Showing posts with label Outsourcing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outsourcing. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Paradoxical Incomprehensibility

Several times in past years, TheHackerCIO has been amazed to see the paradoxical advantage gained by a knowledgeable person shielded by an impenetrable accent. One person in particular had an exceptionally good technology background, but a very thick european accent. Let's call her Karl, in keeping with the PC policy of being as confusing as possible with pronouns.

Whenever Karl put forth her technology proposals, they were sound. But the advantage she garnered came from avoiding any questioning or probing, which uniformly foundered on the shoals of her thick accent. I knew from my own intimate acquaintance with the implementation, oftentimes being coded and tested by yours truly, that these questions were receiving what the lawyers call "non-responsive" answers: that is, the answer was not a response to the question asked.

Was this a deliberate "mis-understanding" of the question posed? At times, I'm sure it was. Perhaps, other times it was genuine. But the misdirection, coupled with the difficulty of comprehension, seemed to provide a cover for Karl, so that no opposition could effectively field a contrary viewpoint.

Notice that this didn't help in the big-picture-sense of the word. It didn't help the policy to be correct, or better, or even succeed. It did help Karl's career and/or her specific goal of implementing whatever technology was desired.

There were two reasons for this:

  • the generosity of the listeners, who naturally, and generously assumed that the question had simply been misunderstood by a non-native language speaker. Also, to actually dig in and demonstrate that the answer was not connected to the question properly would seem very combative and perhaps even mean-spirited. 
  • bits and pieces of the answer were correct, technically, and based upon a deep and proper understanding of the underlying technology, which reassured the listeners that a proper approach was being taken, even if it was surrounded by the fog-of-incomprehensibility of Karl's accent.
To return to the big-picture, note that comprehensibility and communications are the number one issue and problem in technology development and application. A miscommunication of requirements is clearly far more devastating to total cost than any other single item conceivable. From my own experiences with Karl, I know that the objections of the "loyal opposition" within the company could only have led to an improvement in the overall approach taken, because I know from my own firsthand experience that many improvements were missed out by my inability to penetrate the verbal fog quickly enough to be able to tweak or adjust it to suit the particulars of the situation. 

Incidentally, this comprehensibility-overhead has to be factored into any attempt at outsourcing. If you're going to uphold the primacy of communications principle (and I think one must!), then it only follows that you have got to dig in, bite-the-bullet, and resolve each and every communications issue that arises in the course of the project.  Rigorously. At all costs. If that means that you lose any, or all, or even more than all of the cost-advantage that came from outsourcing to a foreign organization, then that's just the way it is. You simply have to find ways to emphasize that you're "sorry to be difficult", and so-forth, to counteract these communications-barriers. And that is true regardless of whether you're outsourcing. 

Because communication is the primary issue. 

I Remain,


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Unbearable Laziness of Outsourcers

Foreign outsourcers are a real PITA. TheHackerCIO now Unlinks from them as soon as they message him in a manner revealing their failure to read *anything* about me prior to hitting "send."

Their laziness seems to know no bounds.

For example, this came today:

On 12/16/13 1:59 AM, <<Name Deleted>> wrote:
Dear James,

Hope to pay your attention to some business opportunity.

I can assume that your compay needs from time to time some IT developement resources.

We offer to you our team as a base for your Ukrainian IT development center in order to develop some projects for you on demand or offer our developers as remote members of your development team.

One of our new proposal is <<Name Deleted>> system for logistic and transport (we offer specialistes with long experience and we can form full team under your request).

Moreover we can propose Billing systems development team:
<<URL Deleted>>
10year + of billing system development for Austria Telecom.

If an idea of co-operation could be interesting for you let's discuss all possible working models.

Hope to find some way of the mutually beneficial cooperation.

We are ready to earn trust incrementally.

<<Name Deleted>>

And here is TheHackerCIO's reply:


Hi <<Name Deleted>>:

You could have "earned my trust," by reading my LinkeIn profile where you would have immediately seen this: 

ATTENTION RECRUITERS, OUTSOURCERS, & BUS. DEV. : Learn about my strongly held opinions BEFORE you Message me, by reading my blog, especially the FAQ at

In general, if you do some research about me & show some thought in your request, I'll LinkIn with you.

Please follow those directions, and particularly, read this entry:

Furthermore, I'm blogging about your appalling failure to follow these directions. Read it here:

Finally, I'm unlinking from you, and placing you on my internal "banned list," for "failure to do any research before messaging me." 

Thank You So Much,


Maybe they cant read!? But if so, then they ought not to try outsourcing.

I Remain,


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why TheHackerCIO Doesn't Outsource

Every week outsourcing companies contact me. I get at least 4-5 emails and yesterday, a colleague I worked with 6 years ago called to offer outsourcing services!

TheHackerCIO doesn't do foreign outsourcing. 

I've heard anecdotal stories about wonderful success with foreign outsourcing. But, frankly,  anecdotal evidence is highly suspect to TheHackerCIO. I listen to it politely. I'm too kind to call they liars. But I don't accept it. Not for a moment. 

Not when I daily see the mess created by one such foreign outsourcer, who: 
  • selected a package for the client, of which they use less than 5% of the functionality.
  • wrapped JSON in XML-RPC, because they couldn't get the JSON to work end-to-end.
  • misspelled variables all over the place, in code from which database column and table names were generated. That is where you CAN NOT fix them without unloading the database, altering the schema, reloading the database, and coordinating this with code changes. I am particularly unforgiving of this, because any decent IDE will flag a misspelled word. But now, these subtle misspellings are potential problems and errors in the code base. For the foreseeable future.
I also managed a foreign offshore team of twenty plus developers on a project for a major financial client on the East coast. When the code arrived to us, it was unusable. We scrapped it, and buttressed our on-shore team to quickly attempt a re-write. Particularly shocking was the fact that even the simple modules were messed up and needed rework. We gained absolutely zip from our foreign outsourcing attempt. 

TheHackerCIO would take the management blame if he deserved it. I proactively attempted to the best of my ability -- and frankly, to the best of anyone's ability -- to ensure that they understood the requirements and the special framework within which the code had to work. But to no avail.

At an LACTO Forum meeting, a specialist on foreign outsourcing told us that to be successful, you had to travel frequently over to the foreign site and spend face-time, do team-building, etc. That doesn't fit into the business model of a small boutique consulting firm. 

So, I believe that it possibly can be successful. Well, OK, I'll leave the jury out on that one. But even if it could be, the only way it could is completely unworkable in the context of my business. So, I'll pass on the Outsourcing. And thank you very much. 

If you depend upon quality, delivery time, or even just actual delivery, I can't imaging a higher-risk approach than outsourcing. In fact, I think the only reason it came into vogue was from Pointy Haired bosses who read about how much money could be saved by doing it. And who never had any success with it any time they ever employed it. 

TheHackerCIO says, "Just say no, to outsourcing."

I Remain,