Enterprise-software company Pegasystems (NASDAQ:PEGA) posted earnings results on Thursday. For the second time in a row, Wall Street wasn't happy with the quarterly announcement: The stock fell by more than 10% in after-hours trading. 

  Fourth-quarter estimate Fourth-quarter actual
Revenue (% change) $176 million (13%) $169 (9%)
Profit (% change) $0.32 (3%) $0.33 (6%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance and company filings.

Quarterly results
Earnings beat analysts' estimates, rising 6% to reach $0.33 per share. That improvement was likely the result of licensing and cloud revenue outgrowing Pegasystems' professional services sales, which is a good trend for the business as it pushes profitability up.

However, sales growth missed expectations. Pegasystems posted a 9% revenue gain in the quarter, to $169 million. Wall Street was instead looking for a 13% improvement, to $176 million of revenue. Executives back in November pointed to a challenging economic environment in Europe as the driver behind surprisingly weak sales in the third quarter. That region might be to blame for this quarter's miss, as well.

Pegasystems' earnings results are volatile from quarter to quarter because they are so often driven by the timing of just a few contracts. That's why it pays to take a broader look at the results.

On that score, full-year sales growth was steady, up 16%, as license revenue climbed 21%, and the cloud business almost doubled. CEO Alan Trefler chose to stress those bigger-picture wins, saying in a press release, "This was a solid quarter for Pegasystems, capping off what was a strong year overall for the company."

Still, the concern for investors is that Pegasystems' robust sales growth could be coming to a halt. That figure was 22% in the second quarter, 13% in the third quarter, and 9% in the quarter that just closed. 

Downgraded outlook
Meanwhile, Pegasystems' order backlog rose by only 5% in the fourth quarter, suggesting muted growth ahead. And that's just what management is expecting. Pegasystems' 2015 outlook calls for sales to improve by 10% this year, to $653 million. Wall Street had been much more optimistic: Analysts pegged revenue at $680 million for 2015. 

Looking even further ahead, Pegasystems' management is investing in a strategic shift that could dramatically expand the company's client base to more than just the largest enterprises in the world. Trefler said in a press release that Pegasystems has been "enhancing our products to target a broader range of clients we believe represent a significantly larger long-term revenue opportunity."

As a result, patient shareholders might be rewarded with strong sales and profit gains down the road; but they will likely have to endure a bumpy ride in the meantime.