“A man in a hot air balloon is lost. He sees a man on the ground and reduces height to speak to him.
“Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in a hot air balloon hovering thirty feet above this field,” comes the reply.
“You must work in Information Technology,” says the balloonist.
“I do,” says the man, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “Everything you told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”
“You must be in business,” says the man.
“I am,” says the balloonist, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the man, “You don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”
We have all been in that field or hovering above it, or even both at different times and I expect we can all sympathise immediately with at least one of these characters. The sobering thought in all of this however, is that the man in the field won’t survive very long unless the balloonist finds his way home and the balloonist stands little chance of surviving without the help of the man in the field.
The baloonist talks turkey
Did I mention that your salary and bonus are in this baloon, but I won’t be able to deliver it said the balloonist, looking rather smug.
He went on, do you remember when you came to me for more budget so you could hire a balloon analysts, to understand my needs and provide a better service, well that was when it became your problem, so maybe we should start again.
Can you tell me where I am?
The IT guy replies
Actually no, it became my problem when you got lost with my salary on board, but unfortunately, I am only able to understand how your balloon works and help make it work better, that’s what my analyst helps with, but deciding where you are, where you want to be and how to get there, is still your responsibility and incidentally, one that I am not qualified to advise on.
I ask, you tell, I provide the supporting technology.
By the way, I take it your salary is in there too?
Yes, I believe we have had a misunderstanding and I see we have a shared problem.
You have the option to find a more reasonable employer and I wouldn’t blame you.
I on the other hand, have the option to outsource to someone who will shoulder full responsibility. I had an Indian team here last month who know our industry intimately and are working with some of our biggest competitors. They will advise strategically, partner with our SMT and provide us with thought leaders and presentaions, provide all the business analysis and deliver the end results and they will do it at offshore rates.
What do you think we should do?
The IT guy ponders and then replies.
If I look for a new employer, there are indeed many options, but I expect all of them will be much like you or have other equally difficult issues, so I see the solution as more important than the geography.
My gut feeling is that if you really believed in Santa Clause, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because your Indian pals would already be sitting in my office.
Once you begin to outsource, getting out of that is the most painful and most expensive experiences you are ever likely to have. You will have mission critical systems that nobody understands, or can maintain and you will be forced to accept any amount of price rises or reduced service levels. The path to extricating and uncoupling your systems will look so impossible as to not even warrant consideration.
Controlled outsourcing may well bring benefits, but you will need me more than ever if you go down that route.
If you pay for the champagne I’ll happily take you and your other directors to the races, I will be more than pleased to keep you up to date on the changing face of IT and it’s implications for you, but I don’t believe it is appropriate for anybody but yourself to make strategic balloon decisions because they are ultimately your responsibility .
Maybe we need to have a rethink and start putting the relationship on a more realistic footing