Last Thursday, we delivered our analysis of how fifty of the largest providers of technology services performed in Q4 2008. Companies in our index include hardware, software, and pure services companies. Example companies include:
Analyzing the Q4 data, we saw three trends important to every provider of technology services.
FIRST TREND: TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES FAIRED WELL IN 2008
All three of the distinct types of companies in our index, hardware, software, and pure services companies, performed relatively well in a difficult 2008. Pure service companies like Accenture and BearingPoint improved their gross margins and profits. Hardware giants Cisco, HP, and IBM all improved Q4 2008 operating incomes percentages over their Q4 2007 percentages. Software giants Oracle and SAP did the same. The figure below shows the averages for the thirty-nine companies that were in the Q4 2007 and Q4 2008 snapshots. As can be seen, all categories trended up in 2008 except product revenues, which leads us to the second key observation.
Finally, we analyzed how different product-service revenue mixes performed in Q4. The chart below breaks companies in the Service 50 into three buckets:
Services Heavy: Companies with 65% or more of their revenues coming from services
Product Heavy: Companies with less than 35% of their revenues coming from services
Balanced: Companies with 36% – 64% of their revenues coming from services.
This analysis shows that companies with “services heavy” or “balanced” revenue mixes outperformed product heavy companies in Q4 2008. This makes sense intuitively. If capital spend is tightening, services revenue streams become more important. Also, customers seem more inclined to invest in optimizing existing infrastructure than buying new products—this equates to more services spend, not product spend. This creates a dynamic we call the “services buffer.” This is the financial buffer services revenues and margins create for product companies when product revenues are flat or declining. Every indicator we see tells us this buffer will be critical to the profitability of many product companies in 2009.