"Slides are behind reality," said Ilya Billig, vice president of marketing for Luxoft, a Moscow-based outsourcing vendor. "I've been talking to Gartner analysts and they admit that the slides they have on Russia are behind and they're willing to change them. Russia is more stable now than ever."
Gartner's Ian Marriott, research vice president, and Partha Iyengar, vice president and research director, presented slides that resembled a car rating out of Consumer Reports. Instead of judging cars, analysts judged countries for their business suitability. The usual suspects were on the list with India getting the highest overall marks ("very good," for those keeping score). China, Northern Ireland and Canada rated "good," with Russia rating "fair."
The analysts said the ratings were based on a number of criteria, including language capabilities, cultural compatibility, government support and stability, infrastructure and the size and quality of the labor pool, as well as overall cost savings.
They also said that an "offshore arms race" is in full force right now, as established countries and up-and-comers (Vietnam, Brazil, South Africa, among others) battle it out for their share of the global sourcing market pie. That competitive spirit was evident after Marriott's and Iyengar's presentation.
China's low marks did not surprise Cyrill Eltschinger, CEO of IT United Corp., an outsourcing provider based in Beijing. It didn't make him happy, either.
"You're not learning much about anyplace besides India," he complained.
Eltschinger said he came to the conference to "fight ignorance" about China as an offshore destination. Gartner has given China poor marks for IP security and cultural compatibility. Iyengar also said that people in the United States tend to have a negative perception of China, given its communist government and problems with software piracy. It's this perception that Eltschinger is trying to parry.
"China has a lot to offer," he said, noting that the world's most populous nation could use a trade industry association, such as India's NASSCOM, to help fight its PR battles.
Russia may have gotten a "fair" overall rating, but Gartner gave it poor marks for language, infrastructure, government support and IP security. These ratings aren't exactly accurate, according to Billig.
Billig insists that the government support is there, thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his professional, responsible and business-savvy cabinet members.
"Putin has built a manageable structure for the government, and he didn't receive credit for this yet in the West," Billig said.
"The presentations almost have me thinking about staying home or Canada [because of] the security issues, people issues, business issues and so forth," said Mark Anderson, general manager of contact center solutions for MCI Inc.
"I don't speak for all of MCI, but that's what I've come away with here," he added. He's still not convinced that the countries Gartner mentioned can deliver the goods.
"The price is pretty compelling, but there are other issues besides price. It's more complex than that."