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IT Outsourcing: Flat Growth is the New Growth

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In the world of IT services, professional services, e.g. consulting, systems integration and application development, are a cyclical business. Spending growth – or decline – depends very much on GDP growth, corporate moral and investment intentions. Professional services growth has varied since on a quarterly basis, since 2008, between -8% to +9%, on a worldwide basis.

IT outsourcing spending growth is different and is much less cyclical. Growth in spending has varied between -2% and +4% again since 2008. It is well known than organizations turn to outsourcing when they want to lower their costs, usually when facing poor economic conditions: this is driving spending. 

Is this really so?

NelsonHall advocates that the dynamics of how clients spend their ITO budgets have fundamentally changed:

  • Indian offshoring is by nature reducing prices by a factor of two to three. Adoption of Indian offshoring has expanded from the U.K. and U.S. commercial sectors to reach Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, and, to a lesser extent, Germany and France
  • Cloud computing is also having a deflationary impact on IT outsourcing spending
    - For the most part, from a client perspective, building a private cloud whether in its own datacenter or in that of a third party, mostly means virtualizing servers and allowing fast provisioning. With this in mind, private cloud adoption is a technological enhancement, not a revolution that will lower costs dramatically
    - Public cloud computing is a different story: it is used mostly for new applications, whether apps or web sites and tends to be used for development environments, as opposed to production environments. Public clouds tend to capture spending of new projects and less of current production environments management services. However, it is fairly sensible to predict that over time public clouds will be used for production environments and impact overall ITO spending.

The prospect of a resumption in ITO spending growth to up 4%, under favorable conditions, is unlikely. In the mid-term, NelsonHall expects therefore that ITO outsourcing growth will not exceed +1.5% to +2% in good economic conditions and probably -4% during bad ones. On average, flat growth is to be the norm, assuming good market conditions last longer than periods of economic unstability.

From a vendor perspective, on average IT services vendors with an onshore background will not grow their ITO revenues beyond 0% to 1%. Meanwhile, some India-centric majors will continue to enjoy growth of 20% and above in the short term.

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NelsonHall tracks the ITO market on a continuous manner, through 2 ways: contract awards and spending in the previous quarter. Those two metrics are complementary.

  • Contract signings help understanding the dynamics of the market in terms of volumes, prices, content i.e. new scope vs. existing scope, geographies and verticals. ITO bookings help predicting how spending is going to evolve in the next 3 to 5 quarters.
  • Spending is unlike the booking metric, a backward-looking metric. It provides a view of how IT outsourcing spending has evolved in the past quarters. It is a precise metric..

In short, ITO bookings provide indications on future trends. Spending help refining our analysis, based on historic data. With those 2 KPIs, we think we are as much equipped as one can be to understand how IT outsourcing spending is going to evolve in the next quarters.

NelsonHall provides –freely- - the finding of its analysis on the short-term future of ITO spending, as part of its quarterly ITO Index Calls. For more information, please refer to Guy Saunders or attend our quarterly ITO Index calls

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