Does Software Outsourcing Commoditize Humans?

January 7, 2015

By Steve Mezak

Does_Software_Outsourcing_Commoditize_HumansDo websites like Tinder, Elance and 99designs cause the Commoditizing of Humans?

If commoditization occurs, I think it comes from the values of the buyer. You can use online dating and other types of online matching services as a more efficient way to meet critical business or personal needs. You can also use them if you are simply looking for cheap thrills or inconsequential shallow relationships, in business or your personal life.

Another article suggests that the secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality, as if Uber created wealth inequality or promotes it. The article compares services like Uber to menial work carried out by the poor in India. Jobs like driving for Uber (or working in McDonalds) can be stepping stones to more lucrative and meaningful careers in western economies. There will always be wealth inequality in economies. The challenge for workers is to take advantage of opportunities for upward mobility. The article fails to point out that those opportunities are more limited in the overpopulated, caste-constrained culture and economy found in Mumbai.

These articles claim a destructive social order of "specialized" services converts human beings into commodities that reduces the value and meaning of work. But people are not a mere physical resource, a tool, a faceless commodity designated valuable only as a means toward better company profits and greater corporate political authority.

The value of a man or a woman cannot be only defined by skill-sets that are appropriate to current business necessities. When the task at hand is completed, the individual who performed that task is not tradable, replaceable, and even disposable. Yet in a commodity-driven society, individuality ceases to exist and people are indeed considered interchangeable.

Is that what happens when you outsource your software development?

Software Outsourcing Does Not Commoditize Developers

If you are under the false impression that outsourcing advances the commoditization of software developers, you overlook the value of collaborative development. Although some goals associated with the early years of outsourcing involved an effort to find cheaper offshore developers that could be treated as plug-compatible replacements to on-site software teams, in most cases the assumption that developers were commodities resulted in poor services, unreliable feedback, and unexpected losses in time and labor. Hiring cheap developers is not efficient outsourcing!

In fact it’s not outsourcing at all! Outsourcing is not about hiring a company to cut corners and demean their employees. It is about finding a partner company that will save you time and money while doing a better job at delivering a service than what you could do with your own non-commodity employees. Software outsourcing gives you an effective way of recruiting, training and retaining technical talent. Outsourcing companies cannot treat developers like commodities and deliver a superior software development service. Those that have tried have failed. And that’s what has given software outsourcing a bad rep.

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