Should You Shore Up Your Resources Through Offshoring?

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Offshoring technology jobs is a highly charged subject, with job losses mounting and pay cuts for those left in their roles in North America and Western Europe. It is also driving students in the same geographies to reconsider their plans for careers in information technology. 

However, regardless of your perspective of whether offshoring is positive or negative for cultures and economies, we must deal with the reality that offshoring is not going away.

If we take a “glass-half-full” perspective, lowering some costs within speech technology projects could result in lower overall program costs that might drive more projects. It might also allow additional investment in higher cost activities to improve the customer experience.

With that in mind, let’s consider which roles would be appropriate for offshoring should you receive a directive to do so for your IVR project or ongoing operations. The following grouping of roles and their suitability for working in an offshore program model is a result of personal experience, and includes insights from a broad range of speech technology experts collected during the past five years. This list is not comprehensive, nor does it take into account specific project or client requirements. Instead, it is representative of many projects and many clients, and should be considered a starting point for thought and discussion.

Application architect. Drives the application architecture strategy, resolves high-level functional issues, and coaches the application engineering team in the development of the application solution. Good Fit for Offshoring? Highly unlikely in the near future: This role requires a high level of speech development experience with specialized skills that are currently scarce in all geographies.

Voice user interface designer. Defines, creates, monitors, and evaluates the overall user experience. Good Fit for Offshoring? No: Must be close to the customer due to requirements for superior mother tongue language skills and cultural knowledge.

Usability test engineer. Verifies and analyzes dialogues, and understands how well the application actually works for the intended callers. Good Fit for Offshoring? Potentially yes: Some roles should be close to the customer, but good potential for some roles in offshore mode.

Audio production team; includes voice talent, creative director, and recording engineers. Responsible for producing audio prompts. Good Fit for Offshoring? No: Normally a contracted service where most, if not all, roles are in customer’s country due to language accent and cultural fit.

VoiceXML developer. Integrates and tests front-end VoiceXML code. Good Fit for Offshoring? Potentially yes: Depends on the development approach. If agile, then no, due to extremely rapid development that incorporates late changes in requirements. If waterfall/iterative, then yes. However, some roles should be close to the customer for demos, iterative design, and prototyping, but overall has good potential for offshore.

Java/.NET developer. Creates, implements, integrates, and tests code. Good Fit for Offshoring? Yes: Excellent fit within a larger development team.

System administrator. Deploys and monitors the applications and supporting IVR platform. Good Fit for Offshoring? Yes: Follow-the-sun operations (that provide 24/7 availability by shifting between time zones throughout the day) benefit.

Database administrator. Deploys and monitors all IVR-related databases. Good Fit for Offshoring? Yes: Follow-the-sun operations benefit.

Web application server administrator. Deploys and monitors IVR-related Web application servers. Good Fit for Offshoring? Yes: Follow-the-sun operations benefit.

Web services developer. Deploys and monitors Web services to back-office apps. Good Fit for Offshoring? Yes: However, having some of these developers close to the customer is beneficial due to close working relationships with the customer’s back-office integration team. 

Kevin Brown is an architect at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services, where he specializes in speech platform design. He has more than 15 years of experience in designing and delivering speech-enabled solutions. He can be reached at kevin.c.brown@hp.com.

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