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Edited Transcript of PEGA.OQ earnings conference call or presentation 17-Feb-21 10:00pm GMT

·50 min read

Q4 2020 Pegasystems Inc Earnings Call CAMBRIDGE Feb 18, 2021 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Pegasystems Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 10:00:00pm GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * Alan Trefler Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board * Kenneth R. Stillwell Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO ================================================================================ Conference Call Participants ================================================================================ * Christopher David Merwin Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst * Jon Philip Andrews Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst * Mark William Schappel The Benchmark Company, LLC, Research Division - Director of Research & Equity Research Analyst * Mohit Gogia Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst * Pinjalim Bora JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst * Rishi Nitya Jaluria D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division - Senior VP & Senior Research Analyst * Steven Richard Koenig SMBC Nikko Securities America, Inc., Research Division - Analyst ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good day, and welcome to Pegasystems Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2020 Earnings Results Conference Call. Today's conference is being recorded. And now at this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ken Stillwell, Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead, sir. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Pegasystems Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Call. Before we begin, I'd like to read our safe harbor statement. Certain statements contained in this presentation may be construed as forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words expects, anticipates, intends, plans, believes, will, could, should, estimates, may, targets, strategies, projects, forecasts, guidance, likely and usually or variations of such words or other similar expressions identify forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date the statement was made and are based on current expectations and assumptions. Because such statements deal with future events, they are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Actual results for fiscal year 2021 and beyond could differ materially from the company's current expectations. Factors that could cause the company's results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements are contained in the company's press release announcing its Q4 and full year 2020 earnings and in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended 12/31/2020, and other recent filings with the SEC. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, and there are no assurances that the matters contained in such statements will be achieved. Although subsequent events may cause our view to change, except as required by applicable law, we do not undertake and specifically disclaim any obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements whether as the result of new information, future events or otherwise. And with this, I will turn the call over to Alan Trefler, Founder and CEO of Pegasystems. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Ken. As you know, the highlights are that we feel good about what we accomplished and where we landed in 2020. We adapted well to an extraordinarily difficult situation, bringing on new ways of working with each other, our clients and our partners. We introduced new solutions and enhanced our industry-leading low-code software to help our clients manage their short-term challenges while building for long-term success. And we made substantial progress in our transition with a recurring revenue model. You can see clear signs of this progress in our full year results. We completed the move of our Pega Cloud clients onto our next-generation cloud platform, setting us up for long-term margin improvements. The accelerated Pega Cloud growth is demonstrated by Pega Cloud annual contract value up 57% year-over-year and Pega Cloud backlog up 40% year-over-year. Since we really began emphasizing Pega Cloud 3 years ago, we've seen an explosion of Pega Cloud low-code apps, with a compound annual growth rate over those 3 years of 85%. And we also grew total annual contract value by 21%. We delivered record revenue across the $1 billion milestone and new backlog to more than $1 billion for the first time. We also invested in key sales and marketing initiatives to start to improve our brand awareness and attracting new talent from leading tech companies, including our fiercest rivals. We made significant enhancements to our partner ecosystem strategy, an important long-term accelerator of revenue and margin growth. And we continued to enhance our solutions in one-to-one customer engagement, customer service and intelligent automation with innovative capabilities, improving functionality, productivity and speed to value. We drove deeper into long-term clients and added exciting logos to our growing list. We maintain technology leadership in key areas that our clients care about and continue to get recognition by influential industry analysts in more than a dozen reports covering CRM, robotic process automation, low-code, customer engagement, digital process automation, decisioning and real-time interaction management. We stayed true to our values, culture and commitment to keeping the well-being of our staff, our clients and the extended Pega community in our hearts and minds through expanded philanthropy efforts and increased focus on inclusion and diversity. And we did all of this while improving margins. Finally, just a couple of fun notes. We'll be ringing the NASDAQ opening bell on Monday, the 22nd, to celebrate our $1 billion revenue milestone. And that The Layer Cakes, a band made up of Pega staff, recently won the top award in a battle of the bands sponsored by one of our key CRM influencers. It's nice to know we can win in a boardroom against the likes of Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Zoho and win in a band room against them too. Now in terms of the market dynamics, digital transformation has never been more central to the way our clients are thinking, fundamental to their continued prosperity and, in some cases, their continued existence. The last year has made it abundantly clear that organizations need to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives not just to survive but to really compete and thrive in this wildly changing world. And we feel we've never been better positioned to support this need. Our solutions help clients crush business complexity, enabling better decision-making, saving time and helping them get work done. Our software is exceptionally powerful and adaptable with a scalable and unique Center-out business architecture that puts outcomes and customers at the core. And our prescriptive approach to design thinking brings staff across the organization together, to together design and deploy innovative solutions in weeks or days, leveraging our low-code platform; and on our recently launched trademark Pega Process Fabric, leads together business processes, case management and workflows to streamline the customer experience and improve employee productivity across the enterprise. As I mentioned, we continue to enhance our solutions to meet our clients' long- and short-term needs. In the beginning of the pandemic, we've quickly rolled out a set of industry-focused solutions specifically built to help manage some of our customers' most pressing needs, like managing surges and unemployment claims or our free COVID-19 tracking app. In one-to-one customer engagement, we introduced the Ethical Bias Check to help eliminate biases in AI so we can drive customer engagement knowing it's going to be fair; and launching the Value Finder to help customers deal with and serve underserved segments with meaningful and empathetic offers. In customer service, we launched the SaaS Unified Messaging Edition to help agents better handle increasing volumes of servicing works. And just a few weeks ago, we announced the acquisition of Qurious, a developer of powerful AI speech analytics that will help customer service agents in real-time by analyzing service calls and recommending next best actions and the right proactive and preemptive customer service. In intelligent automation, we launched X-ray Vision, the industry's first self-healing robotic process automation. And we introduced the industry's first RPA Auto-balancing feature, which uses AI to help clients reduce robotic process automation costs. We made it easier for clients to make progress on high-impact digital transformation initiatives by bringing a new, low-code Pega Express methodology and built it directly into the platform with a new set of ways for customers to get started fast and improve outcomes. And to help clients and partners gain and advance Pega software skills faster, we introduced our new Pega Academy with mission-based learning and enhancing the Pega community to make it easier for clients, partners and Pega to share best practices. We continue to work on these enhancements and look forward to sharing some important capabilities with you at PegaWorld iNspire in May. Now in terms of client and business highlights, our new business continues to be strongest in our traditional areas such as financial services, government, telecom, health care, insurance, industries less hard hit by the pandemic where thankfully, we have had strong critical mass. In 2020, we had a good mix of new business expansions in existing clients like Anthem, British Telecom, CIBC, Citigroup, National Australia Bank, and with government agencies around the world. We brought -- also brought in some exciting new logos like [Amworth] National Bank, [Partners Health] and Takeda Pharmaceutical, and continue to see more partner source deals and opportunity we were focused on in 2021 and beyond. Our clients continue to leverage Pega to cut through the complexity of their business systems so they can actually make better decisions and get work done. And what's interesting in the government space is on the heels of our successful census project, we are quickly becoming a preferred low-code solution for government, as demonstrated by our recent Internal Revenue Service win and continued success in this market. We've been able to stand up new systems quickly to meet immediate needs and help organizations think deeply about their future. And there's nothing more rewarding for us than clients who are willing to tell their stories publicly. PegaWorld iNspire will again, this year, be held as a 2.5-hour interactive virtual event, and it's just around the corner on May 4. We already have an impressive list of clients lined up to tell their stories. For example, 5 years and 70-plus applications into their Pega journey, Scotiabank have built a large catalog of reusable Pega capabilities. They're going to talk about how they're gaining leverage from these assets to accelerate the global rollout and the formation of an enterprise business center of excellence to maximize value through standardization and leaders. Vodafone UK will talk about driving transformation by automating business processes, delivering powerful intelligent automation at scale across its businesses. Leveraging Pega's agile low-code delivery capabilities, they are building and updating applications with unprecedented speed and have a new automation platform that enables multiple use cases, radically simplifies operations and reduces cost. And as an example of work so incredibly needed this past year is a program we supported for StepChange Debt Charity in the U.K., where more than 5.6 million people who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic with an accumulated $10.3 billion of debt have been helped by being able to apply the Pega technology. StepChange will announce how to use Pega to launch their COVID payment plan, a new online service built in a matter of weeks to provide short-term assistance for up to a year for those who qualify. We're really proud that our technology is being used to help transform and improve the lives of millions of people who've been hurt by the pandemic and especially proud that these organizations and others are willing to step forward and speak publicly. So in summary, we know the challenges of the pandemic will be with us for some time and it's going to take a while for the world to sort through its impact. But we've adjusted well over the last year to new ways of working and client requirements and feel that we delivered strong performances nonetheless and feel we are well positioned to continue to adapt as required. I will tell you that the need for digital transformation has never been greater, and we're better positioned than ever to respond to that need in ways that are truly future-looking. And I think we're in a terrific position to help our clients respond for both the short-term and the long-term problems that they face in ways that we believe [will be good]. We remain inspired and are just amazed of the continued support and commitment of our staff, our clients and our partners and are optimistic about this year in our long-term growth agenda. To provide some more color, let me turn this over to Pega's Chief Financial Officer, Ken Stillwell. Ken? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Alan. I'll kind of start by recognizing a milestone but also one that I'm not going to dwell on too much either. But our -- by our count, there are more than 1,600 publicly traded software companies worldwide, and less than 4% of those firms exceed $1 billion in revenue. With our 2020 full year results, Pega joins this group with total revenue of a little more than $1 billion. We view this milestone as interesting but more of a mile marker we hope to far surpass in some type of end point. However, there are some inherent benefits of scale on our journey to be a Rule of 40 firm. First is operating leverage. You can see Pega realizing the benefits of scale in our expanding Pega Cloud gross margin, increasing from 51% in 2019 to 63% in 2020. As we grow in scale, we can clearly perform activities more efficiently, which we expect to positively contribute to our goal of achieving the Rule of 40 as we exit our cloud transition. Things like virtualization and automation can be leveraged more effectively in our increased size. Another inherent benefit of scale is increased brand awareness. We anticipate investing in some incremental initiatives to ensure the market is aware of how Pega helps our clients advance their digital transformation initiatives. This increased brand awareness will help us reduce sales cycles, decrease our customer acquisition costs and improve sales efficiency, all big potential value levers for Pega. Third, our increased scale strengthens our ability to attract world-class talent. A great example is the addition of Hayden Stafford to our team in June of 2020 as President of Global Client Engagement. We expect that increasing sales productivity will be one of our most critical value drivers. Our ongoing journey to increase the scale of our business is not the only multiyear transformation underway at Pega. We're also more than midway through the multiyear cloud transition. I believe it's important to share both what we've accomplished and where we have more work to do. A transition to recurring revenue for a software company normally takes about 5 years, as I've mentioned previously, and follows 3 major phases. First, the company moves from selling perpetual licenses to selling subscription licenses. When we started the cloud transition in late 2017, for example, over 60% of our new client commitments were subscription. We changed our sales compensation plan to focus on annual contract value instead of total contract value in 2018, and our clients' prospects and sales teams jumped on board. By the end of 2018, about 85% of our new client commitments were recurring contracts. That increased to 95% in 2020. So we've done a solid job of completing the first phase. The revenue growth transition is next. During the second phase, revenue growth rates declined especially in the first few years. This is because the business is moving away from selling perpetual licenses, where the revenue is recognized upfront, to selling cloud arrangement, where much of the revenue is recognized over time. For example, our revenue growth rate dropped from the mid-teens before we started the cloud transition to the low single digits for a few years. Once the midpoint of the transition is passed, the revenue growth rate starts to improve. For example, our total revenue growth rate grew to 12% in 2020, and that growth was even in the face of significant reduction in perpetual license revenue from 2019 until -- compared to 2020. In the final 2 years of the revenue growth transition, growth accelerates, approaching the growth rate in annual contract value at the end of the transition. That's why we expect revenue growth and ACV growth would both exceed 20% in the final years of the cloud transition. A very important point to highlight is that our subscription revenue grew by 26% in 2020. When I say subscription revenue, I mean the total of all client and Pega Cloud revenue. The cash flow transition comes last. During this final phase, billings and cash collections improved. And in other words, a company has completed the transition of moving from a company that collected most of its cash billings from new client commitments upfront to a business that builds and collects its cash billings from clients consistently over time. We expect our free cash flow to accelerate as we finish the cloud transition in late 2022 to early 2023. Given that we are still in the middle innings of this cloud transition, growth in annual contract value remains the most important operational metric that reflects the underlying growth of our business. Many of our other operational metrics don't properly reflect the underlying strength of the business and when you are partway through a transition like we have embarked on. In 2020, total ACV grew by 21% year-over-year, reaching $835 million. Currency was about a 1% to 2% tailwind to this growth in 2020. Total ACV is the sum of recurring Pega Cloud and client cloud commitments, representing the annualized recurring spend from our clients for cloud, term license and maintenance arrangements. It's notable that perpetual license decreased from about 10% of new client commitments in 2019 to about 5% of new client commitments in 2020. While this dynamic has a dampening impact on near-term revenue results in 2020, it sets us up for even greater recurring revenue in the future. It's remarkable to see that Pega Cloud ACV growth accelerated in 2020, increasing to 57% -- increasing 57% from $169 million in 2019 to $267 million in 2020 as cloud demand for our -- from our customers continue to grow. The second most important operational metric during the cloud transition is remaining performance obligation or backlog. Backlog represents the total client commitments Pega has booked -- the company has not taken into revenue yet. In 2020, total RPO grew by 28% or an impressive $236 million year-over-year, growing from $836 million to $1.07 billion. This is the first time in our company history that backlog has exceeded $1 billion. It's also great to see Pega Cloud backlog increased over 40% in the same period. Total current backlog, which is the backlog within -- to be recognized within 12 months, increased by 24% from $493 million at December 31, 2019, to $613 million as of December 31, 2020. This is the short-term backlog, as I mentioned, that will come into revenue in the next fiscal year, which supports our expectations for total revenue growth of over 20% in 2021. Turning to revenue. Pega Cloud revenue grew by 56%, increasing from $134 million in 2019 to $208 million in 2020. And as I mentioned earlier, subscription revenue, which includes Pega Cloud, maintenance and term license revenue, jumped an impressive 26% in the same period. Total annual revenue increased by 12%, going from $911 million in 2019 to $1.02 billion in 2020. To really understand the financials of the business during the cloud transition, it's important to not just look at any one measure. Instead, you need to look at ACV, revenue and backlog. For example, if ACV goes up, the backlog goes down. Well, we haven't done as good a job as -- of feeding ourselves for the future. And this is further compounded by the cloud transition, which has a deferral effect on reported revenue, which is why we're looking so much to ACV growth to measure our business momentum. Taken together, our financial results in 2020 put us on the right track to meet or exceed our long-term targets that were set in 2017 of $1.3 billion in total ACV and $1.6 billion in total revenue by the end of 2022. Even though we're on target with our plan, we aspire to grow faster. That's why we've made major investments in selling capacity, partner support and customer success. Turning to our fiscal year 2021 guidance. Assuming that Pega Cloud continues to be a little bit more than half of all new client commitments in 2021, we expect total revenue of $1.25 billion, an increase of 23% year-over-year. As typical, we expect our bookings to be skewed towards the back end of 2021, which means that our revenue will be skewed more towards the back end of 2021, as usually is the case in enterprise software. Moving to non-GAAP EPS. We project 2021 full year non-GAAP EPS of $0.25. We expect non-GAAP EPS to improve from 2020 because we anticipate that our revenue will grow faster than our expenses. We also anticipate non-GAAP EPS will improve due to the increases in Pega Cloud gross margin, which is becoming a bigger impact on the business. In conclusion, like many companies, we are happy to welcome in 2021. Our full year results are very impressive given all the market disruption from COVID-19. This is the first year in our history that revenue, backlog and cash collections each exceeded $1 billion, and we're optimistic that 2021 will show continued growth in our key metrics. Before opening the call for questions, I'd like to invite each of you to our annual customer conference, PegaWorld iNspire, on Tuesday, May 4. The event will be virtual again this year, and you can register at www.pega.com/pegaworld. We plan to hold our annual investor session shortly after on Thursday, June 3. We will release additional information about the investor session during our Q1 2021 earnings call in this spring. And with that, operator, please open the call to questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) We'll take our first question from Steve Koenig with SMBC Nikko Securities. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Steven Richard Koenig, SMBC Nikko Securities America, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The first question is going to be for Ken here. Ken, can you give us some color on cloud mix in Q4 and conversions to cloud? And then maybe just for our benefit, tie -- if you tie back the Q4 top line results to your bridging -- to your prior commentary about what happens as your cloud mix changes so then I can tie -- I'd like to tie it back to kind of your initial guidance for the year and then how your view of the year evolved as it went on. And then lastly on that, maybe help us with what are some of the variables that could impact fiscal '21. I'm maybe a little surprised that you didn't, as a baseline, assume your cloud mix would be more significantly higher than 50%. So -- and then I've got one quick follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure, Steve. So I'll hit on your questions and hopefully I catch them all. So the first point that I think is important is to think about the mix for the year, what's the mix for the last 3 years. Pega Cloud has been about 50% of our new client commitments. In Q4s of the year, that number tends to skew a little bit lower than 50% in Q4. And the reason for that -- and this is speculation on my part, but the reason for that is that clients tend to use year-end budget money, which may have a slight skew to more client cloud arrangements versus SaaS arrangements. That has been the trend. It hasn't been a significant skew, but it's typically a little bit less than Pega Cloud in Q4, and the other 3 quarters typically end up being a little bit more than Pega Cloud percentage of bookings. Now in terms of 2021, we believe there is an opportunity for Pega Cloud to be a much bigger part of our business. But we also feel that because we've had such a pattern of so many clients really enjoying the Pega Cloud Choice messaging and their flexibility and how they deploy that we really don't have a crystal ball to suggest that, that number would be noticeably higher than what we've seen for the last few years. So that's kind of on the Pega Cloud percentage. I want to talk about Q4 and 2020. The biggest gap that we saw in 2020 was the movement away from perpetual licenses into either Pega Cloud or client cloud recurring arrangements. And that -- you may think, well, if it's term or if it's perpetual, wouldn't it be the same amount of revenue? It's not. The same amount of revenue does not come in the current period when you book an equivalent term or perpetual deal. Perpetual does have more revenue, and you can see the big drop in perpetual revenue in 2020. So that was our biggest factor of -- when we originally modeled, we thought that Pega -- excuse me, perpetual would still stay kind of something just south of 10% but not go as low as it actually did in 2020. So that's probably the biggest lever point in terms of what changed in 2020 and in Q4. So that's kind of the biggest factor that I would say is positive. I mean we're super happy that, that happened, don't get me wrong, but that was a variant from the original model that we had built up for 2020. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Steven Richard Koenig, SMBC Nikko Securities America, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. Okay. And this one is probably for Alan here, Project fnx. Maybe a quick update there. And kind of remind us what functionalities or use cases do you think are going to benefit most immediately as you innovate around your platform and adopt microservices, et cetera? Where are you taking that in the short term, Alan? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, we have a really interesting agenda in that front. You see some of it pretty directly in the improvement in cloud margin. And obviously, if a client cloud -- and we love Pega Cloud. I'd rather do a Pega Cloud on the client side, but we're in the client cloud business, too. We believe in product choice. I think this helps all of our customers in terms of their ability to save money, our ability to save money and our ability to innovate faster. We've also been able to improve our own cycle time and development for the things that have been broken out as microservices. And I would tell you it's working beautifully in that front. And a lot of what we're doing that we've talked about that you'll see in fnx, based on the release late last year and where we're going here, is being able to allow our clients many new options and ability to, in effect, inject Pega into their existing front ends because of our ability to incorporate React-based technology as part of our digital experience API, which is a big part of moving to this API-centric model. So we're seeing internal advances. We're seeing customers who years ago used to think that our architecture was bigger and perhaps heavy, saying that they really like what we're doing architecturally, whereas architects sometimes would be pretty critical. Anybody who looks at this architecture is responding positively to both what we've accomplished and where we're going to continue to go over the next 48 months -- 24 months, I mean. So I think it's gotten us a lot of positive light with our customers. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll now move on to our next question from Jack Andrews with Needham. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Philip Andrews, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I want to see if you could provide some more just commentary in terms of just how your partner practices are progressing in terms of just any commentary you can provide in terms of just new logo wins that are being generated from partners. Or how should we expect that to ramp over time? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So in the second half of the year, we -- under the auspices of Hayden Stafford -- and you may remember, Hayden, built a business at Microsoft in the CRM space to $3.5 billion quite rapidly, starting well under $1 billion, and also has the, I think, strong partner experience from Salesforce in his background. He really has embraced a major push towards partners and getting significant mutual commitment with partners that we're going to really go to market together. So as Ken talked about, we're investing in sales and marketing, and a big part of it is making sure that the partner ecosystem is front and center in how we go to market. I can tell you that the number of partner involved and partner-sourced deals is materially up in the pipeline and just really exciting to see really that the big acceleration only happened and only started in the second half of last year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Philip Andrews, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [9] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That is great. And just as a follow-up, I want to ask you about -- if you could flesh out some of your comments on the government opportunity. In particular, you mentioned becoming potentially a standard for certain use cases. Any thoughts in terms of how, under a new administration, that might provide opportunities for you more broadly? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [10] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, I think there were opportunities under the previous administration, and we don't see them abating under the current one. And the reality is that there's a tremendous amount in government that needs to be made more efficient, that needs to be made more -- well, easy to change and needs to get rid of a lot of the paper and the waste. Now the IRS has been public about how they have over 60 case management systems. And we won head-to-head competition against numerous other providers to be selected -- and it's publicly available, by the IRS. And that's work that's going to go on over years and has already led to its initial production years. So I think we've got a terrific government story. And I'll tell you that Hayden has, in effect, said we should double down on our government business. And that, by the way, is another place, where partners obviously are key. I'll also tell you it's exciting that our government business, not just in the U.S., is going so well. But if I take a look at Australia, at the U.K., at the German government, we're really seeing a nice push there and a nice community of government users moving up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [11] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- One additional... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Philip Andrews, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [12] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [And could you comment] on partner? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [13] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'll make one additional comment on partners. We did our first-ever partner sales kickoff this year, where we actually engaged in a working kind of session with our partners. And we've had numerous partners of size -- I won't mention the exact names, that are really committing to sign up for very large commitments to drive mutual business between Pega and their practices. That has -- that didn't happen prior to this -- yes, this 2021, just in the last month or so. So that's an example of another -- a big change in our engagement with partners. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [14] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And we'll take our next question from Mark Murphy with JPMorgan. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Pinjalim Bora, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [15] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is Pinjalim sitting in for Mark. Alan, quick question on the Process Fabric product that you're talking about in the conference last year. Any updates on that, how that has been doing? Or what is the initial feedback from customers? And then I'm curious to hear how are you thinking about this hot space that's emerging around process mining and what is Pega doing around that. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [16] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. I'll touch on both of those. So when we talked about Process Fabric last -- middle of last year, it was very much to make people understand that when we talk about a Center-out architecture, where you really want to think about the work across what might be a very large organization, the thing you want to do is not have some big, massive system hunkering in the middle, that you want to have the illusion of a virtual integrated system, where the work can actually live in multiple systems and be processed in multiple systems, including in some cases or in Pegasystems, which need to be able to be part of that fabric. We've now had our first couple of customers using it quite successfully. And we're continuing to enhance and grow it under the auspices of fnx, and it's enormously exciting. I mean imagine an organization -- just to draw an analogy, think of, in effect, having Google tied into all of the work in your company but done in a way that's safe and secure and managed and being able to provide access and deliver that work in a distributed world as if it was all small and intimate. I think it's extremely exciting and builds on the fnx work that we've been doing, and it's getting a lot of positive reception. And it drives not just the Process Fabric system, but it drives the further use of Pega particularly in large and material customers. You asked about process mining. Process mining is one of those things that comes -- it's very popular, and sometimes, it's not so popular or very popular. It's back to popularity again. And we've been doing some really interesting work as part of our Workforce Intelligence and robotics initiatives that allow us to watch and mine the processes of what people are really doing as opposed to what they tell you that they're doing. And I think that that's one of those examples of a complementary technology to our core automation because what you really want to do is understand what people are doing but then very possibly not do it in the exact same way. That's the mistake of robotic process automation done incorrectly. People are kind of screen scraping and emulating keystrokes. We take that and with the mining work and some of the other work we're doing with Workforce Intelligence, we're able to pull that in and then really figure out how to drive end-to-end outcomes without having to take people in there. And I will tell you that's a much more sustainable -- a much stronger and a much more resilient way to handle these sorts of things. So we feel good about what we're doing there as well. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Pinjalim Bora, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [17] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Understood. And Ken, one quickly for you. On the ACV growth rate, when I'm looking at 20%, 21% around, I think you said 1 to 2 points of currency headwinds. So if I adjust for that, it seems like it might have dipped below 19%. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's still good at that scale. But if I compare it to a year ago, maybe it was 22% and now maybe sub-20%. Is there -- can you leave out what has -- what is causing that? Have you seen actually more impact from COVID in Q4 or anything that -- to call out? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [18] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Good question. So no, we haven't -- there's no impact that we've seen from COVID I would say positive -- quite frankly, positive or negative. Certainly it hasn't been a tailwind. I don't believe it's been a headwind either. And I think where the year landed is directionally in line from an ACV growth standpoint to where we thought the year would land. The question really is -- I think the more important question is when do we expect to see the acceleration in ACV growth beyond kind of the 20-ish percent growth that we've seen now for the last number of years because we're certainly investing in a market opportunity that should yield better growth than that. So I think that's kind of more the angle that we're looking at, which is why and when do we expect the acceleration in our ACV growth. A percentage movement in ACV growth, one way or the other is -- to be honest, is not a noticeable change in the longer-term strategy. We also have situations where -- and I've mentioned this a little bit before over the years. We also have situations where ACV moves in and out of a quarter depending on effective dates. And that could easily be a percentage skew one way or another -- one way or the other as well. So I don't focus too much on that number being any -- 20%, 21%, 22%, even 19%. Kind of in that range is, to me, kind of our historical. It's -- really, the focus for us is how do we get that number up to 25%, to 30%, something that is beyond where we've seen the growth rate. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [19] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll now move on to our next question from Mohit Gogia from Barclays. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mohit Gogia, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [20] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So I don't know -- I was just wondering if you can give us sort of like the lay of the land in terms of your automation portfolio, right? So you acquired an RPA vendor a few years back. Obviously, you have been a pioneer of your flagship product that's low-code, right? So just give us a lay of the land as to what competitive landscape have you seen and what do you expect to see in the next 3 -- few years. I mean there has been sort of like some vendors talking about this end-to-end automation offering across RPA, process mining, low-code, and I think you briefly touched on that. But those vendors are maybe in the IPO pipeline. So there's going to be more investment noise on that. So just help us understand how you fit into that space and how you fit into the narrative. And then I have a follow-up question for Ken. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [21] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. So when we think about -- there's a lot of noise in the market and a bunch of experimentation. And I think there's a tremendous amount of BS, in my view, here. The whole robotic process automation, somebody does a little math and takes the number of customers that are claimed by some of these vendors and divides that into the revenue. You see that a lot of what's going on here is little experimentation and is not game-changing for the customers. But frankly, there'll be a lot more revenue and a lot more consistent growth. So we think the approach we have, which is to really think about process automation at the core and then be able to have robotics as a really powerful way to deal with systems that do not yet have APIs, is the right way to do it. And we're getting a lot of reinforcement from customers and prospects that our way of thinking, the Center-out way of thinking as opposed to kind of like "face of the desktop" way of thinking is the right way to do it. So I think we will be vindicated in that view. And I'm seeing work that makes me more confident though it's a competitive landscape and there are competitors everywhere. You said you had another question for Ken? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mohit Gogia, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [22] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, yes. So Ken, really helpful color on that ACV growth adjusted for FX tailwinds. But I mean your guidance obviously is strong, right? I mean you're guiding for 23% revenue growth, which falls in line somewhat with your CRP growth this quarter. But at the same time, I'm assuming that if we also look to your fiscal '22 targets that you reiterated at your Analyst Day that, I mean, there will be an implied acceleration in ACV for fiscal '21, if I look at all those variables, right? And you have discussed drivers for that, previously, along sales capacity investments and productivity. But help us understand like which of those drivers do you think will have more of a near-term impact early in fiscal '21 versus maybe -- for example, maybe higher penetration in your customer base, maybe more of a long-term thesis, right? So give us an overview of those drivers in which of those we think will already start to show up in fiscal '21. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [23] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So the obvious -- so the way to think about the investments that we're making -- so I'll give you kind of the ones that I think have -- I'm going to say more near term, meaning 2021, and more midterm, let's just call that '22 into '23. '21 is going to be driven by the ramping of the sales capacity and those individuals becoming more seasoned on average in 2021 than in 2020 or 2019. If you think about something that might be more of an 18 months to 24 months, it's probably some of the investments that we're making in partners, right? Because those things tend to mature over -- they don't typically -- they're kind of not a -- kind of a 1 quarter kind of turn on those investments. And I think there's another aspect of -- that we're thinking about as well. We haven't noticeably -- and Steve mentioned it early on and we actually -- I kind of didn't intentionally skirt this part of this question, but I will highlight it now. We are not -- we have not, to date, nor is it part of our core strategy to just move all of our client cloud people on to Pega Cloud. It happens from time to time as clients want to move. But I do think as we get out into 2022 and '23 with Process Fabric, with the evolution of the product, with Pega Cloud being our primary go-to-market, with everybody really looking to move to the cloud, there is the potential that Pega Cloud will accelerate as a percentage of our business. So those are kind of some things that I don't think -- I think it's going to happen in Q1 or Q2 of '21, but there certainly is that potential for it to happen out into the end of '21, into '22. So that kind of gives you almost like productivity, more people buying Pega Cloud, partners playing a bigger role. Those are kind of the 24-month levers. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [24] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Your next is from Chris Merwin with Goldman Sachs. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christopher David Merwin, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst [25] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. I think first off, I just wanted to ask you about the CRM business, like you're looking across the broader category that CRM has done very well since the pandemic started. So just curious how that piece of your business has trended over the last 12 months, in particular the last quarter. And then I have a follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [26] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So we're seeing a lot of interest in CRM particularly in the sort of omnichannel approach to CRM. And as part of some of the investments that we've done, what we've done is we've actually brought some very strong leadership into each of the sort of 3 sort of general areas of CRM, intelligent automation, and one-to-one engagement. And so we're really doubling down on all of those. Remember, for us, CRM can be everything from the full contact center desktop all the way to the omnichannel approach of having common process flows and common decisioning across mobile web, service desktop, et cetera. And I think that's actually a much better story than people who are coming in and just trying to sell that. It's easier for customers to get started and frankly for them to get benefit faster with the style and the price that we've got. So I think it all falls into CRM and is important to our business and will be going forward as well. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christopher David Merwin, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst [27] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Great. And then one just modeling question. If I look at the ACV growth ending the year, I think it's 21%, right? And then the revenue guidance is 23%. And then as you get through the transition, I think those growth rates are going to converge more over time but you're outpacing the ACV growth [there in the year] with revenue growth in 2021. I just wanted to tie that together, if I could, please. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [28] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. So the revenue growth -- so the way this typically works -- we're a little bit skewed by the percentage of business with professional services. But I know that kind of does skew the numbers a little bit. But if you think about ACV growth, I'll just use a number, use 20% to make it round. ACV growth of 20%, when you get to the back end of the cloud transition, you do have -- you should expect that your subscription revenue lines that connect to ACV will start to actually outpace your ACV growth because you're catching up. You have almost an easier compare in some cases, which is why you kind of -- I don't want to say a hockey stick but the slope -- kind of slopes upward in the back end of the cloud transition. So the revenue growth does actually grow a little faster than your ACV growth. That's what you're seeing happening in '21 and will happen in '22. So there isn't a direct connection between ACV growth and revenue. So really, you get to the end of the transition. So it grows slower in the beginning then it accelerates and kind of catches up to be -- so them being more closely aligned when you exit the transition. That's what you see happening in '21. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [29] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll hear next from Rishi Jaluria with D.A. Davidson. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rishi Nitya Jaluria, D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division - Senior VP & Senior Research Analyst [30] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It's Rishi Jaluria. Alan and Ken, good quarter, nice to see continued strong results. I wanted to start by looking at the cloud gross margin. It's been really strong this year and improving as it's gone on. How should we be thinking about the opportunities for future cloud gross margin expansion from here? I know, Ken, you have said in the past there's -- over time, it might be able to get above 70%. Maybe speak to how we should expect that. And any areas where you think there's more opportunity for better infrastructure efficiency or to just get better margins out there. And then I've got a follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [31] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure, Rishi. So one thing that probably most of you know is that I kind of took responsibility for our Pega Cloud business in December of 2019. So it's been about a year. And one of the reasons why Alan and I decided that, that was a sensible move was because of the importance of really running this as a P&L and driving the margin expansion. And the team has done an amazing job in terms of driving that over the last year, so really good progress. You might say, "Okay, well, so you're mid-60s now or approaching mid-60s. How do you get to 70%, 75%? And what are the levers?" First off, scale is the big lever, right, scale not only in the number of clients but size of the client spend in Pega Cloud because as that goes up, there are some variable and some fixed costs and you're able to leverage people over a larger pool of client and a larger pool of ACV. So some of it is just typical operating leverage, Rishi, that happen in, I want to say, any business model. But technically speaking, when we start leveraging at scale, things like Kubernetes, right, to create virtualization in the cloud environments, which all of our clients are deploying on some version of Kubernetes in terms of driving efficiency, it's really virtualization in the cloud, as I'm sure you know, that is a big lever for us. In addition, clients that are adopting Pega Cloud on Pega Infinity is actually another lever point because the expansion that they have on the application really becomes kind of a larger spend pattern and really creates us -- ability for us to make certain investment in those step or break points so that we could actually create essentially more efficient cloud environment for our clients. So it's really about scale. It's about the new product, Pega's new product, which is Pega Infinity, right, the product that is a new generation, and about leveraging some very common tools like Kubernetes that lots of -- all of our clients quite frankly and our competitors and other companies are leveraging to build that level of efficiency. So those are kind of the -- some of the key tenets of getting there. But to be honest with you, it's really driven by a business P&L mindset of running our business like a SaaS business, like an as-a-service business for our clients. And we're starting to really see some great pickup in our results from that focus. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rishi Nitya Jaluria, D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division - Senior VP & Senior Research Analyst [32] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. That's really helpful. And then a follow-up. I wanted to maybe get your sense on the sustainability of some of the trends that you've seen out of COVID going forward, and let's say, optimistically, back half of this year starts to look a little bit more normal. And so from that, I'm talking, a, the kind of acceleration of digital transformation projects and efforts from customers even if that hasn't been a driver on the revenue side just yet but the sustainability of those tailwinds and then on the cost savings side as well because not having travel clearly helping on the margin side. I mean if you look at the growth rate of just your sales and marketing, it's dramatically lower this year than it has been historically. I think even half of 2019 growth rate. So how should we think about the sustainability end of those cost savings going forward post pandemic? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [33] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, I'll tell you -- it's obviously hard to predict, but I think there will be sustainable cost savings because I think behavior has changed. It's easy to do a video meeting, where otherwise, you would have had to arrange a trip to show people that you respected them and trying to make sure you're in the right place at the right time. I think a lot of that is going to persist. I think a lot of implementations, where we've learned to do things remote, will not be entirely remote. People are still going to want to get in and do a physical walk-through and get together at a conference table. And I'm optimistic that, that will again be possible in the second half of the year, by the end of the year. But I think there will be some sustainable cost savings there. Certainly, the improvements -- this whole Project fnx, which has been part of our move to Kubernetes, part of a lot of the other changes that we've been doing, is -- has a lot of runway as we think of what we can do to create sustainable cost savings and sustainable technical scalability in coming years. So I feel -- also feel really good about that. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [34] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll take our next question from Mark Schappel with Benchmark. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark William Schappel, The Benchmark Company, LLC, Research Division - Director of Research & Equity Research Analyst [35] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was wondering if you could just provide some additional commentary on what you're seeing in Europe and particularly your business in the U.K. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [36] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So it's interesting. Obviously, the U.K. has undergone some confusion that's -- the whole Brexit thing happened on top of the whole COVID thing. I would tell you that as I think about it, the U.K. and particularly areas like some of the big U.K. financial institutions with, in some cases, very, very big interest in moving things to the cloud that historically they have been more conservative on but also some of the large governmental entities has been -- I would describe has been powerful and encouraging. So I'm feeling pretty good about the U.K. at a time where it's really hard to appreciate it given what was going to happen as a result of some of the Brexit stuff on top of the COVID. So there's a tremendous amount of activity there. I just wish I could go back to visit some time because there's still... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark William Schappel, The Benchmark Company, LLC, Research Division - Director of Research & Equity Research Analyst [37] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. And then, Ken, a question for you. The December quarters are typically big renewal quarters for the company and also big revenue quarters. Seasonally, how should we be thinking about your Q4s with respect to ACV growth and RPO growth, seasonally? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kenneth R. Stillwell, Pegasystems Inc. - Senior VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO [38] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So the -- let me clarify one thing. So Q4s do have more renewals than -- on average, than other quarters. However, as we've gotten bigger, the renewals do start to spread across quarters in the year and across years such that it isn't as big of an impact as more of it is Pega Cloud and as the company grows. The reason why Q4s are typically bigger is because there's more new business activity in the Q4, more selling activity. That's actually a bigger factor for a Q4, and that's really the only factor for ACV growth because our renewals, unless there's an upsell, there isn't really any change to the ACV. Now in terms of RPO, the backlog, that is really -- that is a tough one because market does become -- it does become -- there's definitely lumpiness around RPO in terms of the total amount, where it's not as lumpy as in the next 12 months' number, right, in that number. That's why I focus on that number because that really is a validation of how much of the next year's revenue is already kind of baked and kind of in the backlog to be able to come into revenue. So if you're comparing a Q4 over Q4, ACV is a very valid measure and the next 1 year is a very valid measure. When you look at the gross amount of RPO, then you get into differences where -- that a renewal hit that was 4 years versus 3 years and the cycle of renewals is not linear in terms of that. So that's kind of where it kind of screws with you a little bit, not so much on revenue, not on ACV at all, and really not much on that next 12 months' number. So that helps. That's kind of the way to think about a Q4. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alan Trefler, Pegasystems Inc. - Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board [39] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think that the other thing that's happened, and we've talked about this a little, is when we did the flip to recurring, we massively reduced the incentive for long deals. The incentive used to be, frankly hindsight, a little out of whack around total contract value, and that is massively reduced. So I think you're going to continue to see less lumpiness in RPO. And the real measure, I would say, is ACV coupled with RPO. That's always what I look at. We -- I think we're getting to the top of the hour. So operator, if it's okay with everyone, I'm going to just say to folks that it was obviously a tough and ruckus year. We need really to thank the whole team for just buckling down and doing tremendous work. I thank our customers for standing by us. And I want to thank our investors who should know we're working hard for you. And I wish all of you -- stay safe. And let's work through this. We're actually feeling like we're moving into the light this year. Thank you very much, everyone. Take care. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [40] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you. That does conclude today's conference. Thank you all for your participation. You may now disconnect.