Thursday, November 20, 2003

IDC is reporting an ominous (and obvious) trend in IT. Outsourcing (and offshoring) will continue for the foreseeable future. "'However, though the delivery of IT services will increasingly come from offshore, much of the spending will continue to be captured by locally based vendors who build up their offshore delivery resources."

This trend is disturbing, especially to the truly talented developers who preceded the dot com frenzy and understand a wide range of systems and applications. The commoditization of high-end skillsets will not lead to business success for one simple reason: software development is still an art, not a science. The most talented developers will outperform the least talented by several orders of magnitude.

Thus, a company that demands a $30-an-hour Oracle DBA with ten years of experience may get what they ask for... but it will likely come at the price of failed, late or dramatically over-budget projects. Luring a top-notch Oracle DBA, who might require $80/hr, could mean all the difference. Bringing creativity to bear upon daunting business and technical problems is the domain of the most talented resources.

That's not to say that many aspects of IT should not be commoditized. Running a service that cuts payroll checks; monitoring network uptime; some BPO and many call-center/support operations; all are good candidates. They do not require the highest levels of cooperation with the business, creativity or exceptional problem-solving skills. But if you're a data-mining expert who works well with the business... then, my suspicion is that you will command high rates and deserve them. One keen insight into the data could mean the difference between a failed initiative and a successful one. And this can translate to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for large companies.

Related, interesting article: Half of all outsourcing deals failing. Reading between the lines - organizations need damned good technical architects, business analysts and project managers to help manage the outsourcers.


On a sports-related note, those of you who know me are aware of my belief that one of the finest sports tacticians of all time is Robert Montgomery Knight. His teams are beautiful to watch. Fundamental execution is paramount, discipline both on and off the court are required. His approaches to both defense (man-to-man with strong help principles) and offense (motion offense stressing screens _away_ from the ball) revolutionized basketball. And that's certainly not an overstatement... the statistics highlight the pre-RMK and post-RMK era in the Big Ten in stark contrast.

That being said, I am baffled by his lack of NCAA success since the advent of the 35-second shot clock. If you look back, I believe his teams have won a total of two NCAA games since that time. The shot clock was 45 seconds when introduced in 1985-86 (apparently to prevent stalls like UNC's four corners). The clock was reduced to 35 seconds in 1993-94.

In any event, does the clock relate to Knight's reduced results? My contention is: probably. As I understand RMK's original system, players were drilled in receiving a pass and waiting two seconds for screen-based motion to unfold before dishing, driving, etc. In the pre-clock days, RMK's teams would run motion for two, three or more minutes, especially in a tight game with a small lead. His teams didn't lose very much under those conditions. Those types of rules are less valuable when a two-second delay is a large percentage of your possession time.

Can he adapt? We'll see. Certainly he ranks among the finest minds in sports ever. His teams are still a thing of beauty to watch. My hope is that he finds another clever wrinkle in the game with which he can drive a competitive advantage. What a wonderful way to cap his already steller career... defeating his nemesis: the 35-second shot clock.

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