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Global Market for IT and Business Services Growing at Fastest Pace Ever, ISG Index Finds

Global Market for IT and Business Services Growing at Fastest Pace Ever, ISG Index Finds
  • Global combined ACV for the third quarter up 40%, to a record $21.8 billion
  • Cloud-based as-a-service spend up 55%, highest growth rate ever, to record $13.4 billion
  • Managed services climbs 22%, to a record $8.4 billion, with record contracting activity
  • ISG raises its 2021 forecasts again for both as-a-service and managed services

The global market for technology and business services grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter, propelled by surging demand for cloud computing and other digital capabilities, according to the latest state-of-the industry report from Information Services Group (ISG) (Nasdaq: III), a leading global technology research and advisory firm.

“The demand environment for technology and business services is as robust as we’ve ever seen”

Data from the ISG Index™, which measures commercial outsourcing contracts with annual contract value (ACV) of $5 million or more, show third-quarter ACV for the combined global market (both as-a-service and managed services) grew by 40 percent, to $21.8 billion—the highest quarterly growth rate for the combined market since ISG began tracking as-a-service spending in 2014, and the fourth consecutive quarter the global market has established a new high for ACV.

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“The demand environment for technology and business services is as robust as we’ve ever seen,” said Steve Hall, partner and president of ISG. “This is not just pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic, but a real structural shift for the market as enterprise customers accelerate their digital transformation strategies, modernize their legacy environments and move to the cloud. We see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future, even against some economic headwinds. There is no let-up in sight.”

The cloud-based as-a-service market reached a record $13.4 billion in the third quarter, up 55 percent against the prior year—the highest quarterly growth rate ever, topping the previous high of 50 percent in the first quarter of 2016. Within this segment, both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) grew at a record pace, with IaaS up 57 percent, to a record $9.7 billion, and SaaS up 53 percent, to a record $3.7 billion.

Managed services reached a record $8.4 billion, and its 22 percent growth rate was the highest in more than three years. IT outsourcing (ITO) came in at $6.1 billion, up 18 percent from last year, but down slightly from the previous quarter. Business process outsourcing (BPO), meanwhile, surged 32 percent, to a record $2.3 billion.

A record 564 managed services contracts were awarded in the third quarter, extending to four quarters the best 12-month stretch ever for deal activity—coming out of a COVID-19 low in the second quarter last year. During the third quarter, six mega-deals, each worth more than $100 million, were signed.

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Year-to-Date Performance

Through the first nine months of 2021, the combined global market generated a record $59.8 billion of ACV, up 26 percent.

As-a-service, at a record $35.5 billion, was up 33 percent, its highest growth rate in three years. IaaS hit a record $25.8 billion of ACV, up 35.5 percent, also its highest growth rate in three years, as enterprises seek the cost savings, agility and innovation offered by cloud-based infrastructure. SaaS also established a new record for quarterly ACV—$9.7 billion, up 26 percent—as providers seek to establish longer-term, value-based relationships with clients to mitigate the negative impact of price increases in an inflationary environment.

Managed services, at a record $24.2 billion, was up 17 percent—the fastest growth rate for this segment since 2014. ITO rose 12 percent, its best growth rate in three years, to a record $18.3 billion, on record contracting activity of 1,187 deals. The ITO market is being fueled by strong demand for application development and maintenance (ADM) and cybersecurity services, even as the infrastructure (data center) business declines. The BPO segment soared 40 percent, to $5.9 billion, with contract awards up 39 percent year to date. Growth is being fueled by strong demand for engineering/R&D and finance and accounting services. Contact center and facilities management services are also growing but have yet to climb back to their pre-pandemic highs.


The Americas region generated strong growth across the board in the third quarter, both versus the prior year as well as quarter over quarter, and set ACV records in all segments. Combined ACV climbed 37 percent, to $11.6 billion, its highest level ever and the first time the region has surpassed $10 billion in a quarter. As-a-service ACV soared 51 percent over the prior year, to a record $6.9 billion, the fastest growth rate for this segment since ISG began tracking it in 2014. IaaS surged 53 percent, to a record $4.6 billion, and SaaS shot up 48 percent, to a record $2.4 billion. Managed services advanced 21 percent, to a record $4.7 billion. ITO jumped 26 percent, to a record $3.4 billion, and BPO was up 9 percent, to a record $1.3 billion.

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Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA)

EMEA’s combined market reached an all-time high of $6.5 billion, up 36 percent from the prior year, and up 4 percent over the second quarter. As-a-service soared 59 percent, to a record $3.3 billion, with IaaS and SaaS each also up 59 percent, to quarterly records of $2.4 billion and $930 million, respectively. Managed Services, meanwhile, rose 19 percent, to $3.2 billion, fueled by 7 percent growth in ITO, to $2.3 billon, and 71 percent growth in BPO, to a record $844 million, the latter on strong demand for engineering and R&D services. The region produced strong growth across most geographies, with the notable exception of its two largest markets—DACH and the UK—both down for the quarter.

Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific generated $3.6 billion of combined market ACV in the third quarter, up 60 percent over the prior year, but down 6 percent from a record second quarter. The as-a-service market continued to establish new quarterly highs, up 62 percent, to a record $3.1 billion overall, with IaaS up 60 percent, to a record $2.7 billion, and SaaS up 69 percent, to a record $407 million. Managed services ACV was $575 million, up 53 percent against a soft year-ago quarter, but down 40 percent against a strong second quarter. ITO followed the same pattern, with ACV of $405 million, up 29 percent over last year, but down 51 percent against the second quarter. BPO, on the other hand, advanced 178 percent versus last year and 18 percent over the prior quarter, with strength in engineering/R&D and industry-specific services.

2021 Forecast

ISG is forecasting the market for cloud-based services (IaaS and SaaS) will grow 25 percent globally in 2021, up from its 21 percent growth forecast last quarter. The firm also is raising its forecast for managed services growth to 10.1 percent, up from its prior forecast of 9 percent.

Commenting on the forecast, Hall said: “Our outlook for the technology and business services market remains bullish, with the volume of managed services deals in the pipeline indicating strong buying intentions among enterprises seeking digital transformation partners. The market is no longer dependent on larger deals and the smaller deals, we believe, will eventually grow into larger engagements as transformation efforts continue to pick up steam. One headwind for this sector is the Great Resignation, which has increased industry attrition and could slow growth.

“We believe the as-a-service market is in the early phase of its maturity cycle. One near-term headwind is inflationary pressures. If providers can successfully navigate potential price increases with their client base or alter the pricing model to another construct, such as outcomes-based pricing, the multiyear secular growth drivers should remain quite healthy.”

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