11 Outsourcing Trends to Watch in 2011

Smaller contracts and hard lines on prices. Cloud-related commotion and back-door deals. Increased offshoring and decreased customer satisfaction. Happy New Year, outsourcers!

Outsourcing activity is expected to creep back in 2011, but things are hardly getting back to normal in the IT services space. The new year will be marked largely by upheaval—smaller contracts, cloud-related chaos, increased offshoring and decreased quality, for a start.

Read on for more. It's not all bad, we promise.

1. Progressive Outsourcing

The year will be marked by the inking of smaller IT services deals, many of them by first-time buyers who sat on the sidelines in 2010, say industry watchers. Providers, happy to have a foothold, will push such customers to expand the scope of their relationships over time—the old "penetrate and radiate" approach. Contract activity will "creep back throughout 2011, as the recover stutters and buyers pull the trigger on sourcing activity," says Phil Fersht, founder of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research.

2. Diving for Dollars

Facing a slow economic recovery, IT leaders will continue to scour their existing outsourcing arrangements for savings. "There's a pot of gold in every contract, and in some cases we have found a pot worth millions," says Mark Ruckman, an independent outsourcing consulting working in conjunction with Sanda Partners. IT services customers may reconcile their invoices with their original contracts with an eye toward under-delivery or over-payment, for example, or replace contractors from large sourcing providers with IT professionals from local temp agencies.

3. Outsourcing, Meet Cloudsourcing

Even if some of the discussion of cloud-based offerings from IT service providers is largely hot air, it will continue to be a hot topic in the industry. "The emerging cloud sourcing market will cause the destruction of the outsourcing market as we know it today," predicts Ben Trowbridge, CEO of outsourcing consultancy Alsbridge. "The two markets will merge and cloud sourcing will drive the rebirth of outsourcing."

Cloud players like Amazon, Google, and Rackspace are hitting traditional service providers like IBM and HP where it hurts. "An executive of one of the current low cost leaders recently told me they're forecasting the need to be able to remain profitable while seeing the price of some of their services drop by 70 percent over the coming year," says Trowbridge.

Look for mergers and acquisitions as legacy providers fumble their way forward. Customers, too, will need help stitching together old and new. "IT is going to be coordinating an increasing portfolio of third -party applications hosted externally," says Brian Walker, managing director of EquaTerra's information technology advisory. "The theme in 2011: SaaS-to-SaaS integration."

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