The outsourcing industry is not immune to the ripple effects of the widespread economic volatility. However, in an economic downturn, cost will trump value considerations, according to Gartner.

"Although things look gloomy for the larger global economy, the outsourcing market represents a dichotomy: on the downside, organisations' cost-cutting outsourcing strategies may negatively impact market growth, but at the same time, the upside is that outsourcing will be adopted by more organisations to help them work through financial and competitive challenges," says Allie Young, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
"The well-educated buyer and provider will have the advantage. The potential for outsourcing to address immediate cost pressures as well as long-term recovery goals will be unprecedented. However, only organisations that are diligent about understanding and avoiding the pitfalls of cost-focused outsourcing and that apply business-outcome-focused outsourcing will be successful."
The fifth annual "Gartner on Outsourcing, 2008-2009" report shows that the global economic slump has meant that outsourcing clients are re-evaluating their contracts to improve efficiency and costs. This is affecting provider selection and retention, how services are or will be delivered, delivery location and contract pricing.
Beyond the drivers of efficiency and cost, however, many organisations will also experience business change as a result of repercussions of the economic crisis, which will impact current outsourcing or plans for outsourcing.
For organisations that are outsourcing, contract terms may be altered in response to corporate change: some will downsize, others will expand, acquisition and divestiture will impact others, and still others will cease to exist. Many organisations that are not outsourcing will consider or move aggressively to outsource their IT or business processes to focus on their core business. More than ever, buyers and providers must be attentive to contract issues to ensure a certain level of flexibility, since business change is almost certain.
In 2009, Gartner expects competition for outsourcing deals, particularly for standardised IT outsourcing (ITO) services, to be fierce. Some buyers will be lured by low prices from providers trying to make quarterly revenue goals or build market share. In 2008, based on analysis of Gartner¹s Outsourcing Contract Database, about 76% of announced outsourcing contracts represented new deals; the remaining percentage was a combination of contract extensions, expansions or renewals.
"Almost one-quarter of these contracts were a continuation of outsourcing with an incumbent provider. With the continued uptake in selective outsourcing, a provider can remain a key supplier of services to a particular client, yet potentially lose a portion of its historic contract value," says Young. "Key providers are betting their future on forming enduring, long-lasting client relationships. In uncertain economic times, outsourcing relationships can prove (and test) the durability of
relationships and the outsourcing value proposition."
Alternative delivery and acquisition models (ADAMs) will see a net boost in adoption due to the economic conditions in 2009. ADAMs will deliver IT services through new approaches, such as software as a service (SaaS), business process utility (BPU), infrastructure utility (IU), remote management services (RMS) and Web platform/cloud computing.
IU is defined as a key initiative for IT organisations during the next 12 months by many organisations. Providers that de-emphasised IU investment will react to the growing "everything as a service" buzz by refreshing their messages, creating new service bundles and reactivating investments. IU will gain more market share at the expense of traditional data centre outsourcing service, which will put pressure on traditional IT outsourcing providers to deal with the pricing pressures that IU services represent and create change in their service portfolios and within their client bases.
"ADAMs are becoming more pervasive in many, if not all, aspects of IT development, delivery and management," says Ben Pring, research vice-president at Gartner. "Market excitement over new delivery methods is intensifying and whetting buyers' appetites for new options and services that promise greater flexibility, speed-to-solution, lowered capital investment, and pay-for-use models.
"During the next five to seven years, a broad set of new and alternative IT delivery models – already in use by aggressive early technology adopter organisations – will become mainstream," Pring says. "Since these models have been gaining attention from organisations in recent years in relatively benign economic market conditions, they are likely to become of far greater interest to buyers as economic conditions worsen through 2009."