Thursday, September 25, 2008

Visual Misinformation (and a bit about offshoring)

I tripped across an article by McKinsey about the changing offshore landscape (short registration required). The low dollar and rising wages in BRIC countries are eroding some of the cost savings of offshoring - something most of us already know, and further proof that you shouldn't hinge your entire offshoring and outsourcing strategy on costs savings.

I read the article expecting to come away with several interesting insights, however I got sidetracked by one of my biggest pet peeves - blatent misrepresentation of the facts by skewing the scale on a graph.

Check out Exhibit 1 in the article (graph: A changing environment for offshoring)

The graph shows trends in world wages. The Y axis - wages - goes from 1000 to 8000, then suddenly jumps to 40,000. The graph makes it look like the wages in emerging countries are about to overtake US wages at any moment.

People put a lot of stock in visuals, especially graphs, which are meant to convey the hard facts - the unbiased data from which you can draw your own conclusions. However journalists (or editors?) frequently skew graphs to make their point. A more common trick is to start an axis at 100,000 rather then 0 to make a trend seem more dramatic. This however, is one of the worst I've seen. A real disappointment coming from McKinsey.

Reader beware.

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