Tag: RPA

Is It Open Season for RPA Acquisitions? | Blog

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a key component of the automation ecosystem and has been a rapidly growing software product category, making it an interesting space for potential acquisitions for a while now. While acquisitions in the RPA market have been happening over the last several years, three major RPA acquisitions have taken place in quick succession over the past few months: Microsoft’s acquisition of Softomotive in May, IBM’s acquisition of WDG Automation in July, and Hyland’s acquisition of Another Monday in August.

These acquisitions highlight a broader trend in which smaller RPA vendors are being acquired by different categories of larger technology market players:

  • Big enterprise tech product vendors like Microsoft and SAP
  • Service providers such as IBM
  • Larger automation vendors like Appian, Blue Prism, and Hyland.

Recent RPA acquisitions timeline:

RPA Robotic Process Automation

Why is this happening?

The RPA product market has grown rapidly over the past few years, rising to about US$ 1.2 billion in software license revenues in 2019. The market seems to be consolidating, with some of the larger players continuing to gain market share. As in any such maturing market, mergers and acquisitions are a natural outcome. However, we see multiple factors in the current environment leading to this frenetic uptick in RPA acquisitions:

Acquirers’ perspective – In addition to RPA being a fast-growing market, new category acquirers – meaning big tech product vendors, service providers, and larger automation vendors – see potential in merging RPA capabilities with their own core products to provide more unified automation solutions. These new entrants will be able to build pre-packaged solutions combining RPA with other existing capabilities at lower cost. COVID-19 has created an urgency for broader automation in enterprises, and the ability to offer packaged solutions that provide a quick ROI can be a game-changer in this scenario. Additionally, the adverse impact of the pandemic on the RPA vendors’ revenues, which may have dropped their valuations down to more realistic levels, is making them more attractive for the acquiring parties.

Sellers’ perspective – There is now a general realization in the market that RPA alone is not going to cut it. RPA is the connective tissue, but you still need the larger services, big tech/Systems-of-Record and/or intelligent automation ecosystem to complete the picture. RPA vendors that don’t have the ability to invest in building this ecosystem will be looking to be acquired by larger players that offer some of these complementary capabilities. In addition, investor money may no longer be flowing as freely in the current environment, meaning that some RPA vendors will be looking for an exit.

What can we expect going forward?

The RPA and broader intelligent automation space will continue to evolve quickly, accelerated by the predictable rise in demand for automation and the changes brought on by the new entrants in the space. We expect to see the following trends in the short term:

  • More acquisitions – With the ongoing market consolidation, we expect more acquisitions of smaller automation players – including RPA, Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), process orchestration, Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA), and process mining players – by the above-mentioned bigger categories as they seek to build more complete transformational solutions.
  • Services imperative – Scaling up automation initiatives is an ongoing challenge for enterprises, with questions lingering around bot license utilization and the ability to fill an automation pipeline. Services that can help overcome these challenges will become more critical and possibly even differentiating in the RPA space, whether the product vendors themselves or their partners provide them.
  • Evolution of the competitive landscape – We expect the market landscape to undergo considerable transformation:
    • In the attended RPA space, while there will be co-opetition among RPA vendors and the bigger tech players, the balance may end up being slightly tilted in favor of the big tech players. Consider, for instance, the potential impact if Microsoft were to provide attended RPA capabilities embedded with its Office products suite. Pure-play RPA vendors, however, will continue to encourage citizen development, as this can unearth low-hanging fruit that can serve as an entry point into the wider enterprise organization.
    • In the unattended RPA space, pure-play RPA vendors will likely have an advantage as they do not compete directly with big tech players and so can invest in solutions across different systems of record. Pure-play RPA vendors might focus their efforts here and form an ecosystem to link in missing components of intelligent automation to provide integrated offerings.

There are several open questions on how some of these dynamics will play out over time. You can expect a battle for the soul (and control) of automation, with implications for all stakeholders in the automation ecosystem. Questions remain:

  • How will enterprises approach automation evolution, by building internal expertise or utilizing external services?
  • How will the different approaches automation vendors are currently following play out – system of record-led versus platform versus best of breed versus packaged solutions?
  • Where will the balance between citizen-led versus centralized automation lie?

Only time will tell how this all plays out.

But in the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them with us at [email protected], [email protected], and  [email protected].

Rise Above the Pandemic With an Automation-First BPO Strategy | Webinar

Only a small percentage of enterprise call-centers use Robotic Process Automation or Intelligent Virtual Agents at scale in the front or back office. Everest Group’s Skand Bhargava join Jacada’s Scott Merritt, Global Head of Automation, to discuss how the current pandemic will change the way organizations will engage with BPO partners. Key learnings you can expect include:

  • How BPO partners can innovate to help solve contact-center pain points
  • How BPOs can leverage automation to drive seamless customer interactions, potentially eliminating the need for live assistance or back-office follow-ups.
  • How Intelligent Virtual Agents can add a layer of intelligence to existing RPA bots, creating a new zone of excellence.
  • How leading BPOs successfully monetize the value they create through intelligent automation.

Who Should Attend

  • Customer Operations, Contact Centers & Customer Service Pros
  • Customer Experience Strategy & Execution Pros
  • COOs, CIOs, CTOs and Digital Transformation Pros
  • BPOs, Vendor Management Pros

When

June 16, 2020; 11:00 AM EST

Presenters

Skand Bhargava

Vice President

Everest Group

 

Scott Merritt

Global Head of Automation

Jacada

 

Microsoft Acquires Softomotive to Accelerate Its Dominance in RPA | Blog

Near the end of 2019, Microsoft added various RPA features to Flow, its automated workflow service, and rebranded it as Power Automate. It wasn’t surprising to see Microsoft getting into this space to embed RPA into its products such as Excel, PPT, Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint, and enable business users to automate tasks directly from these products. Now, with its acquisition of RPA software vendor Softomotive, it’s staking its claim in the US$1 billion RPA software market, accelerating its positioning in the RPA space, and offering greater depth and breadth of RPA capabilities to its customers.

This acquisition has come at a time when the demand for automation is being amplified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and automation at scale is gaining pace. And it positions Microsoft as a serious contender for automation software needs as organizations are rethinking their automation strategies.

Here’s our take on the deal.

What Softomotive brings to Microsoft

Founded in 2005, Softomotive is a leading RPA software vendor with roots in desktop automation. Its popular desktop automation product, WinAutomation, helps automate tasks running on Windows-based applications and technologies. We positioned Softomotive as a Major Contender and a Star Performer in our 2019 RPA Products PEAK Matrix assessment for multiple reasons including:

  • Attended and unattended RPA for organizations of all sizes, through
    • WinAutomation, Softomotive’s desktop automation product, used primarily for attended RPA use cases. Robots are typically installed and executed on a user’s desktop in attended mode. It doesn’t have centralized control, monitoring, or governance capabilities, and is primarily suitable for small and medium-sized businesses
    • ProcessRobot, Softomotive’s enterprise RPA offering, delivers both attended (SideBot) and unattended (SoloBot) RPA capabilities along with centralized control, monitoring, and governance functionalities
    • Robin, Softomotive’s open-source RPA language for programmers. Microsoft’s immense presence and installed base could help make it popular enough in the developer community to force several other vendors to adopt it. And it could become a new standard for RPA programming and help Microsoft establish its thought leadership in the market
  • A comprehensive set of RPA features built over the past 15 years will help Microsoft expand the scope of its automation use cases
    • Drag-and-drop design studio with 300+ pre-built actions for developing automations
    • Web-based centralized interface for controlling and monitoring robots and features such as scheduling, queuing, and dynamic load balancing based on SLAs and priorities
    • Ability to multi-task/execute multiple automations in parallel on the same machine for higher resource utilization
    • Role-based access, version comparison tool, visual exception recording for enhanced debugging, and automation lifecycle management capabilities for higher collaboration across development, testing, and production stages
  • Pre-built connectors and integrations for greater ease of use
    • Softomotive has pre-built connectors with enterprise applications such as Java, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Siebel, and mainframes, and support for major browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and IE, making it easier to automate tasks that involve these applications
    • Pre-built integrations with complementary capabilities such as cognitive/AI services from ABBYY, Google, IBM Watson, and Microsoft
  • An installed base of over 9,000 clients and recognition as a mainstream RPA player

What the acquisition means for the market

This acquisition validates the RPA space and reinforces the point that RPA will stick around for much longer than some have been predicting. It’s a big moment for the RPA market as a whole and could accelerate technology maturity, awareness, adoption, and development of RPA skills. It could drive or accelerate key market trends:

  • Consolidation/M&A activities – RPA is becoming a critical component of the enterprise software ecosystem for driving digital adoption and automation. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen multiple acquisitions such as Appian/Jidoka, Blue Prism/Thoughtonomy, Nintex/Foxtrot, and SAP/Contextor. These deals demonstrate that entry into this space isn’t very expensive, as there are many small RPA vendors with good offerings. This latest deal could encourage acquisition of RPA capabilities by other tech giants, BPM, and ERP companies in the coming months to offer a more holistic solution to their clients. On the flip side, just as UiPath did with its acquisitions of Step Shot and ProcessGold, there could be more instances of big RPA companies acquiring complementary capabilities to expand the scope of their solutions and increase their value propositions
  • Democratization of RPA – Microsoft products are used by most knowledge workers around the world. By making RPA another tool in its list of its Power products, Microsoft could accelerate the democratization of RPA and the concept of citizen developers. Because Microsoft Power Automate is available at much lower than the median pricing, other vendors will feel pressure to reduce their prices. To accelerate its adoption, it could also offer its RPA bundled with other Microsoft products without additional cost, making RPA more affordable and its business case more lucrative for organizations of all sizes. This move could accelerate RPA adoption among small and medium-sized businesses, where adoption has been growing at a relatively slower pace. Access to RPA as a plug-in directly from Microsoft’s products such as Excel, Outlook, Teams, Dynamics, and SharePoint would make it easy for business users to automate repetitive tasks. Instances of RPA being sold as a commodity are gaining momentum, and this could further accelerate that trend

What the acquisition means for other RPA vendors

With Microsoft going all-in on RPA with this acquisition, other RPA vendors will need to up their game to remain competitive. Microsoft will be able to deliver RPA that’s tightly and seamlessly integrated with its vast suite of business applications. To combat this move, other vendors will have to position themselves as specialists and best-of-breed providers of enterprise automation capabilities. Also, going forward, growth may elude pure-play RPA vendors; in order to thrive, they will have to either invest in other complementary areas such as AI and process mining, or be acquired. Note that today, most RPA players, including the big three, are offering complementary products in addition to RPA.

Additionally, Microsoft has deep integration, joint functionality development, and go-to-market partnerships with big RPA vendors including Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and UiPath. These partners also contribute to Microsoft’s revenue through collaborations, such as Azure, and it’s likely that those partnerships will continue, and clients will be given flexibility to choose, as co-opetition it is becoming quite common in the enterprise software space. For example, UiPath acquired a process mining vendor, ProcessGold, but has maintained its partnership with Minit. Similarly, Blue Prism announced an Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) solution called Decipher, but has maintained its partnership with ABBYY.

Other things to watch out for

It will be interesting to see how well Microsoft is able to leverage this investment. It could take the company up to a year to come up with its integrated RPA offering and embed Softomotive at a technical level across its suite of software products. In the meanwhile, Microsoft has made WinAutomation available for free to all of its Power Automate customers. However, it remains to be seen how Microsoft plans to leverage Softomotive’s ProcessRobot and Robin. Some say Microsoft gets it right the third time. Flow was Microsoft’s first attempt at RPA, Power Automate was its second, and Softomotive is its third. So, will the third time be the charm for Microsoft?

Going forward, Microsoft could follow on with more acquisitions in other automation areas such as Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA), process mining, and analytics to further establish itself in the intelligent automation space. An indication of this possibility is Microsoft’s late 2019 launch of Power Virtual Agents, a chatbot/IVA offering that’s based on its Bot Framework. Might IVA be the next area where Microsoft could make an acquisition, perhaps of one of the 16 IVA software vendors we assessed as part of IVA Products PEAK Matrix?

Appian’s Jidoka Acquisition Sets the Scene for the RPA Market in 2020 | Blog

Appian announced its intent to acquire the Spanish vendor Novayre Solutions SL and its Jidoka RPA platform on January 7. With this acquisition, Appian, best known for its low-code process management and orchestration software, will be able to offer extensive automation capabilities natively, while it did so previously with partners’ software such as Blue Prism and UIPath.

So, what does the acquisition mean for the market?

Why the acquisition?

Our estimates show that the RPA third-party software market is expected to grow by 80 percent to reach $2.5 billion this year. With this phenomenal growth rate, it’s not surprising that non-RPA companies want a slice of the pie.

Appian has been active in this market for a while and has benefitted from many new clients thanks to its partnerships with RPA vendors. It is also a reseller for Blue Prism and has experienced growing demand for RPA first-hand through that channel.

In addition, technology giants are increasing their activities in this market. SAP acquired Contextor back in 2018. And most recently, Microsoft announced UI flows to add RPA capabilities to Microsoft Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow). It combines digital process automation (DPA) via APIs with UI-based automation. Pega is another competitor that has also invested in this market; it took over OpenSpan back in 2016.

Why Jidoka, and what about the partners?

We have assessed Jidoka as part of our RPA Technologies PEAK Matrix for a number of years and most recently positioned it as a major contender in our 2019 assessment. Jidoka is a Java-based platform where robots are designed and managed by a web-based console. There is a design studio for workflow and orchestration of robot operations. A console centralizes monitoring, audit, and exception handling features along with secure user permission and authorization capabilities. It has proprietary image recognition technology, Hawk Eye, to support Citrix automation. The platform offers capabilities such as auto-scaling of robots, a secure credentials vault, roles-based access controls, execution logs, audit trail, robot performance analytics, and ROI calculator. It also offers a chatbot capability that is available from the console. Real-time human-robot collaboration is provided via chat interface from the console (and Google Home,) the Jidoka mobile app (voice and chat,) and via IoT devices.

Appian intends to rebrand the product as Appian RPA. It will turn it into a low-code environment and integrate it with its own solutions to be offered on the cloud on a competitively priced subscription basis. While growing in Spain and Latin America, Jidoka has limited presence in other geographies. This is something that Appian can address with its presence in major tech markets.

As for its partnerships, Appian is keen to keep them going and offer clients choices. It remains to be seen how partners such as Blue Prism and UiPath will react to this news. It is not unusual for partners to go for co-opetition. For example, last year Blue Prism announced an Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) solution called Decipher, but has maintained its partnerships in the IDP segment, e.g., with Abbyy.

What does it mean for the market?

We have been expecting M&A activity in this sector to increase with market maturity and as RPA becomes a key tool for process efficiency and productivity. RPA is also commoditizing, and the fact that Appian is acquiring a very small vendor shows that entry into the market is not expensive. The news of this acquisition could encourage other tech companies, particularly those in the process management and orchestration space, to act too. There are many small RPA vendors with good offerings. The big RPA players with their current large valuations could suffer if a wave of acquisitions materialized and bypassed them; but at the same time, they have an awful lot of customers and a huge global footprint among them. Furthermore, private equity investors continue to invest in the market, as evidenced by Automation Anywhere’s last round of funding. This market remains buoyant and dynamic.

With Microsoft getting into the RPA business, all vendors have to up their game to remain competitive.  As for the RPA scale challenge that many enterprises are facing, vendors are working on this with new, improved offerings in the areas of robot management and controls, ease of use, and increased robot resiliency. With its existing and new capabilities, Appian will be well placed to address the scale challenge to make RPA adoption and operations smoother and, in so doing, edge ahead of the competition.

Open Source “Robin”: A Disruptor in the RPA Industry? | Blog

The RPA world just got a bit more exciting with the early release of Robin, a Domain Specific Language (DSL) designed for RPA and offered via an Open Source Software (OSS) route. A brainchild of Marios Stavropoulos, a tech guru and founder and CEO of Softomotive, Robin is set to disrupt the highly platform-specific RPA market. Robin is not the first attempt to democratize RPA, so will it succeed at this feat?

The Robin advantage

RPA democratization isn’t a new concept. Other OSS frameworks, such as Selenium, have been used for RPA. But they weren’t designed for RPA and are best known for software testing automation. And there are other free options such as WorkFusion’s RPA Express, and Automation Anywhere’s and UiPath’s free community licenses. These have certainly lowered the barrier to RPA adoption but come with limits, for example, the number of bots or servers used.

When demonstrating his software environment, Stavropoulos explains that the principles he has applied to Robin are to make RPA agile, accessible, and free from vendor lock-in. This could be very powerful, for example, an RPA DSL could provide more user functionality. Not having to rip out and replace robots when switching to a different RPA software is tremendously appealing. And, availability of OSS RPA is likely to boost innovation as it will make it a lot easier to develop new light programs that simply collect and process data, such as RPA acting as a central data broker for some functions.

What’s in it for Softomotive?

There are four main reasons for an RPA vendor to invest in an open source offering.

First, Softomotive will become the keeper of the code. And while it will not charge for the software, not even other RPA vendors that start to support it, it will charge for Robin support and maintenance should customers wish to pay for those services.

Second, many other OSS vendors grew on the back of this model and got acquired by bigger companies. For example, JasperSoft, the OSS reporting company was acquired by Tibco for US$185 million in 2014, and Hitachi Data Systems acquired Pentaho for a rumored US$500 million in 2015. I’m not at all hinting here that Softomotive is looking to be acquired, but these are compelling numbers.

Third, if Robin is successfully adopted, the user community will contribute to the development of the environment and modules to a community library. There will also be community-led support and issue resolution, and so on.

Finally, Softomotive will still have its own products and will continue to generate revenue based on the solutions it wraps around Robin.

Robin success factors

Of course, while Robin is a great idea, Stavropoulos needs to ensure it is quickly and widely adopted. For it to become the de facto language of RPA, other RPA vendors must support it. And the only way to get them to support it is by forcing their hands with widespread adoption.

There are two ways Stavropoulos can make this happen; via free online delivery and through classroom-based training in key RPA developer hubs such as Bangalore. He is lucky to have a lot of existing users in small- to medium-sized companies. The developers in those companies are likely to try out Robin and give Stavropoulos a flying start.

Getting Robin onto a major OSS framework is also very important.

An RPA DSL on an OSS ticket is an exciting proposition that could significantly disrupt the market. But success depends on adoption and on Stavropoulos playing his cards right.

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