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IBM

HCL Acquires IBM Products – Desperation or Aspiration? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Mergers & Acquisitions, Outsourcing

On December 6, 2018, HCL announced it had acquired seven IBM products across security, commerce, and marketing for a record US$1.8 billion. To provide a financial context to this acquisition: HCL, India’s third largest IT services provider, invested about 22 percent of its annual revenue to bolster its products and platforms portfolio – what it refers to as its Mode 3 portfolio – which barely contributes to 10 percent of its annual revenue.

Demystifying the Why

What strategic outcomes could HCL potentially derive from this deal?

  • Cross-sell opportunities: Access to the more than 5,000 enterprises currently using the acquired IBM products
  • Superior value proposition around as-a-service offerings: Integration of these products with HCL’s ADM, infrastructure, and digital services
  • Top-line growth due to recurring revenue streams and expanded EBIDTA margins
  • Fewer dependencies on external vendors: Improved capabilities to bundle internal IP with services can enable HCL to have greater control over outcomes, thereby enhancing its ability to deliver value at speed

 Sounds good…Right?

At first glance, the acquisition may seem to be a strategic fit for HCL. But when we dug deeper, we observed that while some of the IP plugs gaps in HCL’s portfolio, others don’t necessarily enhance the company’s overall capabilities.

HCL acquisitions

This analysis raises meaningful questions that indicate there are potential potholes that challenge its success:

  • Confusion around strategic choices: The product investments point to a strong proclivity towards IT modernization, rather than digital transformation. This acquisition of on-premise products comes at a time when inorganic investments by peers’ (recent examples include Infosys’ acquisition of Fluido and Cognizant’s acquisition of SaaSFocus) and enterprises’ preference are geared towards cloud-based products
  • Capability to drive innovation at speed on the tool stack: To address the digital needs of new and existing clients, as well as to deliver on the promise of as-a-service offerings, HCL needs to repurpose the products and make significant investments in modernizing legacy IP
  • Financial momentum sustenance: With an increasing number of clients moving away from on-premise environments to cloud, it remains to be seen if HCL can sustain the US$650 million annual revenue projection from these products
  • Customer apprehensions: Customers that have bundled these products as part of large outsourcing contracts built on the foundation of their relationships with IBM will likely be apprehensive about the products’ strategic direction, ongoing management, and integration challenges as their IT environments evolve
  • The illusion of cross-sell: It remains to be seen if HCL can succeed in cross-selling digital services for these legacy products, especially in the beginning of its relationship with the 5,000+ clients currently using the in-scope IBM products.

 The Way Forward

The acquisition definitely is a bold move by HCL, which may seem meaningful from an overall financial investment and ROI perspective. However, the subdued investor confidence reflects poor market sentiment, at least at the start. Although this could be considered a short-term consequence, HCL’s investments in these legacy products is in stark contrast to the way the rest of industry is moving forward.

On the day of the acquisition, HCL’s stock price fell 7.8 percent, signaling negative market sentiments and thumbs down from analysts. In contrast, the market behaved differently in response to  acquisitions by HCL’s peers in the recent past.

To prove the market wrong, HCL needs to focus its efforts on developing and innovating on top of these products; developing synergies with its ADM, infrastructure, and digital services; alleviating client apprehensions; and providing a well-defined roadmap on how it plans to sustain momentum leveraging these products over the long term.

What is your take on HCL’s acquisition of these IBM products? We would love to hear from you at [email protected] and [email protected].

Set Your New Year’s Resolutions for Successful Automation Program in 2019 | Webinar

By | Webinars

Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 2 p.m. EST | Hosted by IBM with featured speaker, Sarah Burnett, EVP and Distinguished Analyst, Everest Group

Register Now

Automation is on every enterprise’s agenda but many are struggling to make their vision a reality. Others are challenged keeping that vision up to date in a rapidly changing technological landscape. Sound familiar? Join this webinar to find out how to avoid an automation horror story and get a jump start on your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for an accelerated automation journey.

Two leading automation experts have teamed up: Elli Hurst from IBM Automation’s Global Services team and Everest Group’s Sarah Burnett, a leading automation technology analyst, will discuss the challenges facing clients who are seeking enterprise-wide, intelligent automation, and provide some practical guidance on tackling those challenges.

Guest Speaker

Sarah Burnett, EVP and Distinguished Analyst, Everest Group

Register to attend

Why Do Accenture And IBM Stand Out When Markets Change? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog

Many industry analysts have a theory that digital transformation will happen rapidly. But I don’t believe that. I think it will happen over five to 10 years. While digital adoption grows, we’ll see dramatic consolidation in the IT and business process services markets based on the legacy labor arbitrage factory model. A plethora of arbitrage-based service providers remain in the market.

In 2018, we’ll see that some service providers will be able to transition to digital, but some won’t. Those that don’t manage to change will consolidate. But I believe we’ll even some consolidation among those that make the change to the digital world. We’re starting to see early signs of market consolidation in 2017.

Read more in my Forbes blog

IBM’s Watson Ups the Ante in Healthcare | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog

The recently announced acquisition of Merge is one in a string of initiatives by IBM to increase both its market presence and depth of offerings to the healthcare sector. With birth rates increasing in many parts of the world and the aging population growing in developed countries, the race is on for data driven and highly efficient healthcare.

IBM is clearly targeting this market. Its recent activities have included:

  • Entering into new partnerships with companies such as Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic for health-related data collection, analysis, and feedback
  • A partnership with CVS Health to develop care management applications for chronic diseases
  • Acquiring Explorys, a healthcare data provider, and Phytel, a hospital care coordination information provider
  • Buying AlchemyAPI to include text analysis and computer vision capabilities into Watson’s computing platform
  • Establishing a dedicated business unit called IBM Watson Health, headquartered in the Boston, MA, with the specific remit of growing its healthcare business
  • Collaborating with leading hospitals and research institutes including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic to leverage Watson’s healthcare capabilities at the cutting edge of medical research
  • Setting up IBM Watson Health cloud to bring together data for healthcare and research

The US$1 billion acquisition of Merge brings IBM a medical imaging platform to combine with Watson’s image data and analytics capabilities and an extended client base. Excellent and Elementary, Dr. Watson.

With these initiatives, IBM is building specialist competences, to capture, analyze, and recommend treatments or actions that would help healthcare providers, payers, pharmaceuticals, as well as individuals achieve positive health outcomes.

Gaining a wide range of capabilities in specific areas has helped IBM generate specific segment revenue in good and bad times. For example, its large number of information management and WebSphere portfolio acquisitions (e.g., Cognos, Netezza, and SPSS, to name but a few) has seen segment-specific revenues maintain steady growth over the years.

If IBM was to successfully combine its deep specialization in healthcare with Watson’s cognitive computing to enhance its services, it could gain a big edge over competitors at a time when demand is set to grow. At the moment we are seeing more of IBM in healthcare IT infrastructure modernization contracts than data-driven care provisioning and support services. Recent examples include:

  • A contract to update the UK NHS’ electronic staff record (ESR) system, adding mobile access and self-service capabilities for 1.4 million employees
  • A contract to provide mainframe and data center server and storage infrastructure services for Anthem Inc, a U.S.-based health benefits company, for the next five years at TCV of US$500 million

These types of contracts give IBM opportunities to tap into new solution and services openings at existing clients.

Other challenges for IBM’s intelligent and data driven healthcare offerings include:

  • Collecting enough data for its solutions to be relevant to, as well as accessible in, different parts of the world
  • Data protection barriers in Europe
  • Poor cloud infrastructure in emerging economies.

IBM is going all out when it comes to showcasing Watson as a competitive differentiator. In an uncharacteristic move (and a sign of the times), it has launched Watson Developer Cloud, an open platform for developers to build apps on top of Watson for industry-specific solutions (through a set of APIs and SDKs). It is also working with app developers such as Decibel, Epic, Fluid, Go Moment, MD Buyline, TalkSpace, and Welltok to build apps embedded on Watson technology, thereby, rounding up a robust ecosystem. It is abundantly clear that IBM views healthcare as the principal vertical where Watson’s computing prowess can make its mark. In the meantime other service providers are likely to build or acquire their own cognitive capabilities to challenge IBM on pricing and specialist offerings.


Photo credit: Flickr

Cerner, Accenture, and Leidos Won the DoD’s US$9 Billion EHR Deal: Do You Know Who Lost It? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog

While the healthcare industry is reeling over the massive size of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) US$9 billion EHR contract just awarded to Cerner, Leidos, and Accenture, less attention is being paid to the fact that this team won the deal over the hot favourite joint bid of Epic Systems and IBM. Those who know the EHR landscape know there is scant anything that Epic loses (of course, the same used to be said about IBM, and that is where irony can probably find solace). Hence, the focus of this blog is on the fact that the invincible Epic Systems lost the mother of all deals in the EHR space.

Why are we hung up on Epic Systems? For the uninitiated, here is some context:

  • Predominant market leader: With over 40 percent market share, Epic has precipitated a large ecosystem of providers that are on its EHR platform. Epic has intelligently used its dominant market position to work with its customers in defining the roadmap for the evolution of EMR systems, and to make its competitors react to the steps it is taking to innovate across various care practices. Epic has focused primarily on large hospital systems, with minimal attention on the mid- to low-sized segment of the market. With its hold on the market, one is led to believe that Epic chooses its clients, rather than the other way around

  • Highly relationship-driven: Clients have traditionally loved Epic for being proactive in evolving its products, responding to suggestions, and quickly fixing issues. This is what set it apart from the biggies, such as Allscripts and Cerner, in its initial days. Epic has strong consultative sales teams that work closely with administrators, CMOs, and physicians. For large pursuits, it deploys dedicated product customization teams that can deliver POCs, manage change, and implement Epic in record time with partners. And most of Epic’s key product people, who can actually understand and address issues, are just a phone call away.

What could be going wrong with Epic Systems?

  • The “Epic” standard EMR? In an era where healthcare is actively pursuing consumer-focused and highly flexible technological innovation, Epic is facing flak – outside of its existing customer base – because of its highly standardized and rigid architecture. Key areas of question include lack of interoperability, lack of efficient APIs for consumer/end-user application development, and foreseen inability to innovate in a digital world due to its MUMPS-based legacy platform. This is what came out starkly when you read between the lines of Frank Kendall, Under Secretary, Department of Defense’s statement: “Market share was not a consideration, we wanted minimum modifications.”

  • High upfront capital investment: The upfront cost of Epic adoption is increasingly being mentioned as one of the hindrances. Cost is a major factor, and EMR implementations are hospitals’ biggest IT spend and budget areas. More importantly, some of the highly cited large EHR implementations (such as the US$700 million Duke University and Boston Partners deal) create an impression of a highly rigid commercials image for Epic. The case on cost versus benefit of having EHR has not been settled yet. Epic’s high premium positioning put it in a tight corner, despite the US$35 billion subsidies riding the EMR industry, and the general customer preference for Epic. The irony here is that the US$9 billion size of the deal is the reason Epic was such a natural choice for this DoD deal, but it probably lost it because the government needed a more flexible arrangement

  • Declining quality of services: Epic is facing the classical quality versus quantity challenge when it comes to managing its growing list of clients. The increasing shortfall in expert support staff is impacting its ability to maintain and support its products across many new and old clients. In the last 18-24 months, an increasing number of client executives have raised flags about outstanding and unresolved issues

  • Training has become a major area of concern, as more and more hospital systems are complaining of lost revenues due to their staffs’ below par or behind the curve Epic readiness. Epic’s inability to provide efficient training modules, and its tendency to keep things close to its chest, is driving wariness among new clients

  • Vendor-neutral storage: Given dependency concerns, customers are increasingly demanding vendors be aligned to some sort of vendor-neutral storage or archiving architecture. This is likely to lead to more thought leadership on vendor-neutral technologies, which will be directed at Epic’s predominant control regime.

There may be other commercial reasons for this massive DoD EHR deal not going Epic’s way. However, organizations already had a strong sense of circumspection while evaluating Epic’s EHR in terms of interoperability, next generation technology, digital enablement, and control. While before these reasons were less salient because of Epic’s trailblazing success, this lost deal will spur prospects to question them with a far more discerning eye.