Among the bromides fed to the kids of my generation was the sensible advice that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” The whole vulnerability thing comes to mind because this is the very position offshore outsourcing providers find themselves in today with regard to their public image and, in particular, their performance. In this case, however, we might invent our own bromide—something to the effect of “people who live in glass houses should not do anything to upset those who are likely to throw stones.”

The likely rock hurlers here are those who purchase the outsourcing services—perhaps outsourcing their IT or customer relations functions—in order to save money (while also reducing workforce). Offshore outsourcers are under constant scrutiny because what they are doing is inherently controversial, and because if they don’t deliver great service with the promised savings, they are likely to be terminated by the companies (including some insurers) who hired them. So if you’re going to take U.S. jobs away, you had best be prepared to take a whole lot of heat if you mess up.

Several years ago, Forrester Research reported instances of data leakage in the Indian IT industry leading to account theft. “While this type of fraud is a universal phenomenon, massive media glare coupled with limited Indian government action to prevent further reoccurrence will further slow down offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) growth,” said Forrester.

Many Indian companies have since bolstered their security controls and business continuity measures in recent years, Forrester said in a more recent report quoted in Computerworld. “But the lack of executive support for security efforts, an over-reliance on technology controls and inadequate training and awareness undermine the effectiveness of such measures,” the analyst added.

And the media glare remains, in large part because of our lousy economy in which displaced IT workers in particular are hopping mad at having their jobs shipped overseas. If their “replacements” show themselves to be a security risk, those disenfranchised workers will be pointing the finger of blame squarely at the heartless so-and-so’s who fired them. For the outsourcing customer, the appropriate bromide might be: “If you’re going to export U.S. jobs, make sure your outsourcing provider doesn’t lay an egg, because there are plenty of folks just waiting to throw those eggs in your face.”

In the end, those who provide outsourcing services must answer to a much higher standard when it comes to security and results. Unless outsourcing customers can demonstrate that they received the same services with the same security that they would have had with U.S. employees, they will be in hot water, indeed.

Tread carefully, outsourcers.

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