If you have dug around in my past then you will be aware of a book I wrote back in 2008 called Who Moved My Job? Perhaps you even bought a copy or borrowed it from a friend — if you did then thank you.
The book was short and to the point. It was a story of three English sheepdogs who found their place on the farm usurped by foreign breeds of dog who could not only do their job better, they didn’t cost the farmer as much to keep.
The book was a story about offshore outsourcing and within the confines of allegory it explored how the world of work was changing fast in the past decade thanks to globalisation allowing companies to send work halfway across the world.
The book was originally published just before the financial crash of 2008 and so it doesn’t reflect the way the world has changed in the past four years. I am planning a new 2012 post-crash edition of the book that will retain the original story, but enhance it with an essay on what has changed since 2008.
And I need your help.
One of the enormous changes in the past four years has been the growth in the use of social media. From 100m Facebook users in 2008 to almost a billion now, there has never been a better time for someone in my position to tell my audience that I’m about to update an old book and to see what the online community thinks before I commit my own thoughts to the word processor.
I can summarize the areas I am thinking of, but I am sure you will have other ideas that drill down further or just open up entirely new avenues:
• Recession; the recessions in Europe, and the USA in particular, initially halted many offshore outsourcing programmes — due to the up-front investment needed — but have now made it a more attractive proposition to invest at home.
• Cost; the cost of doing business in a place like India has soared. As the differential between a low-cost region of your home nation and places where the costs are rising fast reduces there is much less of a cost advantage now.
• Risk; the risk of project failure is usually lower if the actors are closer so a manager does not need to be endlessly flying around the world. Attitudes to this risk have been revised extensively since 2008.
• Public perception; outsourcing (particularly offshore) never had a great public image, but in the past four years it has only got worse to the point that companies offshoring in the middle of a recession are seen as positively unpatriotic.
• Unemployment; particularly youth unemployment is jarring. Countries such as Spain are witnessing half of all under 24s out of work. In this kind of environment, how can any local firm justify sending work offshore?
• Automation; potentially a bigger issue than the offshoring itself. More and more tasks are being automated and this will create enormous unemployment anyway.
• Scope expansion; we used to talk about computer programmers in India, now pretty much any intellectual taks that can be delivered online can be done offshore, from marketing to accounting.
• Global market; as alluded to in the last bullet, the market for jobs has atomized down to the skills you have as an individual. If you can offer something on a service like oDesk then you can make a living from anywhere. This potentially changes entire industries, graphic design being one obvious example.
This summarizes the changes I am exploring for the new version of the book. It will include the original story, but will be expanded with an essay that explores the themes listed here in this article.
I’d like your views here as comments on this article or you can reach me by email. Any great points that end up illustrating the new version of the book will certainly be credited so what do you think has changed since 2008?
Photo by Sunil Keezhangattu licensed under Creative Commons