Businesses in nearly every industry turn to technology to reduce inefficiencies and help teams operate more smoothly. Companies that provide those services, from cloud-based collaboration tools to productivity suites, often operate on subscription models, and can be a smart place for investors to park some extra cash.
In this video from "The 5" on Motley Fool Live, recorded on Sept. 23, Fool.com contributors Brian Withers, Toby Bordelon, and Demitri Kalogeropoulos share their favorite stocks in the workplace productivity arena.
Brian Withers: We're going to talk a little bit about robotic process automation. It's becoming a bigger thing with a focus on worker productivity and remote work. We moved from the job market now to how companies are managing the work with the employees that they do have. Robotic process automation isn't really a robot, physical robot, but it's more of think about the processes that you do on your computer to fill out a form or process a product through the manufacturing cycle, or potentially even work products at work, moving them from different states from A to B, or processing a loan application or whatever it is, that office workers are managing processes throughout the company on the computer. Well, a lot of these things have been cobbled together over time and they are very inefficient. Companies focus on manufacturing processes and taking all the waste out of the process. Well, this is the same thing in the office environment. There have been a number of robotic process automation companies that have come to the forefront.
UiPath is a recent recommendation from the Fool that focuses on robotic process automation. This is a growing market, but there's also the bigger market of worker productivity, workplace productivity. Is there a stock that you like in the workplace productivity space? Toby, [laughs] why don't you start? I'm laughing because I should have predicted that you would have come up with this company.
Bordelon: [laughs] Yeah. Look, actually, I was going to say Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). I wondered if you want something less obvious in that.
Withers: No. Go for it.
Bordelon: What do they got? They got Teams, Office 365, they announced new products yesterday, a new hardware that's focused and pretty big ways on both productivity and creativity to increase productivity. They are very big player in the space of work productivity of just general productivity. That's what they do fundamentally when you really think about it. Do you want someone different? I give you a couple of those ideas, DocuSign and Asana. Both of those are arguably a little more expensive right now. Not that Microsoft is necessarily cheap.
Withers: Microsoft has got a dividend.
Bordelon: Yeah, pay the dividend, that's fine.
Withers: [laughs] Demitri, what about you?
Demitri Kalogeropoulos: Yeah, I like this company called Pegasystems (NASDAQ:PEGA). Ticker symbol PEGA, cloud-based software provider. They got a really big client-based of lot of Fortune 500, big companies, very engaged. All the numbers are pointing in the right direction there. Their last quarter hit a revenue record and their Backlog just crossed $1 billion, which is telling me it's going to have a good end of 2021 and 2022. The stock is up over the last wider three or four years, but the last year or so it's trailing the market. A big reason for that is they're doing a transition into more of a subscription service rather than one-time bookings, which is great for those long-term business, it's good for cash flow and it's good for margins and all that stuff. But the transition period can make the business look a little like it's growing more slowly because they're booking revenue out over longer periods. The same contract is getting renewed over a longer period. What management has called, I think the quote is, "complicated and awkward revenue optics," is the way the company talks about it, [laughs] which is a great way to put it, I'd say. Those optics have, I think, put some pressure on the stock. But if you like the business, I think that might create a good opportunity to get involved and just wait because this transition is not going to take that long. A couple of more quarters and then cash flow and revenue growth is going to start matching more closely with the contract value that they're getting for all these enterprises signing up for their automation and enterprise management software.
Withers: Yeah, this Pegasystems, I haven't really looked at them before. They look a little bit like Appian. They have low-code and focus on streamlining stuff through the office place. Do you see them as competitors?
Kalogeropoulos: I don't know much about Appian. I've been following and probably they're in the same software. I think that's in the same niche there, I guess they'd be called software automation, which is that same category you're talking about.
Withers: Very cool. Thanks for bringing that one to the table. Me, I love this space. There's a ton of companies that I could talk about. Toby, you mentioned DocuSign. I love the ones that are easy to get on, easy for employees to use, easy for employees to see the advantages right away, but they don't threaten the employee's job. Part of this robotic process automation is to make employees' job easier and make employees more effective. Well, at the end of the day, if you take the waste out, you don't need as many employees. There's always a little bit of a concern any time you implement new software is, "Is my job going away? What's going to happen?" There's absolutely some culture aspects here that companies need to manage well. I know we talked through Asana when we did the deep dive on Asana earlier, that's a component of Asana's business.
But one of my favorites here is Atlassian (NASDAQ:TEAM). They have a ton of different products under an umbrella. It's all about team collaboration. The neat thing about Atlassian's products is they're easy to download, they're easy to get going and then they work best when they are used by a team. If somebody finds one, then they'll go to the next team meeting and say, "Hey, I've been playing around with the software. Maybe we use it as a group to keep track over the status of our action items or whatever." But Atlassian has been around for a long time. They're going through the same transition Pegasystems is going through from a product-based revenue to all subscription. Their transition is going to take probably another year, but it's going super well and they're not losing as many customers as they had suspected. I think the company is expensive, but they're in this key productivity space where I think companies are finally realizing that they need to invest in the rank-and-file employee to enable the business to be successful and get what they need done with the employees that they are able to hire.