IBM will expand access to its upcoming artificial intelligence-powered automation offering, Watson Orchestrate, beyond preview on June 30 with some partners already exploring the possibilities of incorporating the digital assistant technology in their business.
IBM will start inviting clients to use the Watson Orchestrate on June 30, but the software won’t be generally available just yet, according to the company.
Dinesh Nirmal, general manager of IBM Automation, told CRN in an interview that Watson Orchestrate and digital employees are an opportunity for the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant’s partners because employers will continue to struggle not only to find highly skilled employees, but to pay them as well, resulting in a need to automate complex IT skills around cloud computing and 5G.
“I would say partners play the biggest role in Watson Orchestrate because they are the folks who can really multiply the impact of Watson Orchestrate across enterprises or small businesses or individuals,” Nirmal said.
Watson Orchestrate works by automating emails, scheduling meetings, procuring approvals and other standard business processes, according to IBM. It connects with Salesforce, SAP, Workday and other business applications.
The tool has already turned some industry heads, including nabbing a 2022 CES Innovation Award Honoree designation. Watson Orchestrate users are able to assign work to the system using natural language capabilities. Orchestrate then uses an AI engine to combine skills on the fly and in context based on prior interactions.
Angela Hood, CEO and founder of Austin, Texas-based IBM partner ThisWay Global, told CRN in an interview that her company uses IBM automation software to integrate the company’s human resources recruitment technology into customers’ existing environments.
ThisWay, which offers a recruitment process automation platform called AI4Jobs that aims to remove biases from job candidate recruiting, has grown its IBM partnership since 2019. The company also partners with Google, Amazon Web Services and Salesforce, Hood said.
IBM’s automation technology will help with employee morale by getting rid of mundane, cumbersome tasks that they repeat day to day, Hood said. She imagines employees will say, “I love this part of my job. I love this other part. But this third part I really hate about my job – oh, but I could just get my digital assistant to go do that? I‘m not going to leave this company because I have a digital assistant that’s enabling me to do this job.”
Hood continued: “I think that‘s the part that got missed in the conversation about AI. There is this whole argument of, ‘is AI going to replace people?’ Nope. But if you’re a person that does not use technology to do a better job and to stay with the company, you might just get replaced by a person that does.”
While Watson Orchestrate will have plenty of use cases with the largest enterprises, Nirmal believes that smaller businesses can also benefit from an advanced digital assistant such as Watson Orchestrate to help them modernize IT operations, no matter the industry they serve in.
If “I‘m a mom-and-pop shop, I want to have a digital assistant to do all the mundane tasks that I do but I don’t have the resources to go hire someone,” he said. “How wonderful it would be for me to have as a printing shop or a bagel shop to be able to use what an enterprise has the capability and the resources to go do it.”
He continued: “If I take HR (human resources) as a discipline or finance as a discipline, how do I build those skills and then use Watson Orchestrate to really orchestrate, sequence and deliver those skills so that I can really create a digital employee for your enterprise? I think that‘s where the future is going to be. It’s all going to be digitization of the labor force. And that doesn‘t mean that we are going to eliminate the employees. We are going to augment [them] so they can go do high-value tasks.”
IBM is hardly alone in exploring new ways for automation to improve work. In March, Chicago-based Microsoft and AWS partner Asperitas Consulting made its proprietary application modernization accelerator framework available for large and mid-market businesses to speed up cloud infrastructure adoption.
That same month, ServiceNow released the first of its two major biannual upgrades of its Now platform featuring a significantly enhanced graphical user interface for improved productivity as well as new robotic process automation capabilities.