Weaves Great Quarter, turns up the heat in the Market Place
D. Geller - February 4th, 2000
(NASDAQ USWB) announced its fourth quarter results for 1999 on January 25, 2000.
The results show strong growth and closely predicted performance, including
a clear net profit. As well, USWEB/CKS reports changes in the market place that
place it in a position of strength as the market moves from the mid- toward
is an end-to-end Internet services provider that provides Intranet, Extranet
and Web site solutions and services to medium-sized and large companies. The
company has brought in a stronger than expected quarter, making total revenues
for the year of $511M, and $47M (9.2%)after-tax profit excluding non-cash charges.
the red ink is still there, since when operational expenses and non-cash charges
are included, the company lost $175M for the year, comparing favorably with
a loss of $188M on $229M in revenues in 1998 (for comparison, much smaller rival
Proxicom returned $4M in after tax profits on $82M revenue including operational
expenses - or +4.9% - for 1999 compared to a 1998 loss of $21M on $44M revenue).
was 10% in sequential growth from Q3, matching Q3's sequential percentage increase
despite the fact the fourth quarter was expected to be slower due to the holiday
season. The revenue growth year-to-year amounts to 124%, far exceeding the anticipated
market growth of about 60%. USWEB/CKS clearly has a formula that is working.
It is also significant that the company is expanding rapidly and extending its
services through its merger with enterprise-wide e-Business solutions provider
Whittman-Hart, who has close cultural and complementary business capabilities
to USWEB/CKS. The merger should be completed by the end of February. USWEB/CKS
also recently acquired Mitchell Madison Group, a world-class strategy and management/change
management consulting company.
interesting in this announcement is that the average engagement size has practically
doubled over the past year - from $1.7M to $3M to $4M. According to IDC the
market growth rate is about 60%, but it is in our opinion (60-70% probability)
they missed the point that engagement sizes would increase. This would not be
the first time IDC missed the mark - it predicted in 1996 a market of $13.8B
for 2000, but this figure is (80%-90%) likely to be at least $20B and possibly
as high as $30B. This is a possible indication the market is larger than anticipated
in dollar terms.
sees the trend of larger engagements continuing over the next year, with the
size of engagements reaching $15M in phased projects, and requiring a full spectrum
of services. Providing full spectrum services gives USWEB/CKS a much more highly
leveragable business model, providing end-to-end services and continued support
to the client, while cross- and up/down-selling services.
are several other factors leading to USWEB/CKS's success. Sales have been positively
impacted by its drive at technology partnerships with the likes of EXODUS, where
it has first dibs at developing new sites, and 3COM, which has put $100M into
the USWEB/CKS pot to assist USWEB/CKS in developing its broadband business.
However, there are a number of issues it must tackle if it is to continue being
successful. Foremost of these is staff retention. Current turnover is close
to a quarter of the staff per annum, with key areas such as business strategy,
architecture and technology being most affected - the very areas that create
leverage for the value added services. Smaller companies offer share options
and challenge, often a potent mix for ambitious employees. Despite the attrition,
USWEB/CKS has, however, been winning the battle through recruiting drives, increasing
its payroll by 3,500 this year - a well over 30% increase from its former size
a year ago. Its main attraction to new hires is its internal training capabilities
and career path offerings smaller companies cannot match. Most of this growth
has been organic, and USWEB/CKS sees few new acquisitions on its horizon. In
the battle for bodies, USWEB/CKS looks as if it is winning.
the client side, the revenue per client has increased dramatically, while the
acquisition of new clients has not been as significant.
has been able to retain and even grow its client base in spite of its large
turnover rate. USWEB/CKS is also moving cautiously toward fixed price engagement
models for the higher end client where projects are in appropriately phased
portions. Currently, about 30% of engagements use this model, while the rest
is T&M. Fixed price is a practice that is prevalent in the pricing models of
some smaller players such as Xcerlerate, who are largely in the small to mid-size
cautious approach could relate to a lack of confidence in delivering as fast
and within the cost margins of competitors like Razorfish, or an attempt to
force its equal-sized competitors into the domain where it may have a cost advantage.
In doing so, it has to live up to its "time-to-value" philosophy.
the above together, USWEB/CKS is attempting to lead the market place, and is
acquiring skills organically or by acquisition. These acquisitions add pressure
to other vendors to consolidate so they remain competitive. Larger companies,
such as USWEB/CKS, are able to deal with larger engagements covering the full-spectrum
of services, and to retain employees by offering rewarding careers and opportunities.
As a user of SP services, it is wise to consider the size and capabilities of
the company you are about to partner in your e-business. Service providers with
inadequate strategic front-ends may not be able to deliver services that you
can quickly need as the e-business world changes, or you realize that you need
to change your business model. However, the user should be aware of the attrition
rate of the partner, in what areas, capabilities of the replacements and training
provided by the SP. The size of the company will obviously matter - 25% of a
small company, where the attrition is among senior and experienced personnel
would be especially painful, is far more significant than 25% of a large company.
of delivery can be impacted depending on whether the vendor is technology agnostic,
such as USWEB/CKS, or not. Technology agnosticism is a term that indicates the
vendor is willing to determine the technologies that best meet the needs of
the client - and has the resources to implement those technologies - rather
than use a limited set of technologies and products governed by supply agreements,
direct profit motives, or limited capabilities and resources.
a trend, however, many companies such as USWEB/CKS are forming relationships
with product-centric companies like IBM, Novell, and Microsoft. While this does
not necessarily mean a loss in the agnostic trait, the user should be aware
of the degree of immersion of the company with any particular technology. This
can prove to be an advantage or disadvantage depending on specific user requirements.
price contracts, if reasonable, also provide a degree of comfort that the vendor
has confidence in delivery on time and in budget. USWEB/CKS is learning to play
the game, while others have started at an earlier stage. If possible, the user
should consider fixed price engagements as a leverage point in negotiations
against T&M arrangements as a litmus test of the SP's confidence.
of the market will likely accelerate through the year (a 90% probability). Small
to mid-size companies may be tempted to merge or position themselves to be acquired
by larger players. Small companies will continue to serve the low-end market,
but market hopefuls from the small end will have a lot of work to do to attract
talent if they want to climb into the big leagues.
a user, consider the corporate goals and long-term support capabilities of the
company if going for a low to mid-end project in the $50K-$500K engagement regime.