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Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Outsourcing Worth It?

So…this has been bugging me for a while, and I’m finally going to put my thoughts down in a blog. Outsourcing…good thing if you’re the one being outsourced to, since it can be quite a lucrative business, but maybe not such a good thing if you’re the one doing the outsourcing.
So why does outsourcing bother me so much right now? Outsourcing is best utilized when you need something that isn’t a core function completed. Well, my organization outsources something that I feel should be done in-house by the documentation team: templates. This outsourcing was being done before I came along but will hopefully stop once I point out things to my manager in a month or so. I can understand a small organization outsourcing this as a one-time deal for a universal template. But I work for a multi-million dollar, very large corporation. We have a small team of writers – some are proficient enough to handle the templates themselves. But no. We’ve outsourced this. Enter me. I start using the Structured Framemaker template and start noticing all kinds of usability issues and things that we need to have changed to make it work for more than one manual type. I see documents as living things – they should always be evolving and improving. This becomes too expensive if it’s being outsourced and you’re charged $200/hour. It’s much more cost-effective to have someone in house that is a document design specialist/writer/editor/whatever that you can utilize to make changes when necessary. The other problem comes down to translation issues: templates also may need to be created for other languages – specifically those that read from right to left. So let’s say I need to have a template modified for a completely different scenario and the outsourcing company says it will take 2 days of work at $200/hour to accomplish – that’s a whopping $3200 for a 2-day venture. If you have to do this a couple of times a year, you might as well invest in your team and pay for the proper tools and training so you can do it yourselves. I would think investing in your employees would be a way to improve team morale and documentation quality.

So that’s my current negative rambling on outsourcing. To sum it up: I don’t think outsourcing template design when it can be done better and cheaper in-house is a good idea (when you have your own team of writers that are capable. It limits the writers too much when things can’t be modified and the documents can’t evolve to meet the changing industry and customer needs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Thoughts on the Recent Events on the Korean Peninsula

So, North Korea is at it again. First of all, I am an American living in South Korea. I've been here for a few years now and am not too concerned about the recent events escalating further. To me, N. Korea is like a 5-year-old bully that just wants attention. When the bully realizes nothing serious is going to happen, it keeps pushing the envelope until something finally snaps. It's like Tommy pulling Suzie's hair and the teacher just frowning and telling Tommy to stop. Tommy insists that since Suzie is wearing her hair in a ponytail, she's provoking him to pull her hair. And then, finally, Suzie gets tired of having her hair pulled and turns around and beats the living shit out of Tommy. The same is going to happen to N. Korea eventually. Sure N. Korea warned S. Korea that they considered military exercises in the disputed region as "provoking acts," but why? I think it's just an excuse so that Kim Jong-il can tell his brainwashed citizens that they attacked because they were defending themselves, even though S. Korea was aiming nowhere near the North's territory. This isn't the first time that the North has fired on S. Korean vessels near the maritime border: they did it last year and then there's the Cheonan incident (which I don't believe the North had anything to do with). However, this time they also fired on an inhabited island and injured civilians. Whether this was purposeful, I don't know, but I think the North realizes they may have finally yanked on Suzie's hair a bit too much. If the North wants to return to negotiations, they really aren't going about it the right way. Not to mention that despite all the taunts and threats, the South has continued to give humanitarian aid to the North, which makes me wonder if the N. Korean people know where the aid comes from? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you... After all, the state-run media outlets only provide limited information to the people. I'm reminded of the missile ("satellite") test they performed a little while back. Everybody else in the world knew it was supposed to be a missile and watched the thing fall into the Sea of Japan shortly after launching. However, the North insisted that it was a "communications satellite" and that it was in space right now "broadcasting propaganda" throughout N. Korea via radio. Ok....whatever you say, crazy man. The problem now, though, is what do we (meaning South Korea) do about it? If nothing is done except a slap on the wrist and an offer of more aid, what purpose will that serve? It would be rewarding bad behavior and possibly make the North think that they can do whatever they want without repercussions because the South doesn't want to become engaged in war again. If the South does retaliate, it means that more civilians will be killed, except in the North this time. North Korea has to know that they can't win...do some damage if they send everything they've got to Seoul, but they have to know they will lose. Sure the world's super powers have issued statements saying the "condemn" the North's actions with a stern look and a finger shake. If I were the North, I'd just be rolling my eyes and yanking on Suzie's hair again. I don't like war and I don't think it will solve anything except cause more problems. But can the South really just let this slide? The North has gotten the attention it wants again, but has just served to isolate itself more. Hopefully, things won't escalate further, and from the North's side, I don't think it will since they've gotten the attention they want. But have they finally yanked on Suzie's hair for the last time?