Article: Developer Bob' -- outsourcing Hero or Villain?


Developer Bob' -- outsourcing Hero or Villain?

Outsource your job to China, surf Reddit and watch cat videos in the office – that's 'creative' Bob, top coder and expert in programming languages, for you
Developer Bob' -- outsourcing Hero or Villain?

You are an authority on Game Theory and the win-win approach to business relationships


Can you ‘do nothing’, watch cat videos, and still be rated a top performer? You may ridicule my question and yes, my genius. But before you deride my intellect, let me tell you, the answer to my question is ‘yes’ -- but only if you are ‘Developer Bob’ and know the economics behind ‘outsourcing’ your own job.

Sample Bob’s work schedule:

9:00 am – Arrive at work and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos.
11:30 am – Lunch
1:00 pm – E-bay time
2:00 pm – Facebook updates, LinkedIn
4:30 pm – End-of-day update email to management
5:00 pm – Go home

If you still doubt Developer Bob’s creativity, while doing nothing during official working hours you ought to read Bob’ performance reviews by the firm’s human resource department. “He was the firm’s top coder for many quarters and was considered expert in C, C++, Perl, Java, Ruby, PHP and Python.” (Read the full story here).

The case is intriguing. This is what American software engineer, identified as ‘Developer Bob’, an employee of a critical infrastructure firm in the US did. He outsourced his work to a firm in Shenyang, China, earning approximately $250,000 for watching cat videos on You Tube all day while paying the Chinese company a mere $50,000. ‘Outsourcing’ – that’s the key word, and the reason for his exemplary performance. He seems to have to have understood the economic benefit of outsourcing better than the US state of Ohio, which ironically imposed a ban on outsourcing of information technology and back-office projects to locations such as India. And that’s what makes him a sort of model employee by all accounts.

On a personal front, I am enamored by the adventurous yet lazy Bob. Dear ‘Developer Bob’, given my limited knowledge of Economics and Management theory, I hold you in as an equal to Adam Smith, a Scottish academician; and also to management gurus Tom Peters and Peter Drucker. As I understand, you must have derived your knowledge of outsourcing by reading Smith’s treatise, ‘An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’. You have epitomized what Peters and Drucker preached, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest!” For me, you are an authority on Game Theory and the win-win approach to business relationships. You must be an ardent fan of Nobel laureate John Nash as well, for didn’t he say that individuals and companies will seek what is best for them through fairness and honesty by working together?

But like all good things that come to an end, so did the genius of Developer Bob. Had it not been for the team of ‘misconduct investigators’ at Verizon Enterprise Solution, a company that provides integrated business solutions, Developer Bob would have got away with his outsourcing business.

It so happened that someone noticed suspicious activity on the company's VPN (virtual private network) login. His employer asked Verizon to review "anomalous activity" in its records — namely, the remote login of an unknown user from Shenyang, China. Investigations revealed that Bob had hired a software consulting firm in Shenyang to do his programming work for him. He had even shipped the Chinese developers the RSA security token they needed for authentication so they could log into his account. Interestingly, Bob was taking jobs with other firms and outsourcing that work to China, too – an outsourcing genius to the core!

Bob, however, missed a simple trick: he forgot to set up of a proxy server at his home. And this brought him down. Today, outsourcing pundits across the world are discussing the fallout of this entire episode. They are discussing the issue from an ethics and ‘breach of security’ perspective. Reports state that he has been sacked.

Dear Bob, howsoever much I admire your genius, it seems you took Peters and Drucker literally. For once, you perhaps misread, or perhaps failed to understand, the statement ‘Do what you do best and outsource the rest!’ It seems you played with the positioning of best and rest. That’s where the genius in you took a beating.

Never mind Developer Bob, you are still a hero.


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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR

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