It may seem that the AI reduces human labour and eliminates the need for manual intervention, however in order to fully exploit the AI functionalities, human skills are a must. Here’s how the rise of AI could be lucrative for procurement professionals…
With the advent of transforming technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, the landscape of businesses has seen a tremendous change in the last couple of years.
In fact, some of the industry giants are already enjoying the many benefits of AI.
Amazon has been using transactional AI for quite some time now. It has been using predictive analysis for understanding a customer’s purchase behaviour. Tesla cars and their self-driving features, is yet another example of AI being utilised for enhancing the user experience. Another powerful example of AI being used for human interaction is the technology used by Cogito. It uses behavioural adaptation and emotional intelligence for customer support.
According to a recent research study by Ivalua, a leading spend management cloud provider, about 55 per cent of the organisations are about to make a significant investment in AI in the coming two years. If we go on consulting industry trends, these figures clearly point out that AI has already started paving its way towards all the major industries including supply chain management and procurement.
Why is AI essential for procurement?
Procurement workers spend a large chunk of their time binding together fragmented information coming from myriad transactions, something that technology can easily take care of within a fraction of a second. Repetitive, labour-intensive transactions, cost negotiations, supplier performance monitoring etc. add further to the woes.
So how exactly has artificial intelligence strengthened the functioning of various tasks in procurement organisations? Let us find out:
- Automation for Repetitive Tasks: One of the trickiest parts in the procurement process is the number of repetitive tasks that consume a substantial amount of time and energy. AI technologies like machine learning, cognitive learning and robotic process automation not only make these iterative tasks faster but also more economical.
- Efficient Strategic Sourcing: With a robust machine learning technology, the data acquisition, cleansing & classifying of data and spend analysis become extremely efficient. It is even possible to analyse the spend patterns using real-time classification technology.
- Improving Engagement with Bots & Virtual Employee Assistant Chatbots a.k.a conversational interface is capable of incorporating both written messages as well as voice messages that can emulate chatting with a real person. Because of their recall abilities, they can even identify the users they’ve talked with before, thus improving the engagement. The voice assistant technology, on the other hand, is changing the way the user experiences the procurement process altogether.
- Handling Supply Management: Through AI, it has become possible to tell the overhead cost by gauging the stocks beforehand. This means that the AI technology intelligently balances the supply and demand by optimising the goods delivery. All this can be done by merely defining the action parameters through machine learning.
- Taking Care of Risk Management: AI also helps the enterprises to manage risks related to sourcing from suppliers during procurement. Supplier selection is made more predictive and intelligible. It is also capable of integrating the external data and financial risk scores to chalk out the potential threats.
Investment Required for AI in Procurement
The efficacy of AI in procurement is undebatable. However, setting up AI for procurement comes at a cost. The complex technologies that AI envelopes require application by trained professionals. Here are some of the technologies that come under the purview of AI in procurement:
- Machine Learning (ML)– This is the most sought-after and most investment consuming technology for organisations today. This consists of APIs (Application Program Interface), development tools and algorithms. ML constantly keeps evolving and improving itself using a given data.
- Deep Learning– It is actually a type of machine learning. It mimics the human brain in the sense that it observes a large amount of data and learns from it. The learning thus comes here from observing patterns in the given data.
- NLP– It is a software that helps machines to understand human language and interact accordingly. It is capable of understanding the structure of the sentence, intent and meaning.
- Virtual Agents– They are the computer programs that are capable of having meaningful conversations with humans. Alexa, Cortana, Siri are some of the popular virtual agents.
- Decision Management– Decision Management architecture includes systems that can make information-driven automated decisions.
Investing in Human Skills
It may seem that the AI reduces human labour and eliminates the need for manual intervention, however in order to fully exploit the AI functionalities, human skills are a must. Procurement organizations cannot overlook the need for hiring dedicated professionals who master data science and have logical skills for using AI technology appropriately.
Despite the rapidly growing need of AI in major industries, the demand for data scientists and data engineers are not meeting the supply. As a result, the rise in the salary structure for these professionals stands inevitable. A recent survey of 50 best jobs in the USA by Glassdoor ranked data scientists at number one with a median salary of about $110, 000.
This also means that procurement organizations that are looking to get a stronghold in the industry with AI-driven technologies will have to loosen their pockets to get the best team on board.
Time is Money
The transformational footprint of AI on procurement and supply chain operations today has made it the most coveted technology. What the organisations fail to realise is, they are unknowingly shedding big bucks in the guise of time when they are manually performing the procurement functions.
Smart procurement can positively trigger efficient decision making, reduce human errors and save your precious time. This time can then be utilised in taking more strategic initiatives such as building influence within the organisation, improving relationships with suppliers, focusing on innovation, upskilling teams etc.
These initiatives will ultimately give you a bigger ROI and also an edge over your competitors. So if you consider the eagle’s eye view, investing in AI at this point in time is like securing your place as the world rides the digital transformation wave.
This article was written by Ethan Scott