This report will explore the business plan for a business plan for International Business Machine (IBM) Corporation. From 2014, IBM has been experiencing a decline in its market positioning and financial health which calls for a change in how the business conducts its operations. The decline led IBM to implement new strategies to beat its competitors. This report will include a SWOT analysis to provide managerial strategies and ideas that will help the company operate positively for the next three years. These strategies will boost the stakeholder’s placement among its competitors.
Background Information for International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation
IBM is a multinational company in information technology operating in 170 countries. The headquarters of IBM are in Armonk, New York, United States. Originally, IBM operated by the name Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) in 1911 after its formation. However, CTR changed to International Business Machine in 1924 (Investing.com, 2019). IBM was founded by Charles Ranlett Flint and is currently led by Ginni Rometty and has a stock price of US$134.38.
The company operates by the name Big Blue and is among the largest global employer with approximately 350,000 employees and it is ranked among the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Being that it is a multinational company, 70% of employees are outside the US and India hosts the majority of the employees. Its employees have received different awards includes National Medals of Science (USA), ten National Medals of Technology (USA), six Turing Awards, and five Nobel Prizes.
Goods and Services
The principle goods produced by IBM include software, middleware, and hardware while the services produced include hosting and consulting services in nanotechnologies and mainframe computers. (Investing.com, 2019) explains that IBM also reads in research in the United States with patents consecutively from 1993. IBM is celebrated for different innovations including dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), the UPC barcode, SQL programming language, the relational database, the magnetic stripe card, the hard disk drive, the floppy disk, and the automated teller machine (ATM). However, over the years, IBM has changed its operations to more profitable and higher value markets. This has led the company to acquire companies like Red Hat in 2019, the Weather Company in 2016, SPSS in 2009, and PwC Consulting in 2002 and the sale of x 86-based server businesses to Lenovo in 2014, and personal computer (ThinkPad/ThinkCentre) in 2005, and spanned off the printer manufacturer Lexmark in 1991.
For the last four years, IBM is ranked as a leader in the global market share in artificial intelligence. Hardware, software, and services increased the revenue of artificial intelligence by 19% where IBM captured the general AI market share in 2018 (IBM News Room, 2019). IBM operates in five business areas: Global Financing, Systems Hardware, Software Capabilities, Global Business Services, and Global Technology Services. The majority of IBM’s revenue (60%) is sourced from the IT Services segment which is a combination of Global Business Services and Global Technology Services. The rest sources of revenue are from Global Financing with 1%, Hardware with 9% and Software with 30%. The IT services have 7% markets share, software with 4.9% but the market share from hardware is decreased its market share due to high competition in this sector. Also, Global Financing is services that help consumers purchase products in IBM and thus is of little significance in the global financing industry.
The headquarters of IBM in Armonk, NY within 97 countries and has 127 countries. In the United States, IBM is located in Tampa, Southbury, Smyrna, San Francisco, Rochester, Philadelphia, New York, Huntsville, Durham, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, and Armonk. Other countries that IBM is located include Argentina, Angola, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Austria, Australia, Aruba, China, Belgium, Barbados, Brazil, Bangladesh, Chile, Canada, Bulgaria, Colombia, Curacao, Croatia, Costa Rica, Colombia and others (Craft, 2019).
The vision statement of IBM is based on success to illustrate their development journey to be a leader in its operations.
“to be the world’s most successful and important Information Technology Company. Successful in helping out customers apply technology to solve their problems. Successful in introducing this extraordinary technology to new customers. Important, because we will continue to be the basic resource of much of what is invested in this industry” (Mission Statement Academy, 2019)
IBM’s mission is based on its commitment to meet the needs of its clients to become the leader in information technology, improves clients’ life, and networking. The mission statement is:
“To lead in the creation, development, and manufacture of the industry’s most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, networking systems, storage devices, and microelectronics. And our worldwide network of IBM solutions and services professionals translates these advanced technologies into business value for our customers. We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers through our professional solutions, services and consulting businesses worldwide” (Mission Statement Academy, 2019).
The major competitor of IBM is Hewlett Packard which is a specialist in IT information where it sells and manufactures IT services and solutions and Personal computers (PCs). In the IT field, IBM faces stiff competition from Capgemini in Paris. Another competitor is Accenture which has headquarters in Dublin which in terms of revenue, generates 52% more than IBM in the Management Consulting Services. DXC is also a top competitor in the IT Services industry generating $57.5B less than IBM. Other competitors include Xerox, Oracle, SAS, SAP, SalesForce, and Intel. In cloud computing, competitors include Microsoft, Amazon, and Google; while in the Pcs and Laptops, it faces competition from Apple, Samsung, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Infosys, Cap Gemini, Wipro, Fujitsu, and Adobe (Bhasin, 2018).
Internal Assessment of IBM
From January to 30th September, IBM has experienced a decrease in revenue by 4% to $55.37B. the company has also faced reductions in net income by 14% to $5.92B.the America segment had a decrease of 35% to $17.3B, while the Global Financing segment recorded 36% to $757M and the Global Financing segment decrease of 36% to $757M, Americas segment decrease of 35% to $17.3B, Europe/Middle East/Africa had a reduction of 35% to $11.88B.
Oshoke and Sumaina (2015) define the current ratio as a liquidity ratio measuring the ability of an organization to settle its short-term obligations. This report will explore the current ration from 2014 to 2018. The current ratio is figuratively presented below which indicates a decrease in corporate and technology.
Figure 1: Current ratio of IBM from 2014 to 2018
Based on the current ratio, IBM is running on a desirable situation as it has more current assets than current liabilities. Some of the competitors based on current ratio include Facebook Inc. 7.19, Alphabet Inc. 3.92, Oracle Corp 3.96, Microsoft Corp. 2.90, salesforce.com 0.92, Intuit Inc. 1.14, and Adobe Inc. with 1.13 in comparison to IBM with 1.29. Although IBM is in a desirable situation, it still has a long way to go to beat its competitors.
Short-term Activity Ratios
The inventory ratio is calculated by dividing the cost of products sold with the inventory (Investing.com, 2019). In this case, IBM had an increase of inventory between 2016 and 2017 but reduced from 2017 to 2018. The working capital turnover attained by dividing revenue with working capital (Macrotrends, 2019) which reduced from 2016 to 2017 and improved from 2017 to 2018. Similarly, receivable turnover improved in the same period and continued to improve from 2017 to 2018. Lastly, the payables turnover attained by calculating the cost of products with payables (Investing.com, 2019) reduced from 2016 to 2018.
Figure 3: Turnover Rate of IBM
The quick ratio is also referred to as the “quick assets ratio” or “acid test ratio” gauging the short term ability of a company to pay the debt. The quick ratio is defined as the difference between current assets and inventories and divided by current liabilities. The quick ratio is presented in the line graph below. According to Macrotrends (2019), an organization with a ratio of more than 1 is a reflection that the company has sufficient quick assets to pay recurrent liabilities. Some of the assets comprise of short-term receivables, marketable securities, cash equivalents, and cash. Thus, IBM has sufficient quick assets.
Figure 4: quick ratio
The debt to equity ratio is defined as the liquidity ratio providing a comparison between total debt and total equity. IBM has a higher debt to equity ratio as on September 30, 2019, with 3.4 with an increasing debt ratio from September 30, 2019, at 1.81 (Macrotrends, 2019).
Current and Proposed Organizational Chart
Currently, IBM follows an organizational structure to strategically streamline their delivery and product development in the IT market. The corporate structure of IBM comprises the research and analysis department where IBM contains the biggest research center with more than 10 researching labs in the EU, America, and Asia. Service and product team is part of IBM org structure and provides user security, mobile applications, Internet of Things, commerce, cognitive computing, and cloud computing. Besides, IBM experiences fast innovations in cloud data service, including the use of cryptographic in Cloud Data Encryption Services (ICDES) to secure users’ data. Other technological fields in IBM are IT outsourcing, the gaming industry, and other public sectors. Other services offered by IBM include public buildings, socially sustainable development, IT outsourcing services, and gaming systems on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 devices (OrgCharting, 2016).
Marketing and public relations are the third element in the IBM organization’s chart which has been in operation for more than 100 years. In partnership with Masters Tournament, IBM has strengthened its marketing activities and it also supports Olympic Games and the US Open which has led the company to be graded as the world’s top valuable brand (OrgCharting, 2016).
Market Position IBM and Competitors
IBM targets the small-to-midsized business market through the realignment of Systems and Technology Group (STG). This creates a part of the sales team to sell to SMBs while the other sells. Besides, IBM is planning to integrate the STG with its Global Technology Service (GTS) as well as with the organizations within its Global Business Partners Organization. Currently, IBM operates in approximately 220 geographic sales territories where the managing director in every territory will deal with sales to SMB. Mraz and Elliott (2017) explain that IBM is facing challenges on cloud services due to big spenders who are proving stiff competition for the company. IBM experiences a reduction in revenue due to a decline in its sales where it is ranked fourth in this sector following Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Current Marketing Strategy
IBM focuses on CORE competencies like the LARGE scale production of customized software and hardware. The company follows the THINK campaign which is a customer-centric strategy where they produce products to meet the clients’ needs. It follows a target marketing strategies to reach its different market segments. Besides, IBM has a high R&D budget of approximately $ billion. Lastly, it follows a large product line which ensures constant innovations boosting the production of products and services. To increase the value of its brand, IBM is quality-oriented and boosts its sales from big contracts from government agencies in its different locations. IBM has adopted technological services to reach its segments globally through different channels both online and offline. IBM remains a big company competing with big companies like Honeywell, Intel, and Microsoft. Lastly, IBM produces a majority of its products and reduces outsourcing which increases efficiency and reduces cost.
Value Chain Analysis
Value chain analysis comprises of different business functions that are connected I different phases in a different business area (Mudambi and Puck, 2016). The value chain configurations of IBM are based on increasing customer expectations, customer demand variability, and global market conditions. Mraz and Elliott (2017) explain that IBM follows a predictive, demand-driven value chain model which increases volatility to promote a customer-centered value chain.
The primary activities of IBM comprise of the production and the sale of products to the target populations. IBM can improve their performance through the analysis of the primary value chain activities.
IBM requires forming strong relationships with suppliers as it will enhance the success in receiving, storing and distributing products. Failure to analysis this form of logistic poses IBM at risk of failure and issues in the developmental phases of the products. For the success of this element, IBM will analyze all elements from the raw materials to the final products. During the production process, the inbound logistics of IBM may comprise internal distribution of raw materials, storage of inputs, and raw materials retrieval.
This element starts after the arrival of raw materials in the company calling for processes like machining, packaging, product assembly, and product tests. Other operations comprise of maintenance and repair of machines. IBM Knowledge Center (2018) explains that process analysis is beneficial as it improves productivity, increases efficiency, and increases the competitive advantages to IBM. Increasing IBM is beneficial as it not only increases profits but also promotes competitive advantage.
In value chain analysis, outbound logistics comprises of the delivery process until goods reach the consumers. In IBM, outbound logistics comprises handling products, warehousing, schedules, processing orders, transport and delivery to final users (IBM Knowledge Center, 2018). The outbound logistics will be optimized through the analyses of its competitive advantage to attain its set goals. IBM should ensure the timely delivery of products to increase its growth opportunities and increase customer satisfaction.
IBM requires differentiating and highlighting the benefits to illustrate to customers that they are the best in what they produce which will be promoted through sales and marketing. Some of the strategies that IBM may invest in for sales and marketing include building relations, quoting, channel selection, pricing, promotional activities, advertising, and sales force. This can be attained through the use of marketing funnel approach to formulating sales and marketing activities. The company will formulate its strategy based on current standing in the market, competitive dynamics, brand image, and business objectives. Effective sales and marketing will provide IBM with a competitive advantage through the development of brand equity.
IBM offers post-sale and pre-sale to develop customer loyalty especially in the contemporary world where post-sales services as promotional and marketing activities.
IBM should include support activities where they coordinates and supports the primary value chain activities.
IBM firm infrastructure comprises of strategic management, financing, planning, accounting, legal matter handling, and quality management.
IBM should evaluate varying HR aspects including performance management, rewarding, training, selecting, recruiting, and succession planning
All value chain activities are supported by technology which integrates human resources, marketing, distribution, and production activities. Technology development can be classified into process and technological development.
In the value chain, procurement involves the purchase of inputs ranging from raw materials, supplies, raw materials, machinery, equipment, and others to produce a finished product. Procurement activities support an outbound, operational, and inbound value chain.
Social Media Platform
IBM has a strong social media platform that has been ongoing since 2007 following the launch of Lotus Connections which rolled in 5 social networking apps. The aim of launching this product was to promote a collaborative and corporate culture where the employees communicated with one another via common community areas, profiles, and blogs. In 2010, the majority of employees in IBM were on LinkedIn while many of the employees are on Twitter and Facebook. In 2018 and 2019, IBM encouraged social networking following its alliance with Twitter. Customers can access IBM’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts which are maintained by following the company’s Social Computing Guidelines (IBM, 2019).
Strengths and Weaknesses (SW) (Internal Strategic Factors)
SWOT analysis is a strategic tool used to measure the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities threats for a business. In this case, the strengths and weaknesses of IBM are its internal strategies which represent the capabilities and the problems faced by IBM, while the opportunities and the threats are external strategic factors illustrating the IT market and industry where IBM operates.
This section includes the strengths of IBM that are has supported the business from when it was founded. If the company adds or improves these strengths, it will promote growth and development.
Brand Value: IBM has a high brand value in 2019 is $86.01 billion though it reduced from $102.09 billion in 2017 and $96.27bilion, it remains high.
Business Model: IBM is categorized into two aspects. The first is providing long-term value to shareholders and the second is to assist their customers to be more competitive, efficient and innovative.
Updated: IBM has aggressive business operations that are on par with the technological changes to meet the global market demands. When the company faced low margins in microelectronics, it sold them. Over the years, IBM has increased its capabilities in big data and analytics.
R&D: IBM has a large R&D department to initiate development and innovations. They attain this by investing approximately $6 billion for R&D in its 12 labs worldwide.
Middleware Market: In the application infrastructure and middleware market, IBM has a market share of 29.6%. IBM is leading in this segment for many years.
Data Analytics: Approximately a third of IBM R&D budget is set aside for cognitive computing and data analytics. Data analytics generates approximately 18% of the total revenue. Also, the introduction of Watson Group has initiated the development and commercialization of cognitive computing.
High Economies of Scale: This assists IBM to maintain a competitive advantage irrespective of the high cost required in the IT department.
Extensive Intellectual Property Portfolio: The organization’s culture of IBM increases its competitive advantage and in particular the highest numbers of patents.
Expertise in Material Management and Production Processes: This is promoted by the innovation history of IBM which creates business strategies.
Products Imitability: IBM follows a cost leadership generic strategy where they aim at reducing the cost with less emphasis on producing unique products. This increases room for imitation from competitors.
Reducing Product Mix: IBM follows core operations where they emphasizes on producing products with high profits.
Low Diversification: Core operation strategy reduces its diversification potential and reduces growth opportunities.
Litigations: for the last few years, IBM has experienced different disputes and litigations and the company has been in and off the law courts due to defective systems and fraudulent misrepresentations.
Reducing Brand Value: As identified earlier, although the brand value of IBM is high, it has been reducing since 2017.
External Strategic Factors
IBM faces stiff competition from Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, CSC, Amazon, and Accenture. The IT industry competes with Oracle, HP, EMC, Dell, and Cisco Systems. In the software business, IBM competes with SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and CA.
IBM faces a strong force on competition or competitive rivalry. IBM is facing stiff competition which is threatening its profits, pricing and market share as well as other variables related to the IT industry. Following the Five force analysis of IBM, the company faces the following three external factors:
The differentiation level in IBM is low as the company follows cost leadership for its generic strategy and intensive growth strategies as well as little emphasize on producing unique products resulting in a high imitability of products. IBM is at risk of substitution meaning it’s at risk of losing its revenue due to differentiation and cost of changing. Opportunities and Threats (OT).
IBM SWOT Matrix
|StrengthsHigh economies of scaleWide-ranging intellectual property portfolioExpertise in material management and production processesHigh brand valueBusiness model Data analyticsUpdated R&DMiddleware Market ||Weakness Low diversification degreeReducing product mixImitable products LitigationsReduced brand value|
|Opportunities Rapid product innovationAlliances with organization from varying markets and industries Diversification opportunities in different industriesData analyticsCloud based solutionsConsulting business||Threats CybercrimeHigh competitionProduct imitation Global economy|
Based on the SWOT analysis, IBM requires exploring both internal and external factors to support its long-term business survival. IBM has a high brand value which is strong against the new entrants and competitors. Besides, increasing the brand value will help IBM to diversify into new industries and businesses. The second recommendation is based on IBM’s strength on the extensive intellectual property portfolio which will continue to promote its competitive advantage. To address some of its weaknesses, like the imitability of products, and high competition, IBM should emphasize technological breakthrough and value.
Another recommendation to IBM is to diversify its business to reduce risk and spread risk exposure in the IT markets. Also, IBM should enter into alliances with organizations from other industries to enjoy the benefits of technological integration. Lastly, there is a need for IBM to restructure its innovation practices to increase the uniqueness of its products. This will reduce the chance of other companies to imitate its products and reduce competition.
Strategy Implementation for IBM
Gerstner after taking office in IBM was determined to revive the drowning IBM by introducing the survival for the fittest for the company (Mraz and Elliott, 2017). On April 1, 1993, Gerstner aimed at making IBM “one Global Firm” and turn the “E-Business” the heart and soul for the company. At the time, IBM faced three challenges: the OS/2, small distributive customer base desires and lacked a software mentality by highly relying on hardware. This led Gerstner to formulate four critical decisions that transformed IBM: increased cash by selling underproductive assets, reengineering how they did business, changing the economic model, and kept the company together.
Earnings per Share before Taxes
IBM has been experiencing reduced earnings per share wherein 2019; the earning per share was $1.89, a 35.71% decline year-over-year as per September 30. The earning per share is illustrated in the chart below.
Figure 5: Earning per Share
Analysis on How to Finance the Change (Stock or Debt)
As per September 30, the debt to equity ratio of IBM was 3.4 which is high. According to Khadafi, Heikal, and Ummah (2014), a high debt to equity ratio is an indication that an organization may not be in a position to create enough cash to pay and settle its debt obligations. IBM should work towards reducing its debt to equity ratio to 1 or less. This will be attained by increasing sales revenues as well as profits. To attain this, IBM should reduce the production and operational costs, increase sales through stiff marketing strategies and raise the price of its products.
Projected Income Statement and Balance Sheet
Based on the income statement and the balance sheets, the 2019 financial year will be better and if the trend continues, things will be better for IBM in the future. For example, in 2014, IBM experienced reduced sales growth but every year from 2014, the rate has changed and the growth rate as per 2018 was 0.57% from 0.98% in 2017. Although revenue has reduced as was in 2015, the revenue in 2018 is better for IBM than in 2017 and is likely to improve in 2019 and years to follow. This is illustrated in the gross profit margin chart below.
Figure 6: Gross Profit Margin
Based on Return on Assets and Return on equity ratios, IBM is likely to have an increase in the coming year as though both reduced from 2016, there was an increase from 2017 to 2018 and the rate is likely to continue increasing based on the growth estimates.
Figure 7: Profitability Ratios
Strategy Evaluation for IBM
IBM has a vital role to play to increase its competitiveness and profitability ratios in all its business operations. From the financial perspective, IBM should formulate a cause and effect connection and link them to the KPI’s and targets. In this case, the strategy model for the financial element is the IT costs. IBM should reduce the IT costs by 3% and increase its revenues by 5%. This will be promoted by strategic projects that will include the implementation of a chargeback model. Ghiloni et al. (2007) define a chargeback system is an accounting strategy that uses the cost of software, hardware, and IT services into business operations. In IBM’s case, the IT service generates high profits and IBM concentrates more on this sector than any other sector. To diversify their operations, there is a need to treat all services with similar utility including the software business. The company should follow a cost of legacy systems or expensive proprietary, or redundancies to provide equitable distribution of costs.
International Business Machines Corporation has been experiencing a decline in their financial health and market positioning. However, based on the SWOT analysis IBM experiences several opportunities and strengths which have helped it retain competitiveness. Some of these drivers include high brand value, data analytics, remains updated, rapid innovation, alliances with other firms, economies of scale, intellectual property portfolio and business diversification. However, the corporate needs to solve its weaknesses and manage its threats which include: low diversification, reducing product mix, imitability products, cybercrime, and stiff competition. However, it has a chance to increase its competitiveness by diversifying its operations rather than relying on IT services. Based on the financial trend, IBM faced a hard year in 2016 but it is recollecting its step and the profit level are expected to increase in 2019 and coming years. However, there is a need to reduce the cost of operations and increase sales to reduce the debt to equity ratio which remains high.
Ghiloni, B. W., Jasthi, S., Brand, P. M., & Eckert, J. M. (2007). U.S. Patent No. 7,209,897. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
IBM Knowledge Center. (2018). Value chains. Retrieved 26 October 2019, from https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/en/SSRASJ_8.8.0/com.ibm.ima.ug_soa/soa/InfoSphere/val_cha.html
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Khadafi, M., Heikal, M., & Ummah, A. (2014). Influence analysis of return on assets (ROA), return on equity (ROE), net profit margin (NPM), debt to equity ratio (DER), and current ratio (CR), against corporate profit growth in automotive in Indonesia Stock Exchange. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 4(12).
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