IBM is a good case study for balancing out everyone singing the “transformation is cool” tune . Transformation is utterly painful – almost directly proportional to the size of the company .
So IBM announced its Q1 results and no surprises there – HW business is not in good health , and software and services are not exactly stellar either .
But that is the top line story . Bottom line – or specifically EPS, is a different story . EPS continues to grow as IBM promised in its plan .
Several people commented today that The best days of IBM are behind them . I actually think the opposite is true . I think IBM will come back with a roar in couple of years .
Why do I think so ? For two reasons primarily
1. Look at their investments in last couple of years while their top line was shrinking . They formed the Watson group – and put their best leaders in charge of growing it . They bought Softlayer and are moving full speed to make it the base of their cloud strategy up and down the stack . They partnered well with growing technologies ( capitalized on Hana momentum from SAP on the hardware side – and yes they sold it off to Lenovo , supported MongoDB API in DB2, etc) . They haven’t let the slow down on top line from affecting their investments – that is how IBM works . They bet on the long term and don’t panic (at least in public). On top of that they continue to invest heavily in their research capabilities . iBM spends more money on research than many hot shot companies make in revenue .
2. They have a very deep leadership bench – and has the brand and money to attract more leaders if needed . This is by far the most important reason for me to believe IBM will come back with a roar . There aren’t a lot of leaders of the caliber of Ginni Rommety , Steve Mills etc. The people working for them are equally talented and it goes a few layers deep . And if that is not enough – they have plenty of cash and brand value to attract away most top leaders from other companies .
So what is it that IBM doesn’t have ?
They don’t have time on their side !
Investors are not always a patient bunch . On the bright side , people buy IBM for guaranteed dividends and long term appreciation . Come what may – I am sure IBM has enough capability to squeeze costs to make earnings promises be made good . But if the investment community doesn’t show patience – they might have to cut deeper than necessary to deliver and that helps no one .
As much as I care for IBM – I feel terrible every time they let go of people, since I have a lot of friends who work there . And in every round, some of them get affected . That makes it difficult for me to justify what looks like a good decision on economic front . That does not do IBM any long term good – a business is only as good as the people who work there, and not just the leaders . But that is the price to pay when IBM does not have time on its side .
For the sake of all my friends who still work there , and for my own sake as an ex-IBMer who cares for the company – I hope that IBM can buy some time to make its come back and not cut much more deep into its payroll to deliver on its commitments to the street .