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Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Over the past year, offshoring has become more closeted even as it has grown more commonplace.
Julia Homer, CFO Magazine
June 1, 2004

Offshore outsourcing may be a proven concept, but it certainly has some rough edges in practice. In putting together our special section on the subject (see "Off Shore"), we ran into a few of those rough edges ourselves. When art director Robert Lesser tried to hire a Toronto-based photographer for a photo shoot in Syracuse, New York, U.S. officials stopped the photographer from crossing the border. The grounds? He would be depriving an American of a job — if only a two-hour one. Later, when I asked the help-desk technician who fixed my E-mail where he was located, he paused for a long moment, then replied, "Texas," in an accent far more Delhi than Dallas.

Over the past year, offshoring has become more closeted even as it has grown more commonplace. In the survey we conducted as part of this project, CFOs asserted that they are not concerned about the widely reported backlash against the practice. At the same time, few of them would speak publicly on the topic. Perhaps it just hits too close to home: 21 percent of those who offshore — or plan to — are sending finance and accounting jobs overseas.

In a global economy, work should go to the person who delivers the best value, regardless of location. But let's face it: everyone wants it both ways. Most business leaders believe that cutting labor costs benefits shareholders, but no one wants to lose his or her own position. Meanwhile, India-based outsourcers are moving as fast as they can to compete with their U.S.-based counterparts before wages for skilled Indian workers rise too high. Perhaps our Toronto photographer should follow the advice of his colleague in upstate New York, who simply tells the border guards he's off to a picnic at Niagara Falls.