Ed  Averill's Point Of View

Job Exporting / Outsourcing -- Is is just work, or core competency?

There seem to me to be some  reasons NOT to outsource.  If one applies, a company should feel free to do it.

1.  Because I am outsourcing,  I am damaging the abilty of my society/country/community to support itself, and therefore me.

The ability of the world to grow into a global economy has depended on having people who wanted to buy and sell and transport -- and on people who prevented the pirates of the world from making it too expensive to try.  During a large portion of the last 150 years, the United States has provided one of the important global police forces that has allowed the stable growth of this global economy.  Other countries and organizations have also played important roles.  None of these countries or organizations would exist except for their ability to charge taxes and tarrifs of their successful citizens and constituents.

One of the many types of pirates that can weigh heavily on the cost of turning invention in to successful business is the pirate of intellectual property.  It is through laws, courts, and treaties, and the police actions that enforce, that govenments make it worthwhile to engage in invention or other such creative acts.

Another way that a government provides an environment for me to be successful is by managing access to shared natural resources, like air, water,  land, minerals, and people.  Much of the government's role is to prevent all of us from being destructive of the shared resources -- me included.

If I have chosen to license a corporation under a particular government, I think I have entered into a contract with that government to do my business in such a way that my needs for protection of my business activity -- both direct and indirect -- are not an unpaid-for charity of the government on which I lean for support.  Maybe some of these obligations need to be more formal nowdays than they used to be -- that is, spelled out in the articles of incorporation.

One of the ways I support my community is by hiring work done by local people who also have an investment in making the community thrive, and are willing to pay taxes and otherwise contribute to it's success.

2.  Because I am ousourcing, the people who will best know how to satisfy my customers will have no allegience to my company, or the country that makes the company possible.

Much of the technological growth of the last 40 years has come as the result of learning how to create and use computers.  There are many pieces in the development environment that has made that progression possible.  One of the often-quoted rules of the growth has been Andy Grove's prediction that memory size/speed/price would grow exponentially at a fairly high growth rate.  Repeatedly, industry has thought it would run into physical limits that would block that growth.  Repeatedly, industry has found the answers.  We are within a decade of some of the next barriers that are expected to need breakthroughs to continue the progress that has fueled so many other successes. 

Our ability to get to space is based on our ability to measure things using mathematical estimation techniques that can only be performed by machine.  This same kind of knowledge of accuracy has become a common part of our ability to manufacture materials of every increasing strength and precision.  It is necessary for the computers to have direct control of many machines nowdays.  They even do a better job of putting on the breaks in our cars or applying the gas to the intake than any simple mechanical mechanism.

So,  who will make the next few rounds of breakthroughs?  For how long?

Often, it is the people who have their hands on the biggest manufacturing processes that learn what the next barrier really is,  and how to break it.

The more advanced the manufacturing processes are that we ship offshore, the greater the likelihood that we will train a new group of engineers and technicians to make breakthroughs we would never think of.

But, we are now going even beyond training people in the hands-on of advanced manufacturing.  We are asking third-world countries to do our thinking for cheap.  We are asking them to build the software that we need to design and build things yet to be manufactured.

We are also letting teams of people in third-world countries take responsibility for answering the phone when our customer has a problem with his product and is trying to tell us about things that need to be better in order for him to be happy continuing to buy products from a company.

So, who will invent tomorrows' better solutions?  Why will it be my company?  Why don't I have to answer to my board of directors and stockholders about that?