Friday, April 24, 2009

Outsouring and Offshoring SAS Programming

Globalization is the reality of doing business in today's economic environment. SAS programmers and organizations that use SAS who choose to ignore it will face extinction. Outsourcing has had a significant effect on many industries dealing with information technologies. Knowledge workers face the same challenges now as manufacturing workers faced in previous decades. This paper will give you insights into offshore outsourcing as it pertains to SAS and provide strategies on how to navigate and work within this environment. Some of the topics discussed include:

  • Pros and Cons of outsourcing SAS related programming

  • Types of SAS programming within the Pharmaceutical industry that will be outsourced

  • Strategies on successfully managing a local team while outsourcing SAS projects

Outsourcing is not a new phenomenon but rather another step in the evolution of doing business in a technology driven global economy. SAS work is increasingly being outsourced to local Contract Research Organizations. Companies give employees the flexibility to telecommute and work remotely on some days of the week. The use of CROs and practice of telecommuting give companies the flexibility and competitive advantage. Offshore outsourcing utilizes some of the same methodologies to provide companies with an even more competitive method of performing tasks such as research and development. It is therefore prudent for organizations to evaluate how outsourcing will impact their SAS programming work.

Outsourcing Overview
Offshore outsourcing can be a very emotional topic. Only a few months ago, we had a contentious presidential race that used this as a campaign issue. It does have profound affects on jobs and how Americans will be working in the future. Rather than focusing on the emotional aspects of job loss, this paper will evaluate the issue from a rational and business perspective. No matter if you are for or against information technology offshore outsourcing, it is certain that it is a growing phenomenon. There are several studies that show the fast rate of increase in several IT sectors. An IT outsourcing study conducted by Diamond Cluster International showed that 86% of Global 1000 IT executives and providers of IT outsourcing services who participated in the study expect outsourcing to further increase next year. This study indicated that although reducing costs is the number one driving force behind outsourcing, another factor is that organizations are trying to free up internal resources to focus on other business critical functions. A University of California Berkeley study estimates that 14 million service jobs will be affected by outsourcing. Research has shown tremendous growth in the area of offshore outsourcing within the last ten years and the trend is not slowing down. An IT research firm, IDC, estimates that IT off shoring will increase by more than 500 percent by 2007.

Although the evidence from research shows an increase in the use of outsourcing, other studies show how ill-prepared American companies are. A survey was conducted in late 2004 and early 2005 entitled “Crunch Time: The Competitiveness Audit” of more than 300 CEOs and business executives at North America technology and telecommunications companies. The results show that most companies have not yet put in place new processes and practices to compete in a rapidly evolving global marketplace. Only about one third of these organization surveyed has instituted processes for accessing their competitive functions. The Pharmaceutical industry is more conservative and moves much slower than its IT counterparts. Therefore, even less Pharmaceutical companies have progressively instituted processes for implementing outsourcing strategies. It is prudent to act cautiously while trying to implement a new process such as offshore outsourcing, but to ignore and not act within a competitive environment is a formula for failure.

Pros and Cons
The number one advantage and reason why most organizations embark on an outsourcing project is to bring down costs. The cost of employing talented people with minimal operating costs makes offshore outsourcing an attractive solution in a competitive environment. It is however not a panacea. If the project is ill defined or the wrong kind of project is selected, it may cost more in implementing an outsource solution.

An advantage to outsourcing can be seen in less mission critical tasks since it can free up resources for your team to focus on more critical projects. For example, SAS program validation and data listings or CRF tabulations can be outsourced to relieve your Biostatisticians and SAS programmer analysts. The Biostatisticians can therefore devote time to designing the analysis plan or writing the final report, while the SAS programmer analyst can focus on developing CDISC compliant analysis datasets or programming complex summary table. This is an example of how outsourcing the correct project can really allow your team to work more efficiently in terms of both time and cost. If the right projects are selected, it will boost the motivation of the team since it will give them the most challenging tasks. However, if communication is not clear, outsourcing can damage moral and can be misinterpreted as a form of removing opportunities and jobs.

complete paper available at SAS Outsource Papers and SAS Outsource Service.

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1 comment:

  1. Stay away from 'Yes men'
    It is not hard to find stories of offshore software development firms over-promising and under-delivering. With increasing competition among offshore vendors, some of the companies would go to any length to land contracts. In a desperate attempt to keep up the volume of work, they tend to start telling the clients exactly what the clients want to hear, all the time. They end up saying Yes to everything that comes their way. '
    Get involved, stay engaged
    Some people still think that you can put a bunch of software developers in a room, feed them project specifications, pizza and soda, and the complete product magically appears in a few weeks or month, only to discover upon delivery that project has gone way off-track. Not being passionately involved with your offshore team is a recipe for failure. Your team is not addressing a technology challenge; they are addressing your business challenge using technology. And no one knows your business and your vision better than you.
    Communication is key
    It's easy to underestimate this, but communication failures are the biggest IT project killers; whether they are onsite or offshore. Putting good communication frameworks in place is ever more critical while working with global teams. One of the most important things you should do is to demand a seasoned project manager located offshore who works directly with the developers. This person should manage all communication since developers are not the best communicators and should provide you daily status reports. I
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