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IBM Vs. Big 4 –  5 Differences

IBM and the Big 4 are both huge powerhouses serving many clients in the technology and consulting industries. But what are the main differences between the two?

I’ve been putting in hours on my research, and it revealed that IBM and the Big 4 offer consulting services. IBM is more focused on technology and innovation, while PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG primarily deal in solving the financial matters of their clients.

Other than that, the key differences between these two firms are: 

  • Market share and revenue
  • Selection process and acceptance rate 
  • Work culture and commitment to invest in the workforce. 
  • Salaries and benefits. 

To help you compare IBM vs. Big 4 firms, I’ll delve into:

  • 5 key differences that set them apart
  • An overview of IBM’s and the Big 4’s operations, revenues, and employee metrics
The IBM Building in Madrid, Spain

IBM vs. Big 4 Consulting Firms

Are you considering a career in consulting? Then you might wonder how IBM compares to the Big 4 firms regarding revenue, services, market share, and selectivity.

1. Services

IBM and the Big 4 consulting firms offer diverge in the scope of services they offer. Wondering how? Well, IBM has a comprehensive portfolio that includes services like:

  • Cloud for storage, networking, databases, and testing
  • Business operations
  • Data & Analytics
  • IT Infrastructure
  • Consulting
  • AI services (Source)

On the other hand, when you look at the Big 4 firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG), they excel in different services than IBM.

These include a broader spectrum of strategic financial advisory, audit, tax, and management consulting services for:

  • Technology companies
  • Retail industries
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Government entities

. (Source)

2. Difference in Revenue and Market Share

Both IBM and Big 4 hold significant market shares in their respective domains.

IBM has solidified its position as a frontrunner in the rapidly expanding AI market. 

Let’s talk about facts! As per IDC, the AI market witnessed a remarkable growth of 35.6% to reach $28.1 Billion.

Among the key players, IBM emerged as a leader with a 9.2% share of the overall market. Its revenue rose to 2.58%, marking a 19% increase from the previous year. (Source)

In contrast, the Big 4 dominate as the largest accounting and audit firms. Collectively, they amassed a staggering revenue of nearly $160 billion last year. These stats highlight their steady foothold in the audit and financial advisory fields. (Source)

3. Selection Process and Hiring Rate

Another thing that sets IBM and Big 4 firms apart is the selection process and the standards they follow when hiring new talent. It is clearly evident by their acceptance rates for internships and other employment opportunities. 

The Extreme Blue internship program at IBM reveals an acceptance rate of just 2%. This remarkably low stat shows the intense competition for positions within the firm. (Source)

But things are unfolding with a new curve! IBM is gradually downsizing its workforce because of the previously announced sale of a couple of business units. (Source)

However, I noticed that the Big 4 firms have a slightly higher acceptance rate when recruiting new individuals. Here is the table attesting to these facts compared to IBM’s 2% acceptance rate: 

FirmAcceptance Rate
Deloitte3.7 to 4%
EY3.5%
PwC4 to 5%
KPMG4 to 8%

These acceptance rates reflect a balance between selectivity and the Big 4 need for catering to their comprehensive service offerings (Or how else would they fulfill the client’s demands?)

The Deloitte Building in downtown Los Angeles

4. Work Culture 

The work culture you are going to experience at these firms is noticeably different, and let me tell you why. 

The work-life balance at IBM is notably healthy, with a strong sense of community support. In fact, the work culture is particularly appealing for people who want to transition from academia to industry. (Source)

But there is a note of caution about the business-centric nature of the firm. If the management feels they have too many staff, they will overshadow your contribution and might drop you like a bag of sand. (Source)

What about the Big 4? While the work-life balance there is questionable, they regularly invest in the professional growth of their workforce. 

The corporate environment at any of these firms might involve some level of office politics. However, it helps you sustain them and make your career path. The respect given to well-articulated opinions and the emphasis on smart contributions allow you to thrive in your role.

With great opportunities comes significant responsibilities! The Big 4 firms set high expectations for you, and they are directly linked to your promotions and bonuses (Yes! They recognize your hard work).

The best part? You are offered team-building initiatives that foster a comfortable working atmosphere. (Source)

5. Salary And Benefits

The salaries for different roles at IBM range from a yearly salary of  $48,738 for a Delivery Driver to $177,907 for a Researcher. (Source)

But it’s not just about the paycheck! The company also provides an array of benefits to its workforce. These include: 

  • Adoption assistance and family medical leave
  • Flexible work schedule with remote schemes
  • Coveted 401(K) and employee stock purchase plan
  • Health insurance and wellness benefits
  • Paid vacations and off time

 (Source)

Here’s what an employee has to say about the pay and benefits at IBM, “Growth rate is very high. Management take an interest in personal grooming. Salary and other benefits are really good. Friendly environment and no micromanagement.” (Source)

Now, I will turn the spotlight on the Big 4 firms. They offer between $40,000 to 60,000 yearly salaries to their employees in various roles. The partners, well, they make $250,000 to 350,000. (Source)

Besides a competitive salary, here are some benefits that Big 4 firms offer to their employees:

  • Up to five weeks of paid yearly vacations
  • Flexible work-from-home opportunity
  • 6 weeks of paid leaves in case of childbirth, surrogacy, or adoption to help you bond with the new family member (Source)

In the end, if you are willing to pursue your career at IBM or Big 4, you may want to weigh in the factors that distinguish them apart, and I explained some of the main differences briefly in this article.  

Author

  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.

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