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GM bets on insourcing, Brings back 10,000 IT jobs

Stephanie Overby | Oct. 8, 2012
It's going to cost GM a lot more to insource thousands of tech jobs than it did to outsource or offshore them. But it just may pay off for the auto maker.

GM's announcement that it will bring most of its IT work back in-house over the next three to five years was certainly a dramatic about-face for the automaker, which was an early adopter of outsourcing and offshoring.

Former GM CIO Ralph Szygenda's "third wave" of outsourcing is being replaced by new CIO Randy Mott's first generation of insourcing, resulting in the $150 billion company's hiring--or rehiring--10,000 technology professionals.

"GM seems to index far to one side or another--first being a major outsourcer to one primary firm, then creating a very public multi-vendor environment with shared responsibilities and risks, and now actively espousing [its] insourcing decisions," says David Rutchik, a partner with outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon. "These [moves] grab attention but need to be right for the business goals."

"Most other car operations have this capability and it is not surprising that GM would follow this direction," says Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of outsourcing consultancy Everest Group. "What is surprising is the [scale at] which they are attempting to do this."

Manufacturing CIOs Look to Shift the Mix

While most companies may not be making such major insourcing moves, many CIO are reconsidering the outsource-insource mix, particularly in the manufacturing industry.

"Manufacturing will be an interesting area to watch over the next few years, because we are hearing a lot about insourcing among the big manufacturers," says Cliff Justice, principal in KPMG's shared services and outsourcing advisory. "We're talking to many companies that are considering some large-scale insourcing, because they believe they need better access to the innovation engine of technology."

Will they scrap all of their incumbent outsourcing deals? Not likely. But, says Justice, "they will focus on partnerships that drive innovation, new technologies, and competitive advantage into the organization, as opposed to just low-cost commodity outsourcing done principally for labor arbitrage."

There's a big potential upside to GM's insourcing effort--if managed correctly. "Higher productivity, lower management burden, reduced travel costs, improved quality, reduced 'rework,' increased convenience of shared working hours, and better cultural fit are all tangible benefits experienced by organizations that have repatriated roles," says F.B. Mack, director of operations for outsourcing advisory Sylvan Advisory.

"Being able to generate some positive public relations buzz is not a bad intangible benefit either," says Mack. (And that's no small benefit given the company's struggles in recent years and its continued partial ownership by the U.S. government.)

So why doesn't everybody do it? The cost.

"Insourcing offshore can be done cost effectively," says Pace Harmon's Rutchik. "We're a bit dubious that GM can bring in resources in the U.S. at a price point that makes sense." The transition recruiting, and hiring costs will add up quickly. Then there's the knowledge transfer.


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