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CIO Trendwatch: Outsourcing, paychecks and stress

Offshore outsourcing is a hot topic, but it gets downright heated when you start talking about its impact on paychecks at home -- hot enough to get Uncle Sam involved.

How do you turn a news story into a big issue? Use the "P" word.


'The Certified' get their reality checks

A report last month from New Canaan, Conn.-based Foote Partners LLC shows that the heat from the offshore outsourcing trend has started to burn holes in the paychecks of some IT pros. The story nearly burned a hole in our server -- it was August's most-read story on

Foote's research, which used data from 36,000 IT pros at 1,800 firms in North America and Europe, found that the overall premium bonus pay for certified IT workers fell 4.1% in the first half of 2003 and nearly 6% over the past 12 months.

Bonuses for webmaster/Internet certs and beginner certs, like the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Certified Computing Professional (CCP), and CompTIA PC Technician (A+) suffered the sharpest declines. Bonuses for database certs dropped an average of 15% over the last 12 months, although certified DBAs as a whole continue to draw the best bonuses.

Foote claims that offshore outsourcing is the reason bonuses are going on a diet.

"These are monies that have traditionally been used to retain and motivate workers," he said in a statement. "As more work is transferred offshore, premium pay becomes unnecessary."

But the news isn't all bad.

Certifications in project management, systems administration, network operating systems, and Linux, Unix and Windows security increased from 13% to 25% in value over the last year.

Even before the Foote research was released, offshore outsourcing was becoming a bigger blip on Uncle Sam's radar. The General Accounting Office, which is the investigative branch of Congress, plans to study the effects of IT offshore outsourcing on the U.S. job market. The results, which should be available in the spring of 2004, will help the federal government figure out where it stands on offshore outsourcing and develop policies around that stance.

Are a billion people enough?

India seems to be "Outsource Central" right now, but a couple of stories last month raised a surprising question: Is the Indian work force up to the task? It's surprising when you consider that India is in the billion-plus population club.

Some of the execs running the Indian IT firms told CNET they're worried that there may not be enough workers to handle the influx of work outsourced from the West. A study earlier this year showed that Indian schools may not be able to crank out enough grads to keep up with the demand.

Even if there are enough people to do the work, that doesn't mean they're going to be happy campers. According to some figures, the attrition rate at Indian call centers is 30% to 35%. The late hours (to take calls from U.S. customers) and the need to learn new accents are just two possible reasons workers are hanging it up. NASSCOM, an organization of Indian IT companies, has formed a task force to figure out how to deal with the problem.

Overworked, underchilled

This tidbit from August is proof that you really could use a vacation and bury your toes in sand rather than bury your head in work.

According to a Robert Half Technology survey of nearly 1,500 CIOs in the U.S., 55% said that they've taken on more work during the last year. New projects account for most of the waxing workloads; company expansion is the next most common factor. Get this -- only 9% cited understaffing for the "overworking."

And the next tidbit is proof that even when you get away from it all, there's no escape.

A survey last month from IT recovery services firm CoreProtect found that 23% of IT managers and staff have gotten work calls while they're on vacation, and 72% dread what awaits them when they return to the office.

Moral of this story -- when you go on vacation, remember to forget the cell phone!


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