Sourcing and outsourcing to a global workforce

Book Review
Carmel, E. & Tjia, P. (2005). Offshoring information technology: Sourcing and
outsourcing to a global workforce. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Press. 306 pp.
Reviewed by Robert Davison
Department of Information Systems, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee
Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong. E-mail: [email protected]
The information technology offshoring phenomenon is growing at a tremendous pace.
Increasingly it is now seen as a business necessity rather than an option, with increasing
numbers of organizations, notably in Western Europe and North America, taking advantage
of the availability of offshore resources that are both cheaper and present in significant
quantities. IT offshoring may be disliked or feared, loved or worshipped, but it is inevitable
and as such should be on the action list of managers, whether global or local, worldwide.
This new book from Carmel and Tjia is essential reading for managers, IT practitioners,
software development engineers, business, management and IT professors, as well as
students in these disciplines.
It is quite remarkable for a book of this genre that it should be equally readable by and
valuable for such a wide audience: the language is crisp and precise, without requiring much
knowledge of the jargon of the software and IT industries. At the same time it is insightful,
intellectually stimulating, and comprehensive. It should, furthermore, be relevant to readers
in both developed and developing nations, to providers of offshore services as well as users
of these services.
The twelve chapters that comprise Offshoring Information Technology cover both the
fundamentals of the domain and more specialized topics such as legal issues, culture and
national differences, marketing (from the provider perspective), virtual work, and political considerations associated with offshoring (both domestic and international). Practical
aspects of offshoring are covered as well, with chapters on how an offshore strategy can
be developed and the management of the transition process that leads to successful offshoring. A focus on success is appropriate, for there are all too many examples of offshoring
failures. Such examples, of successes and failures, are liberally distributed throughout the
book, together with longer cases and shorter vignettes. These sources of front-line stories
greatly enhance the usefulness of the book, giving readers a much enhanced sense of what
An earlier version of this review was originally published in the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in
Developing Countries, Vol 23. Available from
Information Technology for Development, Vol. 13 (1) 101–102 (2007) C 2006Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/itdj.20037
offshoring is all about, what are its risks, what can and does go wrong, and how these kinds
of problems should be tackled.
Many of the difficulties are associated with cultural differences. The authors generally
take the position that cultural differences should be respected, not denied or ignored.
Indeed, it is axiomatic that the successful individuals and organizations are the ones who
adapt themselves to these differences. The types of differences are many and varied, ranging
from those associated with the profession of software development, through more general
management, communication preferences, and on to behavioral differences that are more
obvious, even if one does not understand the reasons for the behavior. Thus the predilection
of Dutch programmers to leave work at 5 p.m. sharp, and indeed of the Dutch in general to
prefer nudity in saunas, is contrasted with work-related preferences in Hong Kong, China,
and the US, not to mention bath-house behavior in Russia.
IT offshoring is a global phenomenon, as the subtitle to the book suggests, and there
are examples throughout the book from countries around the world. Country profiles are
included from a handful of these, including the famous—India, Israel, and Ireland, the
recent high-profile actors of China and Russia, as well as emerging offshoring destinations
such as Latvia, Romania, Malta, Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. It is with respect
to country focus that I can detect the only weakness in this book: perhaps unsurprisingly,
given that most firms that offshore their work are located in Western Europe and North
America, the book also tends to be written from and for the perspective of countries in
these regions. It is noted, for instance, that Indian firms are now starting to offshore in
turn—usually to still cheaper destinations such as Vietnam. This is likely to be an emerging
trend that will become more prominent in the near future, with developing and emerging
nations also engaged in the offshoring of their development work to even less developed
nations that provide these kinds of services.
Overall, this is a highly valuable contribution to our knowledge about offshoring that I
warmly recommend.
Information Technology for Development DOI: 10.1002/itdj

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