Should outsourcing ranking be taken with a pinch of salt?

Two different ranking lists in the outsourcing sector struck me this week because they both lacked the name IBM within them. Both had reasons for not including IBM but it does put into question the value of these lists.

IBM Global Services personifies IT services and its absence from these lists was surprising to say the least.

The first was a list from ISG, the big IT outsourcing consultancy, it has a list of the top 20 IT service providers for the first quarter of 2013. This was the 20 suppliers that had reported the highest contract values won in that period. IBM was not on the list. Apparently this was because a. contracts often come in lumps so it is not that surprising that a supplier might have a quiet quarter. And it is only contracts that are made public, so IBM might have been quiet about it.

The second list wasn’t the top 100 Outsourcing Leaders from the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals. This is the top 100 outsourcers in general and is not focused on IT. However IT makes up a sizable chunk of the list and IBM is not on there. I was told the reason for this is that it is an opt-in list, so IBM presumable didn’t opt in. Although the ranking is not just on size it is still a surprise that IBM is not there.

This makes me question the value of such lists. Having worked in journalism for years and seen many people win awards you learn that entering a competition is not only a must if you want to win, but is also half the battle. But it does not mean you the winner or winners are the best. OK industry awards are a bit of fun I suppose, but if you are a business taking these lists seriously they might be misleading if leading companies are excluded for one reason or another.

This reminds me of an article I wrote about IT analysts a while ago. IT analysts are highly respected and really influence buyers when decisions are made by CIOs. But how accurate and broad is the research? I suppose if you follow Gartner’s advice you can’t go far wrong, but this does not mean you will get the best IT for your need.

Magic quadrants and similar research, rank suppliers on different variables. Businesses are heavily influenced by these when buying.

But the problem with Magic Quadrants and the like are that analysts only really measure a few companies with global footprints. As a result research showing IT services buying habits are skewed because this type of service is often bought from a regional specialists. Particularly in continental Europe.