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Can IBM pivot fast enough?

This week, TBR publishes its initial thoughts on IBM’s 4Q19 performance, featuring insights from our data center and professional services analysts.

“Another quarter, another IBM Initial Response from TBR. And while our initial report on IBM’s earnings release remains constant, IBM’s strategy and investment focuses continue to pivot,” says Analyst Stephanie Long. “This quarter we’re looking at recent developments in IBM’s quantum computing business, including how high-performance computing ties into the market, as well as what’s new in IBM’s Systems Hardware portfolio and strategy.”

Senior Analyst Elitsa Bakalova adds, “IBM is winning transformational deals that include consulting, implementation and management of next-generation solutions such as cloud, AI, blockchain and IoT. IBM is advancing in quantum computing research and expanding outside the U.S., in Germany and Japan, to broaden the practical application of quantum computing and speed up the development of the digital economy. Enabling hybrid cloud adoption remains at the forefront of IBM’s strategy, and the extended partnerships with VMware and HCL Technologies solidify IBM’s ability to transform clients’ infrastructure and application environments.”

Additional assessments from our analyst teams

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) closed 2019 with continued revenue growth, which TBR attributes to ongoing investments in its solution suite and talent pool, alongside aggressive pricing. Strengthening its digital capabilities that enable technology-based transformation, at scale, for the company’s global clientele will drive further growth in 2020. Additionally, preserving a low turnover rate compared to India-centric peers will be important for TCS.” Kevin Collupy, Analyst

On Wednesday Principal Analyst Patrick Heffernan, Senior Analyst Boz Hristov, Analyst Kevin Collupy and Research Analyst Kelly Lesiczka discussed IT services and professional services market developments of 2019 and expectations for 2020, including why TBR anticipates at least one IT services vendor or management consultancy calling an end to the term “digital.” Check out the replay of this webinar, “The end of ‘digital,’ anytime in TBR’s Webinar Portal.

India-centric professional services rivals compete to prove themselves as front-runner in European market

Vendors look to Europe for new revenue pipelines, but some are falling short

India-centric IT services vendors are looking to do more in Europe, utilizing a few different strategies to get there, including pursuing acquisitions, developing new offerings and building on-the-ground workforces. This allows them to diversify revenue streams geographically. TBR feels this push into Europe is a crucial move for India-centric vendors, to not only remain competitive with each other and advance their bottom lines but also to reap the benefits that the European market has to offer, such as new investment opportunities and a larger talent pool for recruiting.

Vendors look to Europe for new revenue pipelines, but some are falling short

The five leading India-centric professional services vendors — Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH), HCL Technologies (HCLT), Infosys (NYSE: INFY), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro (NYSE: WIT) — explored new pipelines for expanding their presence into the mature and growing European market. Infosys worked to close the gap on HCLT in 1Q19, while TCS, Wipro IT Services (Wipro ITS) and Cognizant are feeling the pressure to conform to stay competitive.

Reconsidering TCS’ SWOT assessment: M&A comes alive

In November our detailed report on Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) performance and strategy included a SWOT slide with the following item in the Threat category: “Competitors are building assets and scale quickly through acquisitions; TCS retains a conservative M&A stance.” Just a couple of weeks into 2019, we’re seeing a change from the company: a willingness to attack this threat head-on. As noted in our Jan. 10 initial response on the company’s 4Q18 earnings, “TCS’ purchase of London-based digital design atelier W12 Studios will be integrated into TCS Interactive beginning in 1Q19.” BridgePoint, a Georgia-based consultancy, and W12 Studios are TCS’ first acquisitions since 2014, ending a four-year hiatus in M&A for the largest of the India-based IT services majors TBR tracks.

While the acquisitions of BridgePoint and W12 Studios represent a commendable departure for TCS from its traditional aversion to inorganic growth, neither will significantly move the needle for TCS in revenue, added human resources, or market reach. It also remains unclear how much, if any, intellectual property or new client access TCS will obtain from either acquired company. In the digital marketing space, TCS gains no meaningful or material ground on any of its chief peers, particularly Accenture, which generates over $8 billion a year in digital marketing services revenue.

Reflecting these developments, we will update our SWOT slide in the coming full report.

TCS corporate SWOT analysis update for January 2019

We fully expect TCS will continue down the M&A path, particularly in the Consulting & Services Integration (C&SI) and Digital Transformation Services business lines, as both businesses built a war chest for acquisitions and need to enhance their offerings to continue to compete. Our most recent assessment describes the company as having “successfully repositioned, recalibrated and revamped its solution suite to go beyond operations optimization and deliver scalable, digitally based growth and transformation enablement for its global clientele. All of its internal delivery processes have also been completely renovated to support a growing volume of Agile-based projects in the company’s pipeline, while nearly three-quarters of TCS’ workforce has been upskilled in Agile methodologies. Digitally based engagements continue to constitute an ever-expanding share of TCS’ revenue base and order book, driving a strong deal pipeline that is well balanced across multiple geographies and vertical industry sectors.”

Look for our complete analysis of Tata Consultancy Services Feb. 1, 2019.

Services Weekly Preview: January 14-18

As the first quarter of the new year gets rolling, TBR’s Services team will be reporting on IT services vendors’ 4Q18 earnings, evaluating their performance and strategies, and pulling through trends across the entire IT services space.

A recap of TBR’s 3Q18 findings can be found in the IT Services Vendor Benchmark, now available for download in TBR’s Client Portal.

Here’s what’s you can expect this week:

Wednesday: 

  • In 3Q18 we estimated Accenture’s revenue would expand 9.6% year-to-year in 4Q18 due to Accenture’s ability to convert bookings to cash and established delivery frameworks. Seasonal softness and headwinds among Financial Services clients in Europe and U.S. Federal caused bookings to decelerate and consulting book-to-bill ratio to drop under 1, at 0.99, for the first time since 3Q15. Accenture reported revenue growth of 7.3% year-to-year in 4Q18 due to some of these headwinds. However, we expect Accenture’s ability to execute on its consulting-to-operations approach will help it gain traction and expand wallet share among its 182 Diamond clients, including the 13 clients it gained in FY18.
  • In our Accenture Healthcare IT Services report, we note Accenture’s M&A ambitions in the healthcare sector seem to have cooled. Accenture finished 2018 without making a major healthcare-related acquisition, despite large companies, both inside and outside the technology services sector, leveraging M&A to enter the digital healthcare space and accelerate investment in healthcare IT innovation. While a continued robust volume of M&A activity in healthcare IT is expected in 2019 and will only serve to further inflate the valuation of healthcare IT acquisition targets, Accenture’s fiscal health surpasses most competitors’ and it could compete vigorously for these acquisitions. Because Accenture is focused on using M&A to enhance nonhealthcare-related growth initiatives, high-quality healthcare IT and consulting assets are falling into the hands of competitors with aggressive M&A strategies. TBR expects Accenture will stop allowing peers (especially smaller peers) to snatch up high-quality assets, IP and capabilities and will narrow the healthcare IT capabilities gap, as it has done in the digital market space.

Friday: In 3Q18 we estimated Wipro IT Services’ (ITS) revenue would remain flat from the year-ago quarter as weaknesses in core services and solutions offset expansions in the company’s digital business. Wipro ITS’ ability to upsell its clients helped extract additional wallet share from its top five clients; however, the company faces pressure in client retention, as its total number of active clients dropped during 3Q18. We expect these challenges combined with the elimination of Wipro ITS’ data center hosting business will have negatively impacted revenue performance during 4Q18.

Last week TBR rolled out its initial assessment of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In 3Q18, based on TCS’ historical conservatism regarding acquisitions, TBR predicted TCS would likely remain quiet on the M&A front in 4Q18: The company “has demonstrated a strong preference for expanding its portfolio and global delivery resources organically rather than through M&A.” Over the last two years (driven by the digital wave), we have observed TCS earmarking free cash flow and investment capital to internal R&D and co-innovation with clients at regional innovation hubs rather than making acquisitions (unlike more acquisitive peers, such as Accenture and Cognizant). However, TCS surprised us with not one but two acquisitions in November: BridgePoint Group (financial services consulting) and W12 Studios (digital and creative design). Given TCS’ four-year hiatus from M&A and that these acquisitions are small-scale and will not impact TCS’ revenue substantially (TBR estimates they will contribute only $10 million to $20 million in new organic revenue annually, compared to TCS’ $20 billion in sales expected in FY19), we do not expect TCS to acquire again until these new assets are fully and successfully integrated. Given TCS’ four-year hiatus from M&A, and even though these acquisitions are small-scale and will not substantially move the revenue needle for TCS (we estimate both companies will only contribute between $10 million and $12 million in new inorganic revenue on an annual basis – TCS will generate over $20 billion in sales in its fiscal 2019), we expect TCS will not make further acquisitions until the newly acquired assets are fully and successfully integrated.  We believe this quiet period could end, however, by 2H19, as TCS is compelled to shed its traditional aversion to inorganic growth to keep from losing more addressable market to peers such as Accenture, which has acquired its way to the top of the digital marketing space. For additional information on TCS, contact Senior Analyst John Caucis at [email protected].

 

In the next few weeks we will issue our initial 4Q18 reports on each vendor in TBR’s Services portfolio.

Top 5 IT firms hired over 37,000 people in Q2, the highest since Sept 2015

“Bozhidar Hristov, senior analyst at Technology Business Research, US, told the daily that cyclical changes – driven by rising attrition, demand for professionals with skills in new technologies that can not only execute on traditional outsourcing projects but can also drive design-led opportunities – are compelling Indian vendors to hire again.”

IT vendors ‘patently’ sharpening focus on developing newer technologies

IBM has a unique position as a software, hardware and services vendor. — Bozhidar Hristov, Senior Analyst