Wipro sells off Appirio HCM practices for $110m to IPO-bound Alight

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright February 28, 2019
A new chapter for Appirio's former Workday and Cornerstone OnDemand practices as Wipro sells up to longstanding and now IPO-bound ecosystem partner Alight

Business man at desk holds large burlap money bag with US dollar sign © nito - shutterstock
Three years after acquiring Salesforce and Workday integrator Appirio, professional services giant Wipro has sold off its Workday and Cornerstone OnDemand practices to Blackstone-backed HCM specialist Alight, which filed preliminary papers for an IPO two weeks ago. The $110 million deal is set to close next month.

The remaining Appirio business, which still operates under that brand as a Wipro subsidiary, now returns to its roots as a Salesforce-focused integrator. Launched in 2006, Appirio became a leading light among the new breed of cloud integrators that sprouted up at the time to deliver enterprise solutions based on Salesforce, Amazon and Google Apps (now G Suite). Appirio added cloud HCM expertise after its acquisition of Knowledge Infusion in 2013, which specialized in delivering Cornerstone and Workday solutions. That became the foundation of the 350-strong team that is now set to join Alight.

Alight is a relatively new name but a long-established business in the HCM technology ecosystem. It was formed in 2017 when insurance broker Aon sold its benefits and HR technology business, then known as Aon Hewitt, to private equity investment group Blackstone in a $4.8 billion deal. With a 25-year operating history, Alight provides benefits administration, HR business process outsourcing and Workday implementation and support services to some 3,000 clients.

Alight prepares for IPO

Alight, which reports annual revenues in excess of $2 billion, filed initial paperwork for a Nasdaq IPO earlier this month. The offering could value the company at more than $7 billion, according to Reuters.

The purchase of the Workday and Cornerstone practices from Wipro is a follow-up to a deal last year which saw Alight sell off its Indian operations to Wipro for $117 million, at the same time as signing up for a ten-year, $1.6 billion outsourcing contract with the IT services giant. That deal provides IT outsourcing to support Alight's provision of benefits, payroll and HR operations to its customers, as well as application maintenance services. Wipro has now returned the favor with its $110 million sale of the HCM practices to Alight.

Once this deal closes, Alight will consolidate its position as a leading Workday partner. Even before adding the 350 from Wipro, it employs around 1,300 certified Workday professionals, according to its Raven Intel listing. The Wipro infusion will help bolster its presence internationally, particularly in EMEA, as well as adding to its US resources. Alight is also consolidating its financials capabilities. Last week it said it has acquired Carlson Management Consulting, an experienced partner of Adaptive Insights, the financial planning solution acquired by Workday last year.

My take

As one chapter closes at Appirio, new horizons open up for those of its employees now joining Alight. Appirio worked hard to get the combination of CRM and HCM to gel, but despite its efforts to talk up the synergy between employee engagement and customer engagement, its culture has always been a better fit for Salesforce than for Workday.

That culture clash was exacerbated when Wipro arrived on the scene. There was constant speculation — never officially confirmed, of course — that Workday worried Appirio might not live up to the demanding expectations it places on partners, once absorbed into Wipro.

So it's likely that a few sighs of relief have been heard in the vicinity of Workday's Pleasanton headquarters this week now that the Appirio HCM practices are joining such a long-standing and trusted partner as Alight. Workday being what it is, that doesn't mean Alight will be getting any less scrutiny than any other of its partners. But as the Carlson acquisition hints, Alight is keen to show it's fully aligned with Workday. That will do it no harm in the run-up to its planned IPO, as Workday has been impressing the market with its continued growth.

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