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CIO Unplugged – 2/1/08

February 1, 2008 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Why Offshoring Works
By Ed Marx

I feel fortunate to have relocated to a community with a thriving HIMSS chapter. Recently, I was honored to participate in a DFW-HIMSS luncheon meeting as a member of the CIO outsourcing perspectives panel. On the panel with me were two giants in the business, which enriched my experience. Rather than rehash what was said, none of which was particularly new, I want to give you a unique perspective on outsourcing. In particular, offshoring.

To lay a foundation for my perspective, I will acquaint you with my past experience. I had worked for years in a system where operations were entirely outsourced, and 25% of my staff was offshore. In other environments, I employed selective offshore sourcing for routine and project based work. I have collaborated with top global sourcing firms. More recently, I visited India and toured the universities and factories of select firms. Perhaps the greatest insights gained however came from hosting dinner parties in my home for the rank and file offshore staff as they completed mandatory onsite rotations. Breaking bread at the dinner table created the single most effective time for listening. Why? When you minimize formalities and distractions, people tend to be more transparent.

As a general observation, offshore staff has provided a higher quality of service. Couple this with the price, and the value equation speaks for itself. Not only have I found this true with traditional offshore services, such as application support and interface development, but with our service desk as well. More important than reducing costs, our key service desk indicators improved, including overall customer satisfaction. What was the key to this offshore success? Hunger.

From the analysts to the executives, my offshore staff had one thing in common. Hunger. Many of their American counterparts simply did not display the same intensity and desire. Yes, the offshore men and women were highly educated, but they also possessed an insatiable desire to further themselves through service and develop themselves professionally. The emphasis on quality and the execution of it proved far superior. While visiting some of the facilities, I sat back in amazement, asking myself, “What if we had this pervasive focus in America?” I had the offshore staff teach us continuous quality improvement and share their processes and best practices so we could adopt them locally.

In some cases, Americans have become complacent. We’ve taken for granted our prosperity and competitive position, and many have adopted an entitlement mentality. Rather than confronting the realities of the global economy and the increased competitiveness, we’ve rallied for protectionism and bantered “Buy American!” It wasn’t always like this, of course. I believe the Greatest Generation had this hunger, which enabled us to reap the benefits. In order to sustain our prosperity and position, we must rediscover our hunger.

How do we develop that appetite? I am at my hungriest after a vigorous workout, after maximizing muscle hypertrophy and sweating off pounds. It is almost self-perpetuating: work hard, build hunger, nourish, and repeat. As leaders, we must develop and perpetuate this ethic within our organizations. We must ensure that support systems, like exercise equipment, are in place to cultivate hunger. Remove barriers and allow staff to perform at their best. Instead of relying on crude formulas based on education and length of employment, we must hire people with talent and attitude.

As we do this, the disparity between offshore and onshore will decrease, and we will find ourselves competitive again. Hunger will replace lethargy.

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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