Programmers: when less is definitely less
- 12 August, 2002 11:17
Australian programmers need to move with the times before opportunities and pay packets dry up due to the increasing trend for Australian companies to outsource to Asia and India.
Richard Hogg, national president of the Australian Computer Society, said a significant number of Australian companies are outsourcing programming jobs overseas. His best advice to anyone who still wants a programming career is: expect to work harder for less.
"Contractors' rates have dropped by around 40 per cent in terms of hourly rates so they are working just as hard for less money. Employees can expect minimal salary increases in the future."
Wayne Barlow, manager of application services at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said IT people in Australia have to be flexible and go with the flow by learning new skills in a changing industry.
"I don't think Australian software developers are threatened in the long term as long as they are willing to change, learn new skills and be more person-oriented rather than machine-oriented.
"The question is, does anyone now really want to do that sort of sweatshop, mass-production programming work? I think not," Barlow said, pointing out that it's getting rarer to see the classical propeller-head programmer of the past who was stuck for 12 hours a day in front of a computer monitor.
Barlow said the new way of developing software requires more creativity, communications skills and local business knowledge. "I think you need people physically closer to the business and from the same [business] culture to succeed at that. When the client thinks up a great new idea at 2am, you need someone flexible and available enough to sit with him or her in an all-night cafe and sketch the details on a napkin. You can't get that response from someone who is working from India."
Edward Liu, IT manager at recruitment company Robert Walters, said it is debatable whether foreign programmers produce code as good as that coded by Australian programmers and for less.
"Two clients who have outsourced their development overseas have since reported that the project cost of development is significantly more expensive than if the project were given to their incumbent, locally based vendor.
"The quality of code standards is one of the key cost impacts, but the expense of setting up remote project controls to ensure adherence to specifications and deadlines with an overseas vendor is often overlooked."
While Hogg said he doesn't think Indian and Asian programmers work any harder than their Australian counterparts, evidence suggests they cost less.
"It's hard to compare products -- each is potentially different. On the surface, if you have to choose between $40 an hour or $50 an hour, you will naturally choose the cheaper price, providing the quality is comparable.
"It's not the greedy CEO, but the demands of shareholders that is causing so much focus on the bottom line, which leaves little room for altruism."