A Wayward Push in Offshoring by Microsoft

A blog that covers matters Microsoft management-related is pitching a fit over alleged plans by the company to outsource much of its tech support for SMS to Bangalore. Larry A. Duncan on his Microsoft Management Blog has generated a couple of dozen comments suggesting that support will suffer, that the government should tax companies that outsource, that it's a lousy idea (though not in those tame terms), and the like. Many waving fists; little substance in the complaints, which — like many such online conversations — tend to focus on generalities vs. specifics.

Let's talk about the specifics — at least those we know of.

Microsoft has outsourced a lot of work to India. No doubt, it places high or at the top of various lists that rank companies according to how much they've spent there. Also, Microsoft has outsourced much of its tech support to third parties for a long time — domestic and otherwise. It has plenty of experience in this mode of operation.

Yet one of the comments in Mr. Duncan's blog includes a link to an Indian company that's advertising for 100 SMS-smart people.

If the ad for these SMS-savvy folks is accurate and the new hires end up on the front lines for the product — which I consider one of Microsoft's more complex offerings — I don't think Microsoft will end up improving the quality of its support offering in this case.

Why do I say that? The hiring firm wants tech graduates with two to three years of experience. I know that Indian tech schools are top-notch. But two to three years of exposure to real life work seems a bit on the light side in this situation. And how much could they possibly learn specifically about SMS in that time? While those new hires get up to speed, a lot of Microsoft customers face potentially shoddy support, which means wasted time and effort for both parties.

No doubt, expertise will come in time for those new hires who truly don't have much experience in the product now; but the nuances of supporting an enterprise offering such as SMS are more demanding than supporting a standard office worker productivity tool like Word. Putting out a cattle call for relatively recently-graduated techies should be a last resort. It doesn't impress me as a practical solution.