‘Developer Bob’ Vs Outsourcing Myths

Developer ‘Bob’ Outsourced His Own Work to China

When the lid was blown off the outsourcing scam cleverly and quietly engineered by the now-famous ‘Bob,’ a software engineer in the US, it drew mixed reactions from the world. Bob had shipped his own job to a Chinese developer for one-fifth of his salary. Bob’s software code was written by this Chinese subcontractor in far-off Shenyang in China while Bob himself spent his working hours watching cat videos and being active on social networking sites. Naturally, reactions veered from sheer disgust to admiration, and even some envy, notably from those who found themselves saddled with uninteresting and boring jobs. Even as the unassuming ‘Bob’ found himself catapulted to global media attention, what cannot be denied is how the business of job shipping has had the last laugh, if it can be put that way.

True, the skeptics of job shipping would probably sport the “We told you so” stance; even so, this scam does make the point that it is possible to get the same work result at a much cheaper rate from the well-known offshore destinations. That it is a total myth that the quality of work suffers when it goes offshore. Bob proved that the quality of work remained so constant that it camouflaged the fact it wasn’t his handiwork at all. It was several months before the fraud was discovered and again, not because there was a marked difference in the quality of work but because Bob’s login details gave the game away. Ironically, the very technology that aided Bob in pulling off this “stunt” for so many months was the one that also tripped him and provided clues to the security firm, Verizon, which had been engaged by his company to carry out the investigation.

Bob was his company’s best software developer, and had been receiving glowing performance reviews for several years in a row. It was only when his company felt that their system had been attacked by a virus and pulled in a security firm, Verizon, to carry out checks, that the massive and long-running fraud was detected.

Another thing that has been highlighted is that working remotely is the way forward and a successful one at that. Bob was working from home, as his company had allowed telecommuting for its employees, and that made it easier for him to send his own work to the Chinese. The interesting thing, though, was that the quality of work did not get affected at all even though all of it was being done by total strangers sitting in China. Not only did the scam go undetected; on the contrary, it fetched Bob accolades galore and appreciation for work well executed.

The most common grouse of the people against job shipping is that the cost savings are a mere smokescreen that hides the poor standard of work that is routinely submitted by remote workers from Third World countries. However, Bob has laid this particular myth to rest once and for all, proving that going offshore doesn’t necessarily translate into trading costs for low-quality output. It cannot be ignored that it took his company months to pick up on this case and not because of the noticeable difference in the quality of work but because of technical reasons.

The other argument and one that justifies (yes, justifies) what Bob did is more of an ethical one. When a company ships jobs, it’s hailed as a “wise” business decision. But, if a creative (albeit a devious one) employee ships his or her own job, then that draws cartloads of flak and is plain wrong and bad. It could risk having them fired and labeled as “criminally lazy.”

What Bob did clearly shows the writing on the wall. This man who shipped his own job simply proves that what can be done locally can also be done offshore and, that too, for a fraction of the cost. Of course, who deserved to pocket the benefits is something that is still under the scanner.