Outsourcing to India: The Offshore Advantage | Article

By Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, 2004. Publisher: Springer-Verlag Berlin. ISBN: 3-540-20855-0.

Ink Well and  PenBecause it has the longest history as a leading location for offshore outsourcing relationships, India can be presumed to be the most fertile field of knowledge for how to do it successfully. So I jumped to the conclusion that Outsourcing to India – authored by an independent consultant who has been involved in managing outsourced relationships in the UK, Singapore and India – would reveal some valuable information for companies struggling with how to structure their offshore outsourcing relationships for successful outcomes. Indeed, the book’s Foreword and Preface claim it will guide readers through the outsourcing maze, show them how to avoid many of the major pitfalls, and help them understand how outsourcing works in India.

Instead, I found myself reading a book packed with travelogue-like information (nearly 100 of its 255 pages dealing with historical, religious, food and cultural aspects) and more than an additional 20 pages of information on “major outsourcing players” (which I found to be not different from information on those companies’ Web sites) and major cities where outsourcing providers are located. It’s organized and written in an easily readable style for people who need a broad overview introduction to India, and Kobayashi-Hillary boils down each chapter’s content to helpful summary checklists. Readers hoping for insight from the consultant-author will be surprised. Less than a handful of pages actually present knowledge that is stated to be from his own consulting experience. Quotes from other books, periodicals, and business advisory firms are the dominate content of nearly half of the book and at least 90 percent of the advice presented on pages not devoted to travel or cultural information. (The 16-page appendix of quoted references gives a clue as to how much content is synthesized from other sources).

Most of the nitty-gritty information executives seek to help them make decisions about their offshore relationships is not in this book. Of the five outsourcing success criteria the author cites, for example, only one pertains specifically to offshore. While the book offers a great deal of synthesized general information about outsourcing and its fundamental principles, there are only occasional glimpses of advice specific to offshore outsourcing ramifications. He does, however, include very good (but limited) offshore information on potential cultural clashes, issues with data privacy laws and numerous legal challenges, as well as feasibility analysis, project tracking and knowledge transfer. The rapidly evolving landscape of offshore outsourcing and the quickly expanding body of knowledge of how to do it successfully begs the question of how much value any book – given its static body of knowledge at the time of writing – can provide. Perhaps the answer lies in this very book: there is some value in the convenience of having a compendium of synthesized information all in one place. However, compendiums by their very nature usually present only the tip of the iceberg.

Readers of Kobayashi-Hillary’s book should determine what knowledge they hope to gain from the book. Those who seek country information easily gleaned on a plane trip to India will appreciate the book. But those who assume the book’s title is a promise of expert information on how to achieve better results in offshore outsourcing will probably be disappointed. It is a good starting point but is kilometers away from touching deep advice about decision-making frameworks or key success’failure points in offshore outsourcing now readily emerging in print and online media or from third-party advisory firms.

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