Don't believe the offshore hype?

Subject: Don't believe the offshore hype?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 09 Mar 2004 14:42:03 -0500


Lynne Wright opined: <<I don't think we need to get nervous about [offshoring of our jobs] happening, at least in the near future... i'm sure some companies will try it, but I don't think it'll fly.>>

While I'd like to agree with you, the evidence points in the opposite direction. Consider, for example, the many Indian technical writers who have joined techwr-l and the ensuing hubbub over their questions and skills. I think the problem is exactly the opposite of what you suggest: the problem will be serious in the short term, and will only resolve itself over time as enough influential customers complain. That means short-term dislocations for some of us, but probably a less-severe problem than many fear in the long term.

Dell's experience has proven instructive. They moved much of their technical support operations to India (that's the short term), but recently moved corporate support back to North America when large domestic customers complained (that's the long term). Companies that deal primarily with consumers, who have much less clout individually (though more clout collectively), will be slower to move operations back. And in the time while they wait, the offshore operations will have an opportunity to train their people to an acceptable standard.

<<The bottom line is: tech writing is a really difficult job and it takes somebody with a lot of diverse skills and knowledge sets to do it properly.>>

Unfortunately, these skills are easily learned by people with skill in communication in their own language--whether those people are Indian or other nationalities. What's more relevant is, as you noted, that it's not possible to write clearly and well in a language unless you live in that language. I make a good living editing English scientific manuscripts written by Japanese authors, many of whom write far better than some native English authors I've worked with. But it's still always clear that they're writing in a second language.

I suspect that many Indian authors, who have grown up fluently bilingual in English as a second language, will be every bit our equal in writing good English, but will still need help polishing off the rough edges. And some Indian (and other foreign) authors will be every bit as incompetent as some of the people here in North America who claim to be technical writers. That only goes to show that managers and the people who work for them don't differ all that much around the world: Dilbert is by no means exclusively a North American phenomenon.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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References:
don't believe the offshore hype: From: Wright, Lynne

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