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Salesforce automation strategy sharpens with acquisition

The CX giant plans to fold RPA technology from an acquisition into some of its platforms. The move comes after Microsoft and other big tech firms bought RPA vendors.

Salesforce is the latest big software vendor to invest in robotic process automation technology with plans to acquire RPA vendor Servicetrace.

The CX software giant did not disclose the price of the transaction, which was made public Aug. 2. The deal, expected to close in the third quarter, will allow Salesforce to add more automation capabilities to Customer 360 and Einstein platforms.

Salesforce's first foray into robotic process automation follows a major RPA acquisition by competitor Microsoft in May 2020 and remedies a weakness for Salesforce, which has lacked advanced automation capabilities, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder and principal analyst at Deep Analysis.

Servicetrace is a good fit for Salesforce, as their applications by default involve users undertaking a lot of repetitive tasks, and developers that build on the Salesforce platform often use third-party RPA tools.
Alan Pelz-SharpeFounder and principal analyst, Deep Analysis

"Servicetrace is a good fit for Salesforce, as their applications by default involve users undertaking a lot of repetitive tasks, and developers that build on the Salesforce platform often use third-party RPA tools," Pelz-Sharpe said. "Salesforce will be in a position to bundle this into their platform and most likely also offer it at a very low cost."

RPA technology automates repetitive office tasks such as claims processing, part of the sales process and some financial transactions. With advances in artificial intelligence, RPA has increasingly become capable of handling more complex operations.

Founded in 2004 before the advent of modern robotic process automation systems, Servicetrace has often been packaged in recent years by systems integrators as part of turnkey RPA systems.

Salesforce said it will fold Servicetrace and its technology into MuleSoft, Salesforce's tech integration unit.

Salesforce said Servicetrace's technology will enhance Einstein Automate, a workflow automation system it introduced in December 2020, as well as boost customer and identity platform Customer 360's ability to unify and connect data with APIs across sales, service, marketing and vertical industries.

With Servicetrace, Salesforce can also make strides toward catching up with Microsoft, which, with its purchase of low-code RPA vendor Softomotive, has been able to bundle RPA capabilities at extremely low-cost with its larger enterprise applications.

"The RPA market is still white hot, but it's changing its face rapidly from the customers perspective," Pelz-Sharpe said. "RPA tools are not really solutions in and of themselves -- they are just a part of the bigger automation puzzle."

RPA software will see double-digit growth this year, amid an international market at some $1.5 billion, Gartner forecasted last year.

IBM acquired process mining specialist MyInvenio in April and ServiceNow bought RPA vendor Intellibot in March. Also in March, Google entered into an RPA joint development agreement with Automation Anywhere, which is seen as one of the top independent RPA vendors along with UiPath and Blue Prism. Hyland Software acquired RPA developer Another Monday in August 2020.

Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller said she views the acquisition as part of Salesforce's larger strategy.

"I don’t think we can look at this pickup in a bubble of just what RPA and Servicetrace will bring to Mulesoft," Miller said. "Instead, I think we need to look at the bigger picture that Salesforce seems to be pointed at -- being the underlying business operating system."

And while Salesforce's pick of a relatively low-profile RPA vendor may be somewhat unexpected, Servicetrace's specialties in service-based software testing and application performance technology could help Salesforce with delivery partners, said Jason English, an analyst at Intellyx.

"It’s not surprising at all that Salesforce is continuing to make moves in shoring up its automation capabilities, given the suite of process integration tools it has already assembled," he said.

 

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