Contact: William Fellows
Accenture is looking to stay ahead of a sudden surge of robotic process automation (RPA) offerings from consultants, outsourcers and software vendors. The company has acquired Genfour, a Wales-based RPA services provider, to tackle the most immediate opportunity for machine learning in IT services.
Many IT services providers were quick to jump on the artificial intelligence (AI) bandwagon and most have scaled that back a bit, recognizing that low-level process automation is a more immediate opportunity than large transformative AI projects. RPA typically involves using software to replace repetitive human tasks like processing forms or entering data. As we’ve discussed in other reports, although digital transformation projects get much of the attention from IT services firms, narrower automation projects are a much easier sell and more urgent for those services companies that have historically relied on overseas labor arbitrage to drive their businesses.
Founded in 2012 with a focus on the finance and utilities sectors, Genfour is one of a handful of RPA specialists. Others include services shop AutomateWork, software vendor Blue Prism, RPAi, Lateetud and Symphony Ventures. The need for RPA products has begun to trickle into M&A moves. It was part of the rationale behind CSC’s $720m acquisition of Xchanging 18 months ago, and business process management software provider Pegasystems spent $52.3m last April to purchase OpenSpan for its RPA capabilities.
Genfour marks Accenture’s third machine-learning acquisition in the past 12 months. Accenture is an outlier in that respect. Aside from IBM, most other IT services companies haven’t expanded their machine-learning offerings through M&A. Yet, with the push toward automation and an expected overall increase in machine-learning deal flow, we could see more consolidation. In 451 Research’s Tech Banking Outlook Survey, a full 82% of respondents projected an increase in deal flow in that category in 2017.
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