Software Development

The disastrous impact of IT Outsourcing to the Motivation and Results of Software Developers

IT Outsourcing (or the transfer of business functions to an external service provider) is a common practice in almost all big companies and a standard tool in top management consulting. Sometimes, it is seen as the only way to solve current problems in a company. There are a lot of good and sometimes bad reasons to do outsourcing of IT and/or software development. Main drivers are cost reduction, over aging of staff and missing qualification.

Just the discussion and/or rumors about a possible outsourcing has bad effects. The impact to the motivation, decisions and daily work of software developers and middle management is in most of the cases disastrous. Unfortunately, in a lot of organizations the top management is not aware of this negative impact or they just don’t care.

One problem is, that the higher management can’t see the direct impact this de-motivation and the fears of the employees. There are just negative the long term effects on productivity, quality and maybe worse results in the yearly satisfaction surveys.

To give a better understanding of the what happens, I’d like to tell you a short story (or let’s call it case studies).

Cases Studies

Maybe you know that I have three children, so imagine that I drive home after a long day of work, sit down at dinner table and say:

Case Study #1

“My dear children, the times are hard and everything is getting more and more expensive. We have to save money and mother and I think about having a shorter holiday this year and maybe less toys for you. I’m sorry but there will be better times and we will overcome this crisis together as a family.”

Most likely results:

– S. (girl, 10 years old) will say: “I understand you daddy, maybe we can also cancel some riding lesions for me this summer”.

– K. (boy, 5 years old): “Daddy, I saved some money (8,30€ are in the piggybank). You can have it.”

– Q. (boy, 3 years old): feels good, because everybody else is in a good mood.

Case Study #2

“My dear children, the times are hard and everything is getting more and more expensive. Mother and I are discussing that if we like to keep the standard of living we have to give one child away in the orphanage. At the moment nothing is decided, so don’t be concerned. Mother and I will manage this in a very professional way.”

Most Likely Result 1:

– S. (girl, 10 years old): will just leave the room and cry

– K. (boy, 5 years old): is shocked and cries

– Q. (boy, 3 years old): feels bad and cries, because everybody else is in bad mood

In the orphanage case (#2) the commitment and motivation of the children will be poor. No one will trust mother and daddy anymore. Children have usually not the opportunity to find other parents. You can’t generalize all what happens in this case, but we are all humans and our emotions are the same at home and during working hours.


Software developers which have fears to lose the job due to IT outsourcing, often react with unproductive behavior like:

  • design and implementation for résumé
  • google and find a new job during working hours 
  • complaining to peers (and spending some extra time coffee kitchen) – no extra hours and/or weekends to fix a bug, etc.
  • – sometimes a kind of ‘I don’t care about … anymore’ feeling (quality, maintainable solutions, etc.).

As already mentioned, these negative impacts are not directly visible for upper management. I assume in most cases there is a huge pressure to investigate IT outsourcing, but in my opinion is should be done just if there is absolutely no alterative way.

Maybe an enterprise can save 20% of cost with outsourcing, but if they lose in the same percentage in productivity (also of the remaining stuff) it may not been a really good deal. Managing with fears is stupid on the long term and brings in the best case short term success.

Reference: The Disastrous Impact of IT Outsourcing to the Motivation of Software Developers from our JCG partner Markus Sprunck at the Software Engineering Candies blog.

Markus Sprunck

Markus Sprunck works as senior software engineer and technical lead. In his free time he maintains the site Software Engineering Candies and experiments with different technologies and development paradigms.
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Roberto Girelli
Roberto Girelli
10 years ago

The point, in my opinion, is understand what really is good for business. For my experience some business men are so far from real world and think to do good choices with a sophisticated abacus.
Business is business but what really matter are results.

Rick Limon
Rick Limon
10 years ago

I have been an outsourcing consultant for almost a decade on and off, and the only thing I can say on this is that outsourcing is not happening because of just cheap labor cost, but for cheap/fast experience gain in the short term. Many of the main driving terms of business Generally while speaking to CIO’s and or hid IT Management the main driver is lack of experience and money or lack of hands and money.

I understand that it can impact, but I think that theres more positives than negatives, but depends on the organization/group motivation.

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