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IBM Exec: Watson Orchestrate, ‘Digital Employees’ Are Huge Opportunity For Partners

‘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. ... “Automation has been there, but now it is taking it to the next level, which is automating the employee itself, which is the digital labor piece of it,’ Dinesh Nirmal, general manager of IBM Automation, tells CRN.

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During Orchestrate’s preview period, have you seen opportunities for partners?

Let me answer your question in two ways. First one is the opportunity that exists. I mean, there’s a tremendous opportunity for automation. And if you look at IBM’s recent earnings, software automation grew double digits. That’s because of the opportunity that our enterprise customers see from an automation perspective.

A few things are driving it. One is the skills gap. There’s a huge gap of skills that our customers are facing along with the mass resignation and everything else that is going on.

The second is the complexity that comes with the legacy system, the hybrid cloud and everything else that’s going on, the complexity that brings.

The third one that I’ve heard many of the customers talk about is their growth … it’s driven into the double digits, triple digits, they cannot hire people fast enough.

And what do they do? They have to automate or find a way to get a digitization done so they can really grow at the pace that they have to.

And then there’s inflation. You can see that wage inflation is going to be a key player over the next few years. Surrounding all of this, automation has the tailwind because every enterprise wants to automate. So that’s the context. But then you look at Watson Orchestrate.

Watson Orchestrate is all about providing digitization or digital labor or a digital assistant or however you want to call it. So when I look at an employee, there are three core elements to it.

One, the credentials, I call it. Two, the persona. And three, the skills.

So those are the three things any employee has. If I take myself as an employee, I have credentials to log on to certain systems or credentials to do certain things.

I have a persona—who am I within that enterprise? Who am I connected to? Who do I report to? All those things are within the persona.

The third one—the most critical piece—is skills. What skills do I have to really do that job? Watson Orchestrate is focused on those three things.

And how do we take those skills—and skills could be bots, skills could be workflow, skills could be an API call—you take that and not only do you have to just execute it, you’ve got to execute in a sequence.

So you need an AI engine to say, ‘What is the confidence level of this particular skill that these are the skills that need to be executed?’

And not only that this particular skill, which is skill A, needs to be combined with B, C and D and has to be executed in that sequence. So that’s what Watson Orchestrate does. … If I’m an SI [systems integrator] or a GSI [global systems integrator or a VAD [value-added distributor] or a VAR , any of those partners, it’s such a great opportunity to go build those skills.

So if I take HR 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.

But also it goes back to my point where customers cannot hire fast enough to deal with their growth. I mean, look at the telecom orgs. Their 5G growth. How do you deal with that? You look at some of the retailers, their online growth. You cannot hire fast enough. So you are going to want to do digital employees, and I think Watson Orchestrate is perfectly situated for that. … The digitization is happening, and it‘s happening at a very fast pace.

But I think the next phase, you look at bots … what it can do for the future, meaning automating, being able to digitize, that’s the power of it.

But not only taking the bots—being able to sequence those bots with the workflows, with the rules, all those things become very critical for a company or an enterprise to have a digital employee.

And I think that’s where the future is going to be. I think the manpower of today will turn into a digital manpower where I can go say, ‘Look, this week, I need these five skills. Can I get them digitally to go execute what I need to get done?’

And I think there is going to be a path towards digitization of employee and labor.

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