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ServiceNow enters RPA market with Intellibot acquisition

Taking its cue from corporate users focused on both low- code and automation, ServiceNow has acquired Intellibot for its robotic process automation (RPA) products.

ServiceNow continues its buying spree of AI companies, this time with robotic process automation provider Intellibot.

The primary use of Intellibot's RPA technology will be to help users automate repetitive tasks. Because it will be built into the ServiceNow platform, users will be able to integrate both modern and legacy systems, enriching existing AI and machine learning tools from ServiceNow and third parties.

Explaining ServiceNow's decision to enter into the RPA market now, Josh Kahn, senior vice president of creator workflow products at ServiceNow, said the company has worked closely with large organizations building platforms for digital transformation. Increasingly, these organizations build teams specifically dedicated to creating applications for use with RPA.

Josh Kahn, ServiceNow senior vice president of creator workflow productsJosh Kahn

"It's common now to see a team called 'the automation team' bringing low-code platforms and RPA together," Kahn said. "We have worked well in the past with pure-play RPA vendors, but many customers tell us they want one platform that brings them low code, virtual agents, machine learning and RPA in one package."

One analyst believes stepping into the RPA market is logical given the last four or five AI-based acquisitions ServiceNow has made.

"When you think about Element AI and the other AI deals, [Intellibot] is a nice extension. They needed a certain type of robotic process automation capability, given their existing workflow automation and analytic model," said Stephen Elliot, a vice president at IDC's management software and DevOps practice. "And it fits with their no-code/low-code approach."

With this acquisition, ServiceNow is trying to establish competitive advantages beyond just integrating the disparate pieces that make up the core of the ServiceNow platform. They are also adding a number of capabilities that can compete on their own, such as analytics.

"In essence, they are trying to turn their platform from a set of disparate seeds with AI capabilities into a set of oak trees that can grow on their own and so drive more value to users," he said.

It's common now to see a team [in user organizations] called 'the automation team' bringing low-code platforms and RPA together.
Josh KahnSenior vice president, ServiceNow

Asked if ServiceNow will consider selling the Intellibot offerings as standalone products, Kahn said the company's intent is to make them an integral part of the ServiceNow platform rather than make attempts to be an RPA pure-play. The company can gain greater competitive leverage in building an integrated platform. He added that ServiceNow's internal RPA team will work hand in hand with India-based Intellibot's developers to deliver joint products.

"In cases where our customers have a bunch of processes that have automated [by another vendor], we can deliver the ServiceNow platform and call on those bots like we do any other external system," Kahn said. "This way, the Intellibot team will think less about their legacy competitors and start to think more about the solutions we are building together."

The timing of the Intellibot acquisition could prove fortuitous given the features in the latest ServiceNow platform released last week, called Quebec. That offering specifically targets corporate users looking to use low-code offerings to more quickly complete digital transformation projects. Intellibot will complement some of the features in Quebec by extending ServiceNow's existing AI and machine learning, virtual agent and low-code development capabilities, according to the company.

ServiceNow also plans to build two new data centers in India, scheduled for completion sometime in the first quarter of 2022. The new centers will become part of ServiceNow's high-availability architecture and will support the scalability of the company's cloud services business. The company said it expects to double the size of its staff in India over the next two to three years.

The acquisition of Intellibot is expected to close in Q2 2021. Financial terms were not disclosed.

As editor at large with TechTarget's News Group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals. He has also worked for 26 years at Infoworld and Computerworld covering enterprise class products and technologies from larger IT companies, including IBM and Microsoft, as well as serving as editor of Redmond for three years overseeing that magazine's editorial content.

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