Supply Chain Matters has continually provided our readers insights relative to the increased momentum and ongoing impact that Cloud based computing has had across multi-industry settings. Such impacts are not only quickly changing ongoing software and IT hardware deployment strategies for line-of-business and cross-functional supply chain management teams, but the financial fortunes of existing high-profile enterprise and IT technology vendors themselves. Cloud computing equates to lower margins but more recurring subscription-based revenues for technology firms and thus the transition has to managed skillfully.

Over the past week, three high profile tech vendors, IBM, Microsoft and SAP have announced their latest financial performance results with contrasting pictures related to transitions.

In in case of IBM, financial headlines from the results from the most recent quarter now reflect 17 continuous quarters of revenue declines. Revenue for Q2 dropped 2.8 percent while earnings fell nearly $1 billion. As readers may be aware, IBM continues to manage an ongoing shift to build new strategic businesses, termed strategic imperatives to drive growth while the tech vendor’s traditional business segment continue to decline.. Strategic imperatives include Cloud computing, analytics, artificial intelligence, security and mobile.

There was some good news however for IBM in that Cloud services revenues reportedly increased by 30 percent in the latest quarter, amounting to $3.4 billion.  An additional 11 acquisitions were closed in the quarter, many focused on analytics and AI based capabilities. Within the supply chain applications segment, previous acquisitions have faltered and some have now been sold-off.

IBM’s former notion of building and deploying Smarter Commerce capabilities appears to be languishing. With the latest financial results, equity analysts and investors seem to be growing weary as to whether or when IBM can fully transition to the new wave of computing and information technology needs and deliver total revenue increases.  In essence, IBM may be in a process of re-sizing itself.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s latest quarterly performance provides a different picture regarding managing the transition from on-premise to Cloud based computing. While total revenues declined a reported 7.1 percent In the vendor’s most recent fiscal fourth quarter, the company posted $3.1 billion in net income. The largest gains originated from Azure Cloud computing services with quarterly revenue amounting to $6.7 billion, growing a significant 102 percent on a year-over-year basis. In essence, as The Wall Street Journal concluded, Microsoft’s Cloud segment is growing while the Windows desktop and phone unit ae declining.

Microsoft is further moving aggressively in strategic partnerships with other technology and industry firms. At its recent Sapphire customer conference, SAP announced a strategic partnership with joint plans to deliver broad support for the SAP HANA® platform deployed on Azure and General Electric recently announced that it will partner with Microsoft in uniting their Cloud computing and analytics technologies in a partnership that will bring GE’s Predix IoT platform for the Industrial Internet to businesses running on Azure.

Speaking of SAP, earlier this week the German based enterprise software provider reported what the company termed as record revenues and profits yet the quarterly numbers seem otherwise. Second quarter total revenues increased 5.3 percent on a year-to-year basis while operating profit increased 81 percent to €1269 million. The company’s earnings news release was quick to highlight strong growth in the Cloud segment, as subscription and support revenue grew a reported 30 percent to €720 million.  Further noted was:  “The total of cloud subscriptions & support revenue and software support revenue reached 63% of total revenue in the second quarter of 2016, up one percentage point.” We portend to by no means be perceived as a financial specialist blog, but it would seem by reading the financial detail that SAP has lumped traditional software licenses and support revenue into a sub-category of Cloud and software that is termed “Predictable Revenue.” Albeit we will leave further interpretation up to the financial experts.

In its earnings press release, SAP indicates that it is significantly outpacing its main competitor in cloud and software revenue. We interpret the unnamed to be that of Oracle, which in June reported both fiscal 4th quarter and full year financial results. In our commentary related to Oracle we noted that Cloud based revenue in the quarter was $859 million, up 51 percent on a year-over-year basis. Additionally, Oracle’s strategies addressing Cloud are from our lens, far broader and currently incorporate not only database, applications and SaaS offerings but platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) services as well.  They include additional IT infrastructure hosting choices, either private (behind the firewall) or public  for businesses in addition to applications. We further reiterate our assessment that Oracle is currently the only enterprise technology provider offering a full suite of supply chain and manufacturing applications available on a public or private cloud platform.

Thus we have different impacts and transitions occurring among enterprise software and technology providers and organizations and businesses need to read between the lines to discern which of these players has the most solid longer-term strategies. That would include support needs of businesses and organizations to seamlessly transform their computing and applications to more affordable and less disruptive Cloud platform choices. In some cases, that has led to aggressive and sometimes expensive acquisition strategies to springboard innovation and availability timetables. The other force is obviously the needs of stockholders and stakeholders to preserve both short and longer-term margins and profits.

In the middle of all of these efforts often resides boasting and marketing hype as to which Cloud platforms and strategies are the best for customers.

The transition and the effects will continue and businesses need to continue to do their homework in market education and vendor intelligence.

Bob Ferrari

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