagine that a number of companies interested in entering the U.S. market would not want to hire a market research professional full-time to do the market entry due diligence and might not have the money (or knowledge or project management abilities) to employ a full-service market research firm. These firms might turn to someone like me for a time-limited engagement that would expand their knowledge as much as they need to take the first steps in the U.S.

Overall, I think I am looking forward to this future, working on varied engaging projects for a range of interesting companies. I just have to get over my natural fear of being replaced by someone less expensive.

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