And even though companies continue to offshore more high-skilled work, they are increasingly concerned about the loss of managerial control that accompanies outsourcing functions close to their core business.
The 2006 Duke CIBER/Booz Allen offshoring study is the third in an annual series originated by the Offshoring Research Network (ORN) led by professor Arie Y. Lewin at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. It takes a comprehensive look at strategic factors driving decisions to offshore. It also examines offshore operating delivery models and performance outcomes of various companies' offshoring efforts. The 2006 study examined 530 companies from both the U.S. and Europe, through partnerships with universities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia.
Key findings of the study include:
Lewin, director of Duke/CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) and lead principal investigator of the ORN project, said, "Companies in the advanced economies of the U.S. and Europe cannot find domestically the high-skilled talent they need to sustain their innovation and growth strategies. The leading-edge companies are developing new ways to source and manage talent globally. They turn to China, India and other countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America in search of highly skilled talent.
"Companies offshore because they can't get it at home; they are reacting to the steady decline in the supply of graduates with advanced degrees in engineering and science and with the cutback in the annual H1b quota. Last year, it was estimated that U.S. companies were in need of more than 50,000 master and Ph.D. graduates."
Contrary to popular belief, offshoring high-value tasks does not lead to major job losses at home, but to more net new jobs globally. In the U.S., offshoring projects that involved "high-skilled" functions such as research and development, sales and marketing, product design and engineering resulted in an average of one job created in the U.S. per project. In contrast, domestic job loss for office and administrative functions averages 23 jobs per project offshored.
Significantly, survey respondents indicated that as they increased the offshoring of high-end functions, the number of overall jobs they are replacing in the U.S. has dropped dramatically. In the 2006 survey the average number of U.S. jobs lost per offshore project dropped by 71 percent from 2005 (38 jobs lost per project in 2005 vs. only 11 jobs lost per implementation in 2006). At the same time, the average number of offshore employees per project grew by 62 percent from between 2005 and 2006.
"Clearly a new logic is driving decision-making as offshoring entails more highly skilled work," said Vinay Couto, vice president of Booz Allen. "It's less and less about low-skilled labor and more and more about accessing new pools of high-skilled talent."
Concerns about offshoring are shifting from external factors, such as political backlash, to internal factors, such as loss of managerial control and the impact on operating efficiency. "Loss of managerial control" was cited by 48 percent of companies as a major risk of offshoring, an increase of 30 percent over 2005's result. In contrast, "political backlash" and "political instability" have steadily declined in importance as noteworthy risks, with only 22 percent of respondents citing either as "important" or "very important." In all, companies cited greater concerns about their ability to manage their offshoring activities, while concerns about cultural differences, which ranked very high in the 2004 and 2005 surveys, dropped by 50 percent.
"Many companies are struggling as they redesign their organizations and implement processes to support the rapid rise of offshoring," Couto said. "The obstacle to offshoring is more often inside a company than outside it."
India remains the preferred destination for offshoring. While much of the recent literature on offshoring highlights China as a favored destination alongside India, the research confirms that India is still the most preferred location across the board. China, however, is emerging as an important location for engineering, product development and procurement as more companies co-locate engineering groups alongside manufacturing operations. Similarly, the Philippines is increasingly attractive for office administrative work and contact centers.
While India remains the top offshoring destination for U.S. companies, German companies prefer Eastern Europe. Forty-two percent of U.S. companies chose India for offshoring implementations, as compared to only 15 percent of German companies. Meanwhile, 24 percent of German companies chose Eastern Europe to offshore operations, compared to only 7 percent of U.S. companies.
European firms perceive cultural differences as an offshoring risk, while U.S. firms are primarily concerned about service quality. Thirty-eight percent of European respondents considered cultural differences a significant risk, as compared to 28 percent of U.S. companies. In contrast, 68 percent of U.S. respondents identified service quality as a serious concern, as compared to 39 percent of European companies.
Offshoring is used as a tool to enable faster speed to market. Forty-eight percent of the surveyed companies identified "increased speed to market" as a significant driver in their offshoring decisions, an increase of almost 70 percent in just one year. Offshoring is not being used as merely a cost-reduction tool; it is being used to achieve strategic business objectives.
Other findings include: