“I can share my screen with them, but I can’t, in real time, sit with them while they’re making the mistakes and show them where they’re making the mistakes,” he said.
Mr. Kincaid’s current employer, Nexient, develops software for companies on a contract basis — work that is a prime candidate for outsourcing. But all of Nexient’s employees are in the United States, which the company uses as a selling point with its clients.
Mark Orttung, Nexient’s chief executive, said that offshoring worked fine for certain types of work, such as short-term projects, but less well on projects where requirements change over time and collaboration is more important. American workers can also have an edge on projects that require them to understand the specifics of the business: how the American health care system works, for example, or what customers expect from a particular brand.
“When we work with a large retailer, most of our employees probably shop at that retailer,” Mr. Orttung said.
Nexient is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but most of its employees are in Columbus or in Ann Arbor, Mich. Both are college towns, with plenty of young graduates with technical skills. They are in or near metropolitan areas with big companies that are sources of more experienced workers. And they are much cheaper places to live than Silicon Valley.
A growing number of companies are shifting operations to cities like Columbus, said Susan Lund, who has studied the future of work for the McKinsey Global Institute, the consulting firm’s think tank. No American location can compete directly with India on labor costs, she said, but shifting jobs elsewhere in the country can narrow the gap.
“The companies that started the offshoring trend were largely based in Manhattan or the West Coast, in the very high-cost places, and they realized that, hey, there are a lot of other places in the U.S.,” she said.