Book Review: Offshoring IT Services

 Mohan Babu K 
Published in 2006 by Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited
ISBN: 0-07-059756-1; 278 pages

Reviewed by   
Hindupur V. Ramakrishna, Ph.D.
University of Redlands, hindupur_ramakrishna _at_ redlands.ed

In a recent Business Week column (July 24, 2006), Jack Welch and Suzy Welch say “the question is not how do we stop outsourcing, but how do we use outsourcing to enhance competitiveness in what is, and forever will be, a global marketplace.”  Thus, offshoring IT services is here to stay and grow.  With Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat (2005) book on the NY Times best sellers list for many weeks and with nonstop coverage on news about offshoring in the public media, the interest in the topic is quite high.  However, the body of literature/knowledge on successful offshoring is far from mature.  This book is an attempt to add to that body of knowledge.  Any organization that is considering offshoring IT services or struggling with offshored projects should find this book useful.

According to the author, this book is meant to be a “how to” book on facilitating and succeeding in offshored initiatives.  The author draws on relevant literature wherever necessary and presents an offshoring management framework.  Due to the limited literature available in this topic area, the author’s extensive experience in (offshored projects) form the basis for most of the concepts and discussions in the book.  The book mostly focuses on “what issues need to be considered” and “how they should be considered” in order to insure success of offshored projects.  In this regard, the book falls a little short of truly being a “how to” book.  However, it is important to note that this shortfall can be mostly attributable to a lack of mature literature in the topic area and not to a lack knowledge/effort on the part of the author.

Offshoring IT Services has ten chapters divided into three sections.  Most chapters start with a link to the material presented in the previous chapter, an introduction to the discussion that follows, and end with a conclusion section.  At the end of the book there are two appendices – one on offshoring trends and positioning and the other on offshoring models.

The first section, consisting of the first two chapters, provides an overview of offshoring and outsourcing: its historical development, justification, and different models.  This is just a good summary of materials from published sources, and is useful reading for anyone who has not kept up with developments in outsourcing/offshoring during the last decade.

The second section, chapters three through eight, is the major contribution of the author.  In chapter three the author introduces his Offshoring Management Framework (OMF).  Chapters four through eight are used to develop and present the different parts/layers of the model: governance layer, management layer, project execution layer, and communication layer.  By devoting only a part of chapter three to the governance layer, chapter four to management layer, chapters five through seven to project execution layer, and chapter eight to communication layer the author implicitly assigns different levels of importance to each of the layers.  The discussions are supported by links to the existing literature and through anecdotes and case studies.

Section three, chapters nine and ten, presents a discussion of the global environment (for IT services) and a discussion of a potpourri of issues that must be considered in the environment for success of offshored projects.  Such issues as technology landscape, emerging techniques, and digital security and offshoring are discussed here.  Most of this work in this section is again a summary of materials from published sources.

Overall, the material presented in the book is well researched and the book presents a new framework for management of offshored projects.  Conceptual development and discussion of the framework is presented well and is supported by some prior literature and extensive anecdotal evidence.  Thus the book adds considerably to the exiting sparse body of knowledge in the topic area.  The author should be commended for tackling a complex issue and for developing a new framework.

However, there is one major problem with the book.  The author indicates that “the book will be of direct relevance to IT executives and program managers, client managers, business executives, academicians and researchers, business graduates and MBA students, and trainees at software service organizations.”  This is too broad a focus and thus results in the content in the book that wanders considerably.  This is also a reason for a lack of connectivity between the different sections of the book.  In addition, the author liberally uses boxes (of text) in each chapter to present synthesis of some specific writing/research, personal anecdotes, classified Ads, E-mail communication, and personal opinions/notes.  Though these could add value to the discussions of the author, they are not well integrated with the chapter material and in turn become distractions.  If the author had focused mostly on the framework and discussions on why and how the framework is valuable it would make a much better book for a focused audience of “IT executives, project and program managers, and client managers.”

Dr. Hindupur V. Ramakrishna is an Associate Professor of IT in the School of Business, University of Redlands, Redlands, California. His teaching and research interests include IT strategy, IT personnel issues, and E-business.

[Published in Journal of Information Technology Cases and Applications JITCAR-Vol 8-No 3]