In recent history, the business tactic of outsourcing and offshoring, where companies would hire outside organization from a distant foreign country to perform their business processes, has created a debate among the citizens of the United States and was even topic for debate in the latest presidential election. According to an article in The Washington Post, “the debate over outsourcing has been morphing, and today there are growing numbers of people who think that what started as a sensible, globalized extension of sending some work outside a firm to specialized companies may in fact be creating long-term structural unemployment in the United States”. While there will always be the opposing argument that outsourcing isn’t as “damaging to the U.S. economy as commonly believed”, the US outsources an estimated 8 to 10 percent of its jobs (which can rise up to 50% as we discussed in class) which ultimately means that “somebody invariably loses a job as somebody else gains one”.
Other problems exist with outsourcing and offshoring persist due to the fact that the contracted employees are mostly located across the globe in Asia. Laborers are thus disconnected with the company, meaning that they most likely don’t speak the same language, can’t be relied upon to meet a quick deadline, and are less unmotivated since their wages aren’t particularly linked to the success of their employers. Similarly, the distance between the United States and Asia requires greater shipping costs for products than if the contractors were situated locally.
Nonetheless, an article released on Forbes discusses a new firm called Ziptask that offers reliable project managers who administer the outsourcing process themselves and provide reliable freelancers who complete the contractor’s desired task. Although this process is still considered outsourcing (because the company hires outside workers), Ziptask’s goal is promote nearshoring by transferring business to nearby or neighboring countries and “to disrupt the massive $480 billion global outsourcing industry”. Here’s a quick and amusing animated video created by Ziptask that describes what they do:
Ziptask Founder Shawn Livermore believes his company is perfect for getting minor projects out of the way in order to stay focus in more important tasks. His company provides workers greater efficiency in the project management of outsourcing as well as bringing jobs back oversees to more local freelancers. While Ziptask may not immediately return the jobs from Asia and decrease the unemployment rate in the United States, they certainly provide the right motivation and initiative for other companies to follow and for improvement in the future.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the article for me is that Livermore even goes as far to mention the “theoretical possibility that we could probably outsource our entire job for a while, and no human would notice”. Interesting enough, a worker at Verizon did exactly that for over a year without anyone noticing. He was earning six figures annually and them paid Chinese workers around fifty grand to complete all of his work for him. By offshoring all of his work and freeing up his schedule, the Verizon employee was able to surf the Internet from 9 to 5, yet still ironically “received excellent performance reviews for the last several years in a row, even being hailed the best developer in the building”. This left me thinking about any potential negative side affects of Ziptask, as well as those that can be developed from bringing the offshored projects back to the US.