Book Review: Ethics in IT Outsourcing

Ethics in IT OutsourcingEthics in IT Outsourcing by Tandy Gold is a surprisingly great read on the ethics in IT outsourcing as well as IT ethics and business ethics more generally. The reason it was a surprise is that the Gold tackles the ethics in IT outsourcing head on. From its roots in US economics and public policy through globalization, quickly linking the issues and trends to corporate ethics and IT ethics. The book is full of thoughtful lessons in ethics and morality faced by CIO’s at an increasing rate. 

Although Gold’s focus is to connect everything to IT outsourcing, the majority of the analysis, arguments and recommendations are universal and would add tremendous value to every IT organization even if they are not currently using IT outsourcing or offshore services.

More important for CIO’s is Gold offers readers a very solid and well rounded examination of IT outsourcing so that you can elevate your own philosophy on the practice. And given the rapidly changing business climate and financial pressures, every CIO will benefit from having a clear and defensible philosophy on IT outsourcing that does not rely on emotional arguments.

Gold begins with several very strong chapters which present the ethics of IT outsourcing from different perspectives. Gold positions the ethical issues as being societal, corporate and individual issues that are often misunderstood or misaligned as moral issues.

Gold artfully reminds readers that corporations and many organizations are not moral entities and that they have no moral obligations. That does not mean they are not required to act within ethical boundaries.

It means, as Gold argues, when it comes to IT outsourcing, IT managers have an ethical obligation to serve the interest of the investors and no obligation to protect American jobs. For readers in the public sector things are a little different, but not entirely.

Ethics in IT Outsourcing is not a theoretical book. Gold delivers a well developed framework for managing the ethical challenges of IT outsourcing using an IT Ethics Program Management Office (IT Ethics PMO) which has universal benefits to all sourcing activities – onshore and offshore.

I really liked the IT Ethics PMO that Gold puts forward and believe traditional project management offices and IT procurement functions would benefit from adopting an ethics component based on Gold’s IT Ethics PMO.

Gold applies the IT Ethics PMO methodology to solving many of the common business issues of IT outsourcing when using offshore strategies. Gold presents strategies for integrating the IT Ethics PMO into an existing offshore program and starting one before any IT outsourcing has begun.

I do recommend Ethics in IT Outsourcing because it tackles the issues of IT ethics which is almost always a taboo subject. My recommendation is based on the book not being overly focused on IT outsourcing per se, but instead it serves as a guide to developing your own IT ethics program that may be used in making IT outsourcing decisions.

If you are a public college or university this is a very useful book to developing an IT ethics program to address every issue from using student workers to adding procurement requirements for green IT.

For public CIO’s Ethics in IT Outsourcing will also help you develop policies around the use of open source products and cloud computing from a public policy and an institutional mission perspective.

For every CIO, you will find useful ideas to start your own IT ethics PMO that will also help you strengthen your vendor management program. If you are currently using offshore IT outsourcing services, or plan to in the near future, you will find a solid framework for improving communications and the results you receive.

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