What I Think About IT Outsourcing
When I first heard that the County Board of Supervisors was planning on
outsourcing our Information Technology I was horrified. I believe the person who controls
the information flow controls the decisions. Why give control of such an important
function over to strangers?
We're told not to worry, that the County will oversee the project. I've seen some other
County outsourcing projects. Let's take our janitorial services. Here is an unretouched
photo of a drain in the ladys' restroom in our building. I took the photo in 1998 because
I wanted to complain about the poor job the current janitors were doing. We are on the
third contractor since this photo, and if anything, the drain is more clogged.
If the County can't contract janitorial services, how are they going to manage something
much more complex?
I am told that when our janitorial services were done by County employees, things were
If you think the information on the Information Technology Outsourcing, on the County Web Page,
looks good, here are some things you might want to think about:
How is the selected vendor going to make a profit? Just based on what I
have been able to find out about other outsourcing projects, I would guess that they are
going to pay most of their workforce less than County wage, and limit benefits. Fine, you
say, but just think -- who are these employees going to be? Some of them may be your
customers, wouldn't you like them to have money to spend? Some of them may be your
relatives, wouldn't you like them to earn enough money so that they quit sponging off you?
Security concerns. Most of the information on County computers is public
information: Tax records, dog licenses, business licenses, voters registration. Other
County computers have access to Medi-Cal, EDD, and Social Security Information. Already,
the County sells voter registration information. What is to keep a vendor from selling
public information to "profilers", who will bundle your property tax information
with the information on your grocery-shopping habits that the other vendor sold them?
Why Can't The County Do It? I've heard that you shouldn't outsource your
problems. Why isn't the County doing a good job now, and what makes anyone think that
having someone else, one further step removed, do the job is going to improve things?
Don't judge the County's "wiredness" by its web pages. Did you know there are
offices in the County of San Diego that still keep their records on 3x5 cards? Where I
work, we use "dumb" terminals programmed in some archaic language that nobody
seems to be able to understand. No one seems to be able to do simple fixes and we have to
deal with things like documents coming out labelled "1 of 2,"" 2 of
2," and "3 of 2."
The small print: The drain grid is only part of the system. Sometimes we have
small gnat-like creatures that provide floorshows while we are ....occupied. I believe
they come up the drain. There is no use cleaning the mouth of the drain if you don't clean
what lies beneath it.
To be continued: Next: "Why It May Be Too Late To Change The IT
Outsourcing." "How the County starved IT", and "What Makes Me Think
That The Board of Supervisors and Some Top Managers Are Clueless About Computers."