Any news search that looks at offshoring or outsourcing is bound to come up with a number of items saying that "so-and-so" vendor finished "first" in the prestigious XYZ award given by some organization or another. Do these awards mean anything at all?
Perhaps, but there are a number of problems with them. Chief among the problems is that the company giving the award often charges the entrants some significant amount of money to be considered. It is very much pay-to-play, a problem that is reaching even established media outlets in other industries (see this interesting article about the Wine Spectator). It is also important to remember that many of these entities also publish magazines or ad-supported web pages, potentially compromising their impartiality.
Also troubling is that there is no clear indicia as to the standards by which these companies are judged. How are they deemed to be the best? Customer satisfaction (often an inaccurate indicator of service quality)? Certifications? By who? Process analysis? Doubtful.
The problem, however, is that the marketplace is crowded – and there is no clear way to distinguish the services offered by one company over another. Word of mouth is useful, but not dispositive – as the reason one project's success can be the reason for another project's failure. Distance also hurts – as our society hasn't yet developed the skill of building quality distance relationships.
Perhaps the time is right to develop separate standards for outsourcing – perhaps a combination of ISO, SAS/70 and. While this may not do much to differentiate in the marketplace, it would go a long way to developing a level playing field in processes and engineering.
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