The British Computer Society (BCS) has published a report broadly welcoming the trend to outsource staff abroad, saying that the practice benefits the UK economy as a whole and IT professionals need to ‘upskill’ to keep up with the market.

“The challenge for British professionals now is to gear up for the rapid globalisation of the IT services industry that is well underway,” explained BCS chief executive, David Clarke. “Traditional IT skills such as software development have become globally ubiquitous and a narrow focus on technical skills and their application will not help tomorrow’s professionals."

Last week, the Department of Health announced a new deal with IT outsourcing firm Xansa to take over shared financial and back-office services, which they claimed would save £224m if half of the 663 eligible NHS organisations transferred to the scheme. Xansa operate programming offices from locations including Noida, India.

According to the report, some IT activity is not suitable for off-shoring, including circumstances when IT professionals need to be close to the business decision makers, or when a very specific area of expertise is required. However, the report makes the point that software developed off-shore in places such as India tends to be of extremely high quality.

In order to survive the climate, the report recommends IT professionals keep their skills up-to-date and try to diversify, as well as noting other advice such as keeping abreast of news of job creation opportunities, making use of mentoring schemes, and avoiding positions vulnerable to outsourcing, such as technical support and legacy application maintenance.

Additionally, the IT sector is short of skills such as project management and integration, and the BCS recommends that individuals may need a more diversified profile to survive. The NHS is picked out as a particular area where well-rounded skills may be required.

The report was written by Elizabeth Sparrow, chair of the BCS working party on off-shoring. A book by the same author entitled A Guide To Global Sourcing is available from the BCS bookstore.


British Computer Society