March 06, 2012, 7:29 AM — Most corporate leaders decide to offshore IT services to cut costs Â that's as true today as it was at the dawn of the offshoring era. But labor arbitrage fades, according to an ongoing offshore outsourcing study researchers are conducting at Duke University. In fact, it disappears after three years.
And when it comes to other oft-cited drivers for shipping IT functions overseas, the benefits may be diminishing as well, researchers at the Center for International Business Education (CIBER) and the International Offshoring Research Network's (ORN) Project at Duke's Fuqua School of Business have found.
While 53% of corporate leaders surveyed by ORN in 2010 reported that offshoring provided them with better access to qualified personnel, just 40% said the same in 2011. And the 46% of executives who said offshoring resulted in improved service quality in 2010 decreased to 41% last year.
So what keeps IT leaders and other corporate executives going back for more? Organizational Agility Jumps
Mature offshore outsourcers reap increased organizational flexibility, said Arie Lewin, Fuqua professor of strategy and director of CIBER. Taking another look at the results of ORN's 2011 corporate client survey, Lewin and his colleagues found that the ratio of respondents for whom offshoring had led to improved organizational flexibility jumped from 48% in 2010 to 66% in 2011. Companies with existing offshore operation said boosting organizational agility was one of the top three drivers guiding their sourcing decisions. Even among those companies that did not report it as an important strategic driver, nearly half said that their offshoring efforts nonetheless had led to greater flexibility within their organization.
Lewin and his team attempted to identify what these users of offshore outsourcing were doing differently to achieve the additional agility. They found that respondents with what they called a delivery model strategy Â a combination of geographically dispersed delivery centers consisting to maximize flexibility amid contingencies such as currency fluctuations and infrastructure failure Â were 2.8 times more likely to report having improved organizational flexibility. Companies with an enterprise strategy (as opposed to regional or business unit-level strategies) in place to guide global sourcing practices were 1.7 times more likely to report improved organizational flexibility.