IBM Global Services has come out top in the latest survey of suppliers by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP). For the second year running, IBM was first, followed by Cap Gemini, HP, Sodexho and Accenture.

The Global Outsourcing 100 is an important benchmark that helps executives gauge the strength of industry providers. Companies are ranked according to 18 criteria, including revenue, growth, number of employees, the skills and training of their workforce, the number of technical and business certifications they have secured – such as ISO 9001 – the track record of the management team and the quality of customer service.

The industry is composed of two types of players – larger, well-established organisations and smaller, fast-growing companies that have annual revenues of less than $60 million.

A useful snapshot of the industry, the list reveals underlying trends in the marketplace. Revenue among the elite group grew by 19 per cent in 2006, topping over $170 billion. On average, companies on the list had $1bn in annual sales and a very high level of productivity: revenue per employee was an impressive $83,000. Employment growth was up, as well, rising 13 per cent over the prior year to an average workforce of 13,688.

IBM came first, according to the IAOP because the $96bn technology behemoth exhibits continued growth and depth of expertise. Cap Gemini is up three notches from last year mainly due to its exceptional ability to find innovative solutions for customers.