John Edgar Usps Microstrategy Conference

John Edgar, Vice President for the US Postal Service, speaking at a recent MicroStrategy conference. Credit: MicroStrategy via Facebook.   

Shares of MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR) stock were up 3.71% at 4:10 pm EDT Tuesday evening as investors reacted to the business intelligence, or BI, provider's massive spike in Q1 earnings. Here's a closer look at the final totals versus Wall Street's projections:

MSTRRevenueYOY GrowthEPSYOY Growth
Consensus estimate  $135.32 million (1.9%)  $0.91 N/A
Q1 actuals  $123.87 million (10.2%)   $1.79   N/A
DIFFERENCE  ($11.45 million)  (8.3%)  $0.88  N/A

Sources: S&P Capital IQ and MicroStrategy press release. 

Commenting on his company's strategy for boosting top-line growth, CEO Michael Saylor said in a press release:

In 2015, compromised security has emerged as one of the greatest threats on the planet, and industry leaders are demanding an all-encompassing solution that combines analytics, security, and mobility in a single integrated platform. MicroStrategy 9s fills this void by providing enterprise-grade security for web, cloud, and mobile analytics. By removing security concerns as an inhibitor, MicroStrategy 9s can allow our customers and partners to more confidently deploy applications that deliver powerful business value to the enterprise.

What went right: Cost-cutting. MicroStrategy has systemically reduced headcount and cut expenses in every area. Overall, operating costs fell 34.5% year over year while revenue fell just 10.2%. The difference allowed MicroStrategy to bank savings as cash flow from operations, which quintupled to $55.8 million.

What went wrong: Some spending cuts were so severe that they appear unsustainable. Take research and development, which fell 45.1%, as MicroStrategy prepared to ship its newest platform -- MicroStrategy 9s -- and a complementary security platform called Usher, in January. The new products mean significant R&D spending shouldn't be needed for a while. But it will be needed someday, at which point MicroStrategy's profits could take a substantial hit.

What's next: MicroStrategy chose not to include a second-quarter outlook in its press release. Analysts tracked by S&P Capital IQ have the company generating $142.25 million in revenue and $1.47 a share in adjusted profit versus $141.85 million and a $0.91 per-share loss in last year's Q2. Longer term, analysts have MicroStrategy growing earnings by an average of 15% annually during the next three-to-five years.

In terms of the overall business, Investors should keep a close eye on the delta between revenue and expense growth. MicroStrategy is going to need innovation achieved with higher R&D spending to keep young and hungry BI and analytics providers such as Tableau Software (NYSE:DATA) at bay.

Tim Beyers says you don't need business intelligence to be intelligent about business. He's also a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out his web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool.

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