This week it was reported that a US employee outsourced his development job to a Chinese code shop after giving himself away through his VPN logs. You can find out all about the purported ‘scam’ directly at the Verizon site. But the reactions are very mixed.
While this raises serious security issues what ‘Bob’ did in principle should be applauded as a masterstroke of business sense. If you read the detail in the post he was actually regarded as the best developer in the building (not that he did any of it) which means that the service received to the company via his relationship with the Chinese consulting firm was top-notch and nobody suffered.
Investigators had the opportunity to read through his performance reviews while working alongside HR. For the last several years in a row he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building.
Was it appropriate?
I have to ask whether there would have been so much of an uproar if he had used an Indian consulting firm out of Bangalore rather than Shenyang, there’s an obvious cultural and political tension with the Chinese which will cloud judgement right now but it raises another question: can an employee outsource their own job ?
What’s not clear is while ‘Bob’ has been classed as an employee it’s also reported he ‘scammed’ other companies at the same time which suggests he was a serial freelancer not an employee in the strict sense (this is unconfirmed). Certainly in the UK freelance market there are what’s known as ‘substitution clauses’ in contracts which allows you to nominate someone to perform your work if you are unable to (although it’s lip-service and never exercised) but the question remains that if this had been done above board and not in stealth or in breach of security protocol would it be allowable ?
As one commenter questioned, a business can outsource their processes but an employee is not allowed to outsource their business ?
So, where next for this type of activity ? It would seem that as the economy shrinks further organizations are turning more towards the more flexible contract market for resources than hire permanent staff with all the overheads that come with it. There’s no reason why certain job functions outside of those typically outsourced to offshore locations (IT Development, Support) cannot be given to a trusted network of freelancers who can flex as demand requires.
What if I can outsource my job before my employer outsources my job…who knows better than I do about how it should be done? As long as I use that to benefit the company (not that this gent did). This story brings up excellent questions about where work is going.
Read the NPR story, especially the timeline. You’ll love it.