Marlin bets big on Abbyy’s digital intelligence initiatives

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Abbyy, a provider of document conversion and data capture software and a player in the intelligent process automation (IPA) market, just announced a significant investment by investment firm Marlin Equity Partners. This places Marlin as the largest shareholder, and could also help drive continued expansion in a growing IPA market.

“With Marlin, we get a committed growth partner who will ask hard questions and push us as we push ourselves towards customer excellence, innovation, and growth,” Ulf Persson, CEO at Abbyy, told VentureBeat. This investment and partnership will allow the company to accelerate investments it may make, including strategic add-on acquisitions, he indicated.

Marlin has over $7.5 billion invested in over 180 companies, and Abbyy will be one of its largest investments. The partnership could also help Abbyy leverage a wide network of Marlin partners.

This backing could fuel Abbyy’s efforts to become a leading vendor in the digital intelligence space. This market is evolving from several established fields, which include tools for intelligent document processing, process discovery, and process intelligence.

Digital intelligence is expected to enable customers to identify automation opportunities, rapidly implement them, and measure the results of these efforts.

Pivoting from documents to processes

This Marlin partnership is a major milestone in Abbyy’s pivot from a document-oriented, product-centric vendor to a major player in the larger market around IPA tools. When Persson took the helm in 2017, the company became known as “The OCR Company.”

“It soon became apparent that our core strengths in OCR and document understanding would become key requirements in the burgeoning markets for intelligent automation and digital transformation,” Persson said. This dramatically expanded the company’s total addressable market.

But the company also had to repurpose its core technology and product know-how to better fit this larger opportunity, Persson said. The company needed to take a cloud-first approach and provide connectivity across the various aspects of IPA. IDC estimates the global IPA market will reach $30.5 billion in 2024. IPA is a diverse market area that includes multiple capabilities around capturing process data, automating them, and then measuring the results.

This includes robotic process automation (RPA), enterprise content management (ECM), enterprise resources planning (ERP), and business process management (BPM).

Bringing intelligence to automation

“Despite being an important enabler of intelligent process automation, we didn’t know much about the processes themselves,” Persson admitted. To fill the gap, Abbyy in 2019 acquired TimelinePI, a leading process mining solution. Further, the company reorganized from a highly independent regional structure into a more consolidated global team.

According to Persson, the first step in any scalable automation initiative is figuring out what to automate by identifying what the company is already doing. That is accomplished using process mining and process analytics tools.

The second step involves automating these processes with tools like robotic process automation (RPA) or low-code development platforms.

In the third step, process analytics can help assess the actual performance and savings of these automations.

What Abbyy is calling digital intelligence combines elements of all these capabilities to improve the development of new automations. Content intelligence helps unlock the data from documents or other content to feed the automation process with valuable context. Process intelligence helps in mapping, analyzing, understanding, and monitoring processes.

As it evolves, the IPA space consists of different segments and vendors that are both cooperating and competing for different components. As a result, “the lines between these segments are blurred and will continue to be so,” Persson said.

Abbyy has set the goal to focus on providing a platform- and vendor-agnostic provision of digital intelligence, which is why it is partnering with many different vendors.

“We believe this is of tremendous value to the customers who may have two to three or more different platforms that either overlap or serve different needs in their automation strategy,” Persson said.


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