Recently, IBM Services talked about how the ‘big three’ RPA vendors (Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and UiPath) are now supported by its own platform, “Essentials for Automation.” Is it too much to ask for IBM to compete in robotic process automation as opposed to supporting the biggest beneficiaries of RPA growth? While their automation executives will probably say they’ve “already moved past that” and on to the next buzzword – hyperautomation – it appears that IBM has made a move into RPA with their recent acquisition of Brazilian RPA firm WDG Automation.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but an article by ZDNet talks about the trend of large enterprise vendors are acquiring smaller RPA firms (Microsoft with Softmotive and Appian with Novayre). The article goes on to talk about how “WDG Automation’s portfolio includes RPA, automation, interactive voice response, and chatbots, as well as technology to create automations without IT help.”
In the latest earnings call, IBM says the acquisition “advances AI-infused automation capabilities into our cloud packs.” We can’t glean much from that statement either. What IBM may be choosing to do here is keep their friends close and their enemies closer. Supporting the “big three” means they can now learn more about their mistakes. According to Ernest and Young, as many as 30 to 50% of initial RPA projects fail. IBM can now step in and offer to solve the failed implementations with their own RPA solutions instead of spending billions of dollars to acquire any of their largest competitors. There are also many smaller RPA startups out there which could make for additional RPA acquisitions.