Until recently, the decision to change IT outsourcing providers almost always came at a \n\nhigh cost. But the advantage that incumbent IT service providers once had is disappearing as transitioning from one vendor to another \n\nbecomes less painful.\n\n"Back in the day, with the big 'one-neck-to-choke' model, when you switched providers you had to switch everything," says Thomas Young, partner \n\nwith outsourcing consultancy Information Services Group (ISG). "But as the services supply chain continues to fragment by tower all the way down to out-tasking and implementing point solution, customers are \n\nmuch more likely to switch out those components," Young says. "It's the difference between switching out the stereo in your car and switching out the \n\nwhole car."What's Making It Easier for Outsourcing Clients to Switch?Some other factors are contributing to an environment where outsourcing clients are more likely to \n\njump to a competing outsourcing vendor than in the past. As buyers move from the very structured and \n\nprescriptive request-for-proposal model to a more open-ended, collaborative purchasing process, they're able to obtain more standardized services \n\nfrom outsourcers. Thus, "the actual mechanics of switching involves less disruptive change," Young says. "If the old agreements were like \n\nmarriages, these new agreements are more like dating. They have an easy-on, easy-off mechanism that's implicit in that kind of relationship," Young \n\nsays.In addition, some new pricing propositions may tempt customers to stray from their existing relationships. For the past year or two, labor \n\nautomation has increased, enabling outsourcers to offer customers deals that are as much as 60 percent cheaper than in the past, says Young. Clients \n\nlocked into deals with higher labor costs may find a compelling economic case to provider-hop.Indeed, 2014 should be a record year for customers changing providers, says Young. "The game is on for service providers stealing work from one \n\nanother." While most service providers will be able to poach customers from their competitors with their own new, more automated service offerings, they're \n\nunlikely to want to lower the cost base for their existing customer. So "as they steal work, others will be coming in the back door to steal their work," \n\nYoung says.Big Providers and Offshore Outsourcing Vendors Hit the HardestThose vendors that stand to lose the most from this new dynamic are offshore outsourcers. "The providers that have the most at risk have business \n\nmodels based on a competitive advantage that's anchored in labor arbitrage -- that's the Indians," says Young. "The services supply chain of the tomorrow \n\nrelies less and less on labor." Young calls the further automation of outsourcing "service-as-software" -- a virtualizing of the physical \n\noutsourcing environment. "I'm seeing a lot of innovation in this area, with some vendors reducing workloads to the point where they need half the staff," \n\nhe says. That trend is most pervasive in networking and data center work today, but will eventually hit end-user computing, he says.But big providers, like IBM Global Services, also stand to lose. "It sounds counterintuitive, but size is a liability at this point," says Young. "They're at \n\nrisk not because they won't be able to put new solutions in place, but because they may not do it fast enough for the market." Smaller, more \n\nnimble providers will have the advantage. The big providers would also rather try to extend the old pricing on contracts for even an extra quarter or two \n\nto manage this shift, but those customers could jump ship. "That's the risk," Young says. "It takes a while to turn a big ship."Customers are already taking advantage of such opportunities, and Young predicts that will accelerate as we enter next year. "The trend will be \n\ntoward the easy-on, easy-off deal," says Young. "At some point as the market matures, it won't make sense to have these casual relationships and this \n\nchurn. But we're at the point right now where it's advisable."Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to CIO.com's IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.