Most of you know that IBM is a big name in the consulting and technology industry (understatement!). But is it recognized as a Big 4 firm?
IBM is not considered one of the Big 4 firms. This is because its core business focus is related to IT, AI, hybrid cloud, consulting, hardware, and software services. The Big 4 is centered more around accounting and audit.
Some other facts why IBM is not a Big 4 are:
- They have different operational structures
- IBM has only a minimal revenue in the consulting industry compared to Big 4
- IBM does not have a comprehensive relationship with clients from diverse industries
In this comprehensive article, I’ll answer:
- Is IBM a Big 4?
- The facts which determine why IBM is not a Big 4 (there are 4 main ones)
Is IBM a Big 4?
There’s no doubt that IBM is one of the leading firms in the world! However, it is not a part of the Big 4 firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG). (Source)
Wondering why this is the case? Well, here are 4 facts. They’re pretty much guaranteed to clear your mind about whether or not IBM is one of the companies in the illustrious Big 4 list…and why.
1. Services & Core Business
The first fact why IBM is not a Big 4 is the divergence in their core business focus!
Since its inception, IBM has used technology to drive innovation and operational efficiency.
It provides services in various sectors, which are:
- Information Technology
- Software and hardware
- Business operations
- Data storage and database
- AI services
- Hybrid cloud
- Blockchain and more
The company started offering consulting services in 1991 (When the IBM Consulting Group was formed).
IBM later rebranded the group to IBM Business Innovation Services in 2001. Again, it changed its name to IBM Business Consulting Services.
There’s more! With the passage of time, the consulting services of the firm became more related to technology. So, it acquired the “IBM Global Business Services” name.
But it does not stop there! In 2021, it was again rebranded to “IBM Consulting.” (Source)
This client’s review about IBM Consulting services will give you the idea that they primarily give software and IT solutions, “We had a positive implementation experience with IBM cast iron integration tool; We have used the integration tool to integrate Salesforce CRM system with BI platforms. Though we had some initial challenges, but IBM did an absolutely fantastic job fixing those.” (Source)
The ‘Big 4’ are a household name in the consulting and finance industry. Unlike IBM, their core focus is towards highly-specific problems and implementation of solutions in:
- Legal Advice
- Quality Assurance and business strategies
Therefore, as these entities specialize in different industries with varying core businesses, IBM is not considered a Big 4. Although it does provide consulting services, it is still not up to par with the expertise of Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG.
2. Business Structure
IBM and the Big 4 both have different operational structures. They define them! They also show the contrasting industries in which these entities operate.
For starters, IBM’s ownership model is composed of shareholders and stakeholders.
It is mainly owned by the top three institutional investors, namely:
- BlackRock, who has about 8.0% shares
- Vanguard Group owns around 8.86% shares
- State Street holds 5.93% of IBM ‘s shares
The rest of the shares are divided among three individual shareholders, which are:
- IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna
- Senior Vice President, Michelle H. Browdy
- James J. Kavanaugh
Not only that, but some board members, Alex Gorsky and Gray Cohn, also hold IBM shares. (Source)
Since Big 4 firms deal in the finance sector, they have multiple individual partners. These partners have their own financial standing and balance sheet.
The partnership networks at these firms are quite inter-connected and complex. The members are usually from different economic backgrounds with varying cultural interests. (Source)
These distinctions in the business model also highlight why IBM is not a part of the Big 4 accounting firms.
Another fact why IBM is not recognized as a Big 4 is because of the huge difference in their revenues.
The overall revenue of IBM reached $60.53 Billion last year, which is more than any of the Big 4 firms. But here’s the twist! The IBM Consulting area had only $19.1 Billion share in the revenue.
The below table will show you the IBM revenue for the past 10 years to give you a better idea:
|Year||Revenue in Billions|
Now, let me turn your attention to the Big 4!
In the same year, Deloitte made about $59.3 Billion, PwC secured $50.3 Billion, EY had $45.2 Billion, and KPMG amassed $34.64 Billion in revenue. (Source)
Collectively, they made revenue of $160 Billion. This shows their stronghold in the accounting/audit industry. (Unlike IBM, which is more inclined toward the technology sector as you’re probably gathering by now.)
4. Network Of Relationship With Clients
Although IBM is active in the consulting industry, I think its fair to say that it is not as well networked in professional services as the Big 4 firms.
This is because it is more centered around technology solutions.
Big 4 firms have strong relationships with clients, partners, and other stakeholders, which are a cornerstone of their business.
They allow them to provide comprehensive services to various sectors, including:
Interestingly, the Big 4 firms have been serving as external auditors of many clients for years. This recognition sets these firms apart, which might be why IBM is not a Big 4 company but rather an IT corporation.
Let me tell you a fact here! PwC (one of the Big 4) has been serving as the external auditor of IBM since 1923. (Source)
In a nutshell, IBM is not a member of the Big 4! The main reasons are:
- It provides largely different services
- The shareholder and partnership business models of IBM and Big 4 are quite different
- Difference in the revenue
- Relationship with clients is different