Why on earth would IBM buy an RPA firm now?


UiPath’s “Chief Evangelist” Guy Kirkwood (who once famously proclaimed “AI is bollocks“) has predicted that new IBM CEO Arvind Krishna will soon turn to RPA and make an acquisition

Of course! Ginni was driven out because she failed to get the Blue Prism deal over the line, and Arvind is now in the hotseat to make damned sure they don’t miss out on UiPath…

Of course!  All this “hypercloud” nonsense and the $34bn of loose change they dropped on Red Hat was just a diversion from their real intention… to make IBM the Big Blue RPA monster!

In all seriousness, we were speculating about IBM and Blue Prism during RPA’s infancy in 2016 (see blog)… and while it made sense back then (and at a far cheaper price tag), it sure doesn’t make any sense now. SAP, Microsoft, Pega, IPSoft and Appian have all made modeinvestments to have their own RPA capability, and all of them chose either very small scale acquisitions or developed it themselves (in Microsoft’s case).  I also fully expect Salesforce and Oracle to tick the RPA box at some stage, but it is highly unlikely to be with one of the big three with a nine-figure price tag.

Now there is a small chance I could be wrong and IBM has suddenly decided to take the plunge several years too late, but it really makes no sense at this point. 

Posted in : IT Outsourcing / IT Services, Robotic Process Automation



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  1. No one would have predicted Atos paying 3.4 billion for Syntel, isn’t it? Or TP paying for Intelenet. The truth is the game has moved forward much deeper than is obvious. IBM ticks the boxes on almost everything a client needs from a digital transformation perspective (AI, cloud, business services, infrastructure etc) but Watson cannot be applied everywhere. The economics don’t work for one and it doesn’t make sense to use a tank for killing an ant. In comes RPA with a much faster deployment and a lower cost compared to AI.

    It’s important to cast the net a bit wider in the entire value chain than purely looking at cost or the RPA value. Look at LSE taking Refinitiv, Google acquiring Looker or VMWare taking Pivotal. The bigger game is that the complete transformation is being driven from the cloud and huge petabytes of data being analyzed for insights. It’s more than just shifting enterprise workloads. It’s about not leaving revenue on the table. And about looking at activities that are impacting the income over expense section of the balance sheet. The latest one of Lloyds working with Microsoft for digital transformation is a good example. There is tons of activity that can leverage RPA over AI in this journey and an acquisition will fill this lacuna – high cost be damned compared to the deal sizes. The silo approach by a lot of global service providers is not finding much love out there and it will take a behemoth to own the complete stack. So there could be more than a grain of truth in Guy’s prediction.

  2. The blended effect of IBM DBA – Digital Business Automation and UI Path RPA – Robotic Process Automation Tool would bring Minimum 5 Trillion $ Global Business within 3 years time frame. Business Verticals include: Oil & GAS, Construction, Food Processing, Retail, Banking & Finance, Manufacturing, Health-Care, Shipping & Transportation, Aerospace and Defense.

    Knowledge Ramp-up Program on Emerging Technologies: IoT, AI and RPA are mandatory for Corporate driven Learning Solution to meet their business expectations.

    IBM has to design the Project Implementation Methodology, Business Solution Documents (Red Books) for suitable Target Audiences.

  3. Yes, Everything (AI / RPA / Analytics / LCNC) comes hand in hand for a digital transformation with optimal investment for better RoI & better customer experience. And customer wants one single solution provider to understand their business challenge and leverage whatever it takes to address it. As technology is the lynchpin here, RPA will be the foundation for advanced analytics / AI. As deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do, the actionable insights that the combined solutions gives is very critical to any company in leading the market space & have a edge over the competition. As every footprint of the bots are stored in the digital space, acquiring an RPA market space, it’s easy to upsell the AI solution with the amount of high amount of data available to churn.

  4. Nobody will acquire UIpath for sure, mainly for its over projection and unrealistic pricing evaluation, in the mean while IBM can build itself a much more powerful tool them UIpath in just few months. sometimes mergers and acquisitions wont add value to the companies. From past one year IBM Stock price is struggling to grow, at this time acquisition is not the right move.

  5. I’m not sure that IBM will want to buy UiPath which, right now is pomped up and overpriced. My feeling is that they want the technology rather than the customers.
    And right now uipath is overpriced mostly because of their market share from Japan /Asia and their potential to grow.

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