The outsourcing contract is critical document in an outsourcing relationship which typically contains: scope of services, assumptions, deliverables, pricing, intellectual property and deliverable ownership, contract duration, service levels, customer responsibilities, Vendor responsibilities, conflict resolution, and termination process. There were 472 outsourcing deals struck in the third quarter of 2011 compared to 516 transactions in the second quarter of this year according to Everest Group. Indian IT Vendors constantly write contracts with clients every quarter. Indian ITO vendors contracts are based on two types of pricing Time & Materials based pricing and fixed Pricing. Most clients still negotiate for T&M or Fixed Price contracts with T&M contracts more than 51-58% of total revenue and rest is fixed price contracts. Fixed-price projects to mitigate the impact of the rising rupee and wage inflation on their profitability.
Time & Material (T&M) Contracts are the major type of contracts done by the Indian IT Vendors. In the initial days of outsourcing of work to Indian Vendors the outcomes were unknown and both vendors and clients were not sure how effectively the work will be done by the resources provided by the vendors. They were not sure about the time and resources required, hence the T&M contracts were the best options. Clients wanted to have control on the resources and track vendor resources including the approval and clearance of time-sheets and the risks totally existed with the client. In the T&M contracts the risk lies totally with the clients. People are thrown at the problem and are billed on hourly basis and there are instances of unutilized resources in this scenario. Projects can be easily ramped up or down according to the clients needs easily. These contracts are best suited when the relationships between the clients and vendors are just starting fresh and the projects or process are new with no significant view of the outcomes and their impact. As long as uncertainty exist T&M contracts will be there and despite the fact some experts believe the golden age of T&M contracts is going to end in next ten years.
Fixed price (FP) contracts are clearly defined and deliverables agreed between client and vendor. Standard IT procedures, periodic reviews of performance and phased billing are other features of FP contracts. Risk is shared between the vendor and clients and vendors have to invest in the relationship and technologies required. This is a rigid model and mid way changes are difficult to make. Clients have to be very careful in choosing the best vendors for significant ROI and the vendors too have the scope on investing on the infrastructure and technologies as they are well aware of the client needs. Both clients and Vendors have to invest in building a relationship. Fixed price contracts are being favored by the Indian ITO vendors as they can efficiently complete the work using lesser resources and do it without much interference from the clients. In the past four years Indian vendors are trying to increase the Fixed price contracts percentage to total revenues as the client IT budgets/spend are being tightened due to the financial crisis, debt crisis and economic slowdown. Indian IT vendors looking to maintain 40-40% of total revenue through fixed price contracts. Fixed-price outsource contract attracts the customers due to immediate cost reduction followed by 3-5 years of cost control. Fixed-price projects are also more short term in nature, while the time and material are long-term contracts that give longer revenue visibility for companies
Tata Consultancy Services Limited
TCS has a higher ratio of fixed prices contracts in comparison to the competition and suggest TCS is undertaking more complex and mission critical end-to-end engagements.TCS has been looking to maintain the fixed price contracts in between 40-50% which they feel is optimal. The recent recession and financial crisis has tightened the client budgets and spends which forced to look for more fixed price as it helps them in controlling the resources and do the work more efficiently.
TCS also increased the working hours of employees so that they can increase billable hours for T&M contracts. Fixed price contracts also have higher pricing compared to T&M and carry risk for the vendors. Fixed price contracts have to be signed constantly as the existing contracts get completed overtime and if there are no signings for some time then the overall revenue gets impacted. TCS in 2011 is facing such situation where they have seen fall in fixed price signings but confident to overcome as they have good pipeline. Margins also increase with fixed price contracts.
Infosys has successfully increased its fixed price contracts since 2008. Financial crisis and subsequent recession forced Infosys to start look for ways to curb the slow revenue growth. The
clients have changed their offshore outsourcing strategy and this prompted
Infosys to look for fixed price strategy. But Infosys still have major revenues
coming from T&M contracts as most of its clients want to stick with T&M
and there are risks involved in fixed price like if the scope of a fixed
price bid is unclear, it can lead to cost overruns. The share of fixed price
contracts for Infosys in 2010-11 stands at 42% as compared to 28% in 2005-06. Infosys
focused on shift to fixed-price contracts as part of the bigger effort to
de-link revenue growth from manpower growth and move up the value chain. In
long term, Infosys expects the proportion of fixed price bids going up. US
Over the last 2-3 years, Wipro have increased focus on fixed-price contracts. Wipro has been able to increase the proportion of fixed-price contracts to 45.7% in FY11 compared to just 34 percent in FY-09. Fixed-price contracts ensure better realizations compared to time and material. Wipro is also is aiming to break the “linearity”, or revenue growth linked to the number of people added, and earn better prices through fixed-price contracts. Wipro was also forced to look for more fixed price contracts to overcome the recession. Wipro has in the past couple of years have been signing more fixed price deals as these deals provide revenue visibility and reduce the pricing pressures.
HCL Technologies Limited
HCL Tech have increased its fixed price contracts to total revenue percentage in 2011 to 42% from 30% in 2006. HCL had move to more fixed-price contracts as it offers more certainty in contract execution and revenue. Fixed-price contracts require greater planning in terms of resource allocation and utilization and definitive timelines of implementation and were more relevant in the turbulent times where clients of HCL are demanding output/outcome-based pricing with service-level agreements. In the last two years HCL has seen good traction in the fixed price deals and it is planning to do more such deals in future.
- Are the Indian ITO vendors doing well on the Fixed Price contracts front?
- How comfortable are clients with Fixed Price contracts and how to manage risk?
- What will happen to T&M Contracts in future?
- What is the optimal balance for T&M and Fixed Price contracts?