IBM Acquires WDG Automation to Meld AI and RPA
IBM announced this week that it has agreed to acquire WDG Soluções Em Sistemas E Automação De Processos LTDA (WDG Automation), a provider of a Brazil-based Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platform. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Previously, IBM had granted access to RPA tools through an alliance with vendors such as Automation Anywhere. Once the deal is closed, IBM will be able to offer a more integrated RPA alternative that better aligns with IBM’s overall artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, said Mike Gilfix, vice president of cloud integration at IBM.
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IBM will continue to offer third-party RPA platforms in addition to WDG Automation’s RPA software. IBM has enhanced these platforms with digital robot management tools that many existing customers rely on, Gilfix notes. However, these offerings will not be as permeated by AI technologies as the IBM Watson platform, Gilfix says.
For example, IBM plans to integrate WDG Automation RPA with IBM Watson AIOps to detect, diagnose, and respond to IT anomalies in real time. IT organizations should expect AI services available through the IBM Watson AI platform to make recommendations about when to best apply RPA, Gilfix says.
The RPA platform provided by WDG Automation is currently deployed as a set of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. However, IBM also announced that upon completion of the contract, the RPA software will be available as part of a Cloud Pak for Automation portfolio of containerized applications that can be deployed on platforms such as the Kubernetes-based Red Hat OpenShift application development and delivery platform.
IBM Cloud Pak for Automation offers a range of AI-infused automation software and services, including data collection, workflow orchestration, decision management, monitoring, and reporting, to automate a range of business processes. IBM is committed to integrating more than 600 pre-built RPA functions from WDG Automation into Cloud Pak for Automation to help businesses turn RPA and AI insights into automated processes.
According to Gilfix, interest in RPA is generally growing sharply after the COVI-19 pandemic. Given the current economic uncertainty, organizations of all sizes need to automate workflow processes to maximize investment in staff, Gilfix says.
As with all emerging technologies, the most important thing is to focus initial efforts on use cases where time to value is clear and relatively short, adds Gilfix.
“Every great RPA story starts with a quick win,” says Gilfix.
While there has been a lot of hype about AI in recent years, it is arguably RPA platforms that are having the greatest impact on reducing business costs. The challenge and opportunity now is to integrate AI technologies with RPA platforms in a way that takes automation to the next level. That doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs will be eliminated for people. Instead, the tasks that remain to be done won’t be quite as nerve-wracking as many of them are today.