What does it mean for Salesforce to enter the RPA market?

Salesforce’s Servicetrace acquisition will enable it to add new bot capabilities to its existing platforms. But is the move coming too late?

What does it mean for Salesforce to enter the RPA market? - CIO&Leader

Salesforce is the latest to join the list of software vendors who have been expanding their Robotic Process Automation (RPA) muscles through acquisitions to improve performance and re-engineer business processes of its enterprise clients.

The San Francisco-based CRM provider recently announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Servicetrace, a provider of RPA, and will integrate with MuleSoft, an API solution provider that it previously acquired.

“With the addition of Servicetrace, MuleSoft will be able to deliver a leading unified integration, API management, and RPA platform, which will further enrich the Salesforce Customer 360 — empowering organizations to deliver connected experiences from anywhere. The new RPA capabilities will enhance Salesforce’s Einstein Automate solution, enabling end-to-end workflow automation across any system for Service, Sales, Industries, and more,” states Brent Hayward, MuleSoft CEO, in the company’s official blog. 

While the Servicetrace acquisition will undoubtedly help Salesforce drive better experiences for its customers, it would be interesting to see if it has taken the move a little too late?

Catching up with other giants

RPA has been a hot topic in the IT industry for quite some time now. It enables enterprises to automate rule-based, repetitive, and error-prone tasks through software bots. Some of the examples could be filling data in a form, onboarding employees, and online scheduling. By amalgamating RPA with cognitive technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing, enterprises could free up their talent from manual work and leverage their skills to focus on strategic tasks and create new digital experiences for customers.

The competition in the RPA space has been intensifying in recent years, with leading software vendors already foraying into this space. In November last year, Microsoft acquired an RPA vendor, Softomotive, intending to add more to its automation capabilities and combining it with Microsoft Power Automate. The announcement came after IBM’s declaration to acquire WDG Automation to advance AI-Infused Automation Capabilities for Enterprises. There’s also ServiceNow which acquired Intellibot.

Not to forget, in 2018, SAP acquired Contextor SAS, a European firm in the design and integration of RPA to accelerate its Leonardo Machine Learning Portfolio. In addition to this, the action at Google’s end cannot be overlooked. The internet giant has recently announced a strategic alliance with Automation Anywhere to bring the Automation 360 platform to Google Cloud.

In the year ahead, the RPA space is likely to witness more action, with all top software vendors vying to take the lead and build their own RPA platforms. This could make the survival of Independent RPA players such as UIPath, Blueprism, and Automation Anywhere tricky, leaving them an option to collaborate or getting acquired by software majors. 

“Currently, Microsoft is the only player in the Automation field that has done well to accelerate its Automation focus with rapid product innovation, talent and leadership realignment, strategic GTM initiatives, and a captivating narrative for its customers. It is emerging as the market leader and has secured a spot amongst the top 5 platforms in the space. Considering the amount of competition in the Automation field, a new player like Salesforce must have a secure plan in hand and make moves carefully to make a significant dent,” opines Nischay Mittal, Principal & Global Head - Automation/AI, Zinnov in his official blog.

Enterprise interest in RPA is exploding

Before the pandemic, the interest in building RPA capabilities was limited to large enterprises. However, the equation has completely changed due to the acute disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a study by Gartner, Global RPA software revenue is estimated to reach USD 1.89 billion in 2021, from USD 1.58 billion in 2020, an increase of 19.5%. “Despite economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the RPA market is still expected to grow at double-digit rates through 2024. 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022 as they look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labor and manual effort.,” the research firm notes.

In times of remote work, there is a substantial increase in data, making it more challenging for CIOs and CTOs to manage, monitor, and govern workflows manually. To tackle the next wave of disruption, forward-thinking enterprises across the sectors, large or small, need to evaluate the best ways to automate their business processes and increase productivity.

The acquisition routes taken by the top software vendors such as Salesforce and Microsoft have demonstrated that automating internal and web-based applications are high on the agenda for enterprises in the post-COVID world.

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