Microsoft acquires Clear Software to strengthen process automation offerings

Enterprise

Microsoft today announced that it acquired Clear Software, a Zionsville, Indiana-based startup developing enterprise software automation technologies. In a blog post, Microsoft partner general manager Stephen Siciliano said that Clear’s solutions will “make it a more seamless experience” to use Microsoft’s Power Apps and Power Automate platforms to build automations for systems such as SAP and Oracle.

“Organizations depend on their business applications to work seamlessly across many different systems and data stores. Customers need to know that their most critical business processes are built to optimize working across those systems and data sets, no matter how complex the process becomes,” Siciliano said. “Customers will benefit from stronger Power Platform integration with outside systems.”

Clear, which was founded in 2015 by Jonathan Gilman, provides an integration platform-as-a-service (IPaaS) and business process products with connectivity into SAP and Oracle. Clear’s services support the development of integration flows connecting cloud-based processes, services, apps, and data with around 100 prebuilt abstractions that can be customized to support organizations’ needs.

Prior to the acquisition, Clear raised $5.5 million from investors including Collina Ventures and MK Capital.

“Clear’s API access and system knowledge will strengthen Power Platform’s integration with outside systems and accelerate how customers leverage data and processes that reside beyond Microsoft first-party services,” Siciliano continued. “We want to make it easier for customers to integrate a variety of systems when they build business applications with Power Platform … We will share more with customers about how to access the new capabilities in the future.”

Process automation growth

Intelligent process automation and robotic process automation (RPA) — technology that automates monotonous, repetitive chores traditionally performed by human workers — is big business. Forrester estimates that intelligent process automation and other AI subfields created jobs for 40% of companies in 2019 and that a tenth of startups now employ more digital workers than human ones. According to a McKinsey survey, at least a third of activities could be automated in about 60% of occupations. And in its recent Trends in Workflow Automation report, Salesforce found that 95% of IT leaders are prioritizing workflow automation, with 70% seeing the equivalent of more than four hours of savings per employee each week.

Microsoft has invested heavily in the process automation segment with the release of Microsoft Process Advisor, which extended the reach of Power Automate into the broader “hyper-automation” market. In March, Microsoft brought RPA to Windows 10 with several new Power Platform products, following on the heels of the company’s acquisition of RPA startup Softomotive.

The number of industries process automation touches continues to grow, with a Deloitte report predicting the technology will achieve “near-universal adoption” within five years. According to the same report, 78% of organizations that have already implemented RPA — which see an average payback period of around 9 to 12 months — expect to “significantly” increase their investment in the technology over the next three years. And Gartner estimates that organizations can lower operational costs 30% by combining automation technologies like RPA with redesigned operational processes by 2024.

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