Tag Archives: AI

Is Your Taxonomy Flexible and Multidimensional?

For a taxonomy to be effective, and feed a cognitive engine, it needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based…

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 2 of the series, Anna Madarasz, Analytics & Cognitive Lead , IBM Global Procurement discusses how procurement pros are using taxonomy today, assesses homegrown taxonomy versus industry standards and explains why an effective taxonomy needs to be flexible, multidimensional and situation based.

What is taxonomy?

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM defines taxonomy in his white paper, as follows “Simply put, taxonomy is a hierarchical representation of data, products and services into logical groupings through the application of an alphanumeric scheme of sorts.

“Sometimes, these are industry standards and sometimes, they are locally-devised schemes to meet individual needs. These conventions are useful for purposes of reporting spend or segregating categories into lower-level components.

“However, the world in which we operate is not hierarchical; it is more like a network of many disparate parts of an ecosystem that is constantly interacting and evolving, and that it needs to be intertwined together to drive value

“for a taxonomy to be effective, and to feed a cognitive engine, the taxonomy actually needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based.”

What does this mean?

1. Flexible

“There’s a level of flexibility you have to have, and usually if you do have a homegrown taxonomy, then it is there by nature” explains Anna.

Problems can arise within organisations when there is no global standard and different regions adopt different practices. “Let’s say one of your geographies breaks down their software license spend into accounting software or project management software. Whilst another geography chooses to break down their software spend into whether that software license is delivered electronically or non-electronically.”

Of course, you can’t take much global insight from this. So it is important to enforce some level of standard taxonomy. “But, depending on the industry, depending on the geography, you have to allow a little bit of flexibility.”

2. Multidimensional

There are many dimensions of taxonomy. And, multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.  Sometimes it will be sufficient to have your homegrown taxonomy, other times it might be preferable to have an industry standard such as UNSPSC. If, for example, you want to monitor the price trend of a certain product, then you will definitely need an OEM part number.”

“Multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.”

An OEM part number, for example, clearly defines a certain product or a certain service. If you have a notebook in front of you, and you type the OEM part number into a browser, your search will return exactly the same notebook.

You might however,  want to go down to the component level and ask what characterises that notebook?

“Is it the screen size, it is the memory, and so on, and so on? If you want to look for a comparable product in your catalog then  you need ontology.”

“If your business challenge is to note which supplier is providing a certain model of notebook cheaper then it won’t be enough for you to have an eight-digit UNSPSC code defining the notebook.”

3. Situations-based

In his white paper Marco states “It is not about how you buy, but rather what you buy. I would argue that an appropriate taxonomy is about identifying how you resolve a business problem through products or services.”

“Try to use taxonomy for future transactions. Trying to predict what your prices will be, trying to evaluate whether the quotations, whether the bill of material in front of you is competitive enough. Or use it for risk evaluation. There are endless opportunities, but it really all depends on setting up the proper categories.”

“What you should keep in your mind” advises Anna “is that you have to come up with a powerful combination of these taxonomy characteristics.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here. 

Is Your Procurement Data Fit For Purpose?

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose? Start by putting the why before the what!

Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock.com

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 1 of the series, Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM, talks about the development of data strategy, how to determine if a data source is fit for purpose and understanding the data that you want to see.

“To me the cognitive and analytic strategy really starts with the data strategy” explains Marco, “how we acquire, enrich, store and curate our data. Then it really becomes about what you do to that data to bring business value and actionable insights.

“I’d argue anything’s possible quite honestly, limited only by our imagination and one very important point, which is the quality and quantity of the data that’s available to us.”

The orchestra analogy

So where did the orchestra analogy come from?

“When you sit there at the start of a performance invariably you’re hearing these individual members tuning their instruments – warming up.

“It’s very melodic and you really get to hear the class of the instrument and the performer. But it’s really when the conductor walks on stage and all of those instruments are played together in harmony, that’s when it really becomes incredible.

That’s when the goosebumps come in and you hear the power of the sound.”

So how does this translate into data and insights? “One good piece of data is absolutely valuable and can really help you make better business decisions” says Marco. “But like an orchestra, a collection of this transformed data, properly orchestrated to provide these varied and powerful insights at the right time and in the right format for the intended audience really gives you that competitive advantage and operational efficiency.”

“You really need everyone playing from the same sheet of music, or the same hymn sheet!”

Putting the why before the what!

If the foundation to cognitive strategy is the acquisition of data, what kind of data should we be seeking to acquire? It’s easy to think about it in a one dimensional way, only considering one or two sources of data. But in reality data is coming from multiple sources. So where should we be looking for it?

“I think before you even answer the question of what data is it that you need, you really need to address the question of why you need it” explains Marco.

“What is the business outcome that you’re trying to drive? What is it that you want to achieve by acquiring this data? Then I think you can start to determine what data you need, and how you go about acquiring it and enriching it.

“I’ve seen an awful lot of effort go into acquiring data that never results in a business action. Not because it was bad data but it was just not fit for purpose. I think the importance here is that it is fit for purpose at the time that it’s needed and of course for the intended recipient.”

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose?

What are some of the things that you do to determine if a data source or a potential data source is fit for purpose, before you go down the road of actually trying to acquire and cleanse and build it into your models?

Marco firmly believes that you have to start with establishing what the intended outcome is that you want.

Secondly, “there is a point, which we of course have to consider, and that’s ROI. We can’t afford to throw manual resources off to fully invested activities. Some data is extremely difficult to come by, or extremely difficult to get to the level of quality that we need.

“I think you need to have a clear line of sight, of how these insights are going to allow you to change business course or alter business strategy and effect an outcome. Then you can start to also establish to what degree this data will help you achieve that?”

Ask yourself “how much impact is that data going to have, and in turn you can start to then make sensible decisions about ROI and the type of data that you need.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series starts today! Register here.

Buying Social, Expressing Yourself Online and Other Procurement Challenges…

Does it pay to buy social? Can I build greater trust online? And how do I prepare my team for AI developments? We answer some of the questions and challenges on the minds of procurement leaders…

Olga Savina/Shutterstock.com

The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

How do you evolve your organisation from the mindset of  “we’re not doing anything bad” to actually “doing something good” ?

What happens when people who don’t know what they’re talking about start talking online, what does that mean for society’s leaders?

With the development of RPA and AI, are we all out of a job, and when?!

How should organisations go about developing existing talent to prepare them for leadership roles?

These are just some the questions we answered at last week’s  Procurious CPO London Roundtable, sponsored by BaswareWant to know the answers? Look no further…

The Buy Social Corporate Challenge

Charlie Wigglesworth, Deputy CEO – Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) gave a fascinating insight to the great work social enterprises are doing across the UK.

SEUK was established in 2002 as the national body for social enterprise. Now, with over 1200 members they strive to support social enterprises and develop the evidence base to showcase their benefits, as well as influencing policy and political agendas within UK government.

Social enterprises sit comfortably in between a charity and a private sector company. They have a clear social mission and  look to make profits to further that social mission – they are “businesses which trade for a social purpose.” 

“Businesses and governments can support social enterprise in lots of ways but the best way to do good is to buy from them,” explains Charlie.

They are much more likely to be better represented or minority led or based in the most deprived areas. They are more likely to employ people that wouldn’t have work otherwise had work or give money where people wouldn’t otherwise have had it.

Supporting these companies is good for your business because they are likely to be cheaper, more innovative and doing so gives corporations the opportunity to overlap and integrate CSR with normal business, rather than have it exist as a separate entity.

Buying social doesn’t cost more money or change the procurement process  but it has significant strategic and ongoing value for communities and your business.

Of course, as Charlie admits, it can seem hard to make changes and switch your mentality from “not doing anything bad” to “doing something good”. Charlie’s advice is to “find opportunities locally- they may seem tiny but there can be significant opportunities. Look at where you can do things directly.”

SEUK is working with a number of businesses for The Buy Social Corporate Challenge with the challenge to achieve $1 billion of procurement spend with social enterprises by 2020. Follow their progress here.   

The Conversation Century

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined Youtube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for Youtube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs. A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms or racking  up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in. Youtube ultimately offered them the opportunity to be heard.

Elizabeth is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust. “The people” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out. But the reason so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust is that our leaders are still so far from getting it right! We simply don’t have leaders at a political level that have invested in a voice on social media.

Some key things to remember when trying to start conversations online:

  • Most leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture. You don’t. Go at your own pace but keep people informed as you do it. It’s ok to communicate to people that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
  • Believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do. Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication. If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
  • Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key. EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making. Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

RPA and AI – Are We All Out of A Job?

Where are we at in terms of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) ?  Paul Clayton, Head of New Service Development, Basware outlined the current threats and challenges.

RPA essentially replicates things that aren’t easily automated; the things a human would do. Its skills lie in coding systems and inserting data. The downside to RPA is that there is no intelligence or decision making process, which means it can go very wrong!

There are four levels to AI:

  • Level 1:  This is the simplest form of AI and is quite prevalent today.  It’s reactive and rule-based with no memory or recollection and decides what to do based on a set of rules.
  • Level 2:  Limited, but not long-term, memory with decisions based on recent experience. It will react to data from the things it sees.
  • Level 3:  These are computers that learn and have memory. They  can re-formulate their view on the world so they can make decisions and remember actions. Whilst there are Level 3 computers out there, other than C3P0 (!),  it hasn’t been applied in procurement except in the areas of fraud and risk management.
  • Level 4:  This, fortunately, does not exist…yet! These are machines that are self aware and can form their own view on anything, redevelop their own software and change their behaviour entirely.

Levels 1 and 2 cover most of the repetitive tasks in procurement and finance. Not before long, 90 per cent of the people in this sphere wont be required.

So yes, as Paul admits, the jobs we have today won’t be here tomorrow and people won’t have careers in the way that we currently define “a career”. But the workforce coming in today is used to their environment changing every 30 seconds,  they already expect instantaneous change and they’re able to adapt quickly to something different.

Barclays’ leadership development process

Jonathan Harvey – Global Head of Talent & Culture, Barclays PLC, gave us a high level overview of Barclays leadership development framework and how it compares or contrasts with other leading companies.

When Jonathan joined Barclays two years ago he was tasked with assessing whether Barclays were doing enough to embed a common set of values and to measure their progress in embedding them.

He evaluated how they were developing existing talent in preparation for leadership roles and eventually established a set of criteria for potential leaders at Barclays. This criteria demands they live by Barclays’ values and inspire others to live by them and that they have leadership critical experience such as experience managing more than 1000 people, across different geographies and through different business cycles.

The most successful leaders of organisations will be those who can think the most adaptively and creatively, and that comes down to experience!

Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.

How To Conduct A Cognitive Symphony

If cognitive technology is not normally your forte, let us be of assistance. In one week we’ll have you conducting a cognitive symphony! 

furtseff/Shutterstock.com

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective, scalable and sustainable analytics and cognitive solutions.

Intelligence is the conversion and enrichment of data into meaningful business insights.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be easy to get a pleasant sound from a solo instrument but, if expertly managed, you can avoid falling flat and accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra!

Conducting a Cognitive Symphony

From the 26th February let Procurious and IBM guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony as we present a new five-part podcast series. 

Day One: Building Your Orchestra

Procurement process and acquisition of data need to evolve to meet data needs. How should procurement teams embark on their knowledge journey to Cognitive and analytics transformation?

Day Two: Orchestrating Your Melody

It is not sufficient to know that you are buying software or how you are buying software; you need to know what software you are buying. So how do you implement an effective taxonomy strategy?

Day Three: The Rehearsal Room

Automation is a buzzword of the moment and fast becoming a business necessity. How can procurement professionals achieve a happy balance and effectively implement transaction automation.

Day Four: Getting the brass on Board

How procurement leaders works with their teams to remove barriers will ultimately have a huge influence on the rate and pace of adoption of cognitive and analytics solutions.

Day Five: The Conductor

In a fast-paced and ever-changing environment, some instability and churn is inevitable, which is why all these data instruments need a decent conductor and a single data strategy.

Podcast Speakers

Marco Romano Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM

Marco applies more than 15 years of experience as a procurement practitioner and project manager to understand complex environments that separate the noise from real issues and determine near-term and strategic solutions in realising business value. He leads a team that has saved IBM Procurement a significant amount in third-party costs and efficiencies through analytics data solutions and innovative sourcing strategies over the past three years. His team is also developing commercial analytics and cognitive procurement offerings leveraging data and technology for IBM clients’ competitive advantage.

Anna Madarasz Analytics & Cognitive Lead IBM

Anna has 14 years of procurement experience, out of which 12 is in project leadership. She is a master at change management, and loves working in a complex, cross-functional environment. She is an expert at procurement taxonomy in support of increasing companies’ negotiation power. Anna is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Peter Hrabovski Analytics and Automation Lead, IBM Global Procurement

Peter is the leader of the Analytics and Automation organisation at IBM Global Procurement. He has a masters degree in economics, in the field of business and administration. He has more than 5 years of experience in managing the data analytics and robotics process automation teams in IBM procurement globally. Being a technology and data enthusiast his focus is on applying the latest technologies in solutions being developed. This enables procurement in delivering exceptional value to IBM and its clients.

How does the podcast series work?

This series will run for five days with a daily podcast released from 26th February.  Each morning, we will deliver the new podcast straight to your email inbox.

If you’re a little late signing up to the series, don’t panic! We’ll still be sure to send you all five podcasts so you can listen at your leisure.

How do I access the podcast series?

Simply register for the series via this link and you’re good to go!

From the 26th February we’ll deliver a podcast straight to your doorstep.*

*straight to your email inbox!

Are the podcasts available to everyone?

Anyone and everyone is welcome to sign up and it’s totally, 100 per cent free to do so- simply sign up here and we’ll handle the rest.

From 26th February, Procurious present a new five-part podcast series – Conducting a Cognitive Symphony – sponsored by IBM. Sign up here (it’s free!) to access the series. 

Procurement Process vs. Chat-Bots

What are chat-bots? What can they do? Are they soon to replace all procurement functions?!

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Software Robots (called Bots/Bot) are dramatically disrupting procurement processes involving human interface. They will have a high appeal on the transactional and digital side of procurement processes and will gain growth in the coming years with cognitive and machine learning tools.

The strategic interfaces in procurement planning, strategy, performance management and relationship building will continue to be human-centric (people oriented) but will increasingly rely on the Bots to support them with structured knowledge readily available.

What are “Chat-Bots” and how do they differ from RPA Bots?

A Bot is a software program designed to perform a task which would be done by a human being.

Like any software, these Bots can be programmed to perform almost anything where the workflow can be programmed and information digitalized with the added advantage of the advents in Artificial Intelligence which improves the human-machine interface.

The key difference between a Bot and any standard software is that the Bot generally has the capability of working across a couple of system environments.

With recent advancements in human language translation capabilities (like IBM Watson, Microsoft’s LUIS and equivalent) a lot of software are now capable of interacting with human beings in a seamless “human-like” manner and these Bots are referred to as “chat-bots” (chatting bots).

They usually handle the human front-end interfaces and then interact with the back-end systems to accomplish the task. They are distinctly different from the RPA Bots which are primarily back-end (non-human facing) software that will perform the task based on the system-generated routine as opposed to the chat-bots which are triggered by human interaction.

The chat-bots can then be further classified into

  1. Information chat-bots Provision of information based on the human input. “Speak or Enter flight number” and the chat-bot will provide the flight information. (However, it won’t be able to book the ticket for you!)
  2. Interactive/Smart Chat-bots Ability to perform certain tasks based on customer input. These type of chat-bots can book tickets for you or even resolve defined issues based on rules “explain your problem in a few words and I will try to help you”
  3. Machine Learning chat-bots Self-learning chat-bots which learn from previous interactions and adjust their interactions as time goes on. These chat-bots are still evolving and are going to disrupt the legacy notion of “dumb bots”

Which areas of Procurement are more “Bot-able”?

In a typical Source-to-Pay process the following areas of Source-to-Pay processes are more likely to be linked to Bots with a clear carve-out of the processes which will continue to be human-centric.

What are the Benefits of Bots in Procurement?

The Procurement Bots add a significant value to the business on the following fronts:

  1. Improved Reliability Bots help improve the reliability of the process by taking away the human fallibility and the results are far more reliable.
  2. Reduced Cost-to-Serve Taking away the human tasks also helps reduce of the cost of the transactions especially if done on a large scale for highly repetitive tasks.
  3. Reduction in Cognitive Bias Humans handling any repetitive tasks are always prone to cognitive bias and resulting errors. Bots eliminate the cognitive bias from the workflow (Although they limited by the cognitive bias built into the program itself).
  4. Reduction in cycle time Since Bots work 24×7 and in real time bots have demonstrated a 20%-95% reduction in cycle time associated with tasks/processes.
  5. Resource allocation Resources can be diverted to more strategic aspects of procurement. When the Bots can take away the repetitive tasks away and help assist the procurement professionals they are now more devoted to handling the more strategic/value adding aspects of procurement.

What are the risks of Bots in Procurement?

While the Bots bring about a great deal of value to the organisations they have risks that need to be considered during evaluation and implementation:

  1. Snow-balling of errors created due to Bots The chances of errors created by Bots is heavily reliant on the business rules captured in the software. If not watched closely these un-intended errors can balloon very easily since there is no human being watching these errors.
  2. Loss of Organisation Capability on process knowledge As organizations implement Bots the organizational knowledge on how these processes work erodes and when escalations happen there are very few people who have an end-to-end view of these processes.
  3. Local customisations may not be picked up in Bots While Bots also help standardise the processes by removing the human bias element they also run a double-edged sword of missing out on certain local requirements that might not have been built into the program thus resulting in manual interventions or an inefficient process.
  4. Lack of Human Interface impacts perception/relationships While the Bots are becoming smarter in terms of aping the human interface they are not perfect and they often run into situations where the user gets frustrated at not being able to get across.

How will Bots Transform Procurement function?

Bots will revolutionise how the procurement function is perceived currently through its ability to work/analyse across systems at the speed of thought.

What are the other factors to be considered in the Procurement Bot transformation journey?

Besides the obvious elements of the business case the following considerations need to be factored in during Bot Implementations:

  1. Long term alignment with System architecture design

Even though the Bot implementations are extremely light implementations lasting a few days to a few months – it is imperative that the long-term alignment with system strategy be considered before embarking upon these initiatives

2. Human Org Capability considerations

Consider both existing and future org capability to implement and maintain the Bots. They will require different skill sets and both are equally important to the success of the value from the Bot.

3. Characteristics of the process and the Bot-ability

Strong considerations should be given to the alternatives available. Bot is not a panacea for any process issue and should be treated accordingly.

The Logic of This “New Reality” is that people collaborating with ‘bots’, within a current Procurement Department that possesses effective work-flow processes can be integrated with ‘bot’ utilization.

The myth that Bots will replace Procurement function is a little overstated.  Procurement function will continue to be a human-centric (people oriented) organisation

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

VladisChern/Shutterstock.com

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright. 

Why Procurement Should Give Cognitive Tech A Warm Embrace

When you pushback on the advances of cognitive technology, you’re buying yourself, and procurement, minimial time. Working side by side in a warm embrace is the way to do it! 

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place TODAY at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.  

There’s no question that procurement teams needs to prepare for their own cognitive journeys, to consider what their company’s digital transformation will look like, and then think about how to prepare, or even influence it.

But in doing so, are they also mapping out a talent journey?

The 2017 Deloitte CPO survey interestingly revealed that whilst the vast majority of procurement leaders see the need to train and develop their people, only 31 per cent were planning to focus on training in digital skills in the coming year.

John Viner Smith, Principal, Mercer and speaker on today’s webinar has some thoughts on why this is the case, “I think part of the reason is that there’s no consensus at present as to what the skills people need to acquire are to be ready for this [cogntive] world.  It’s just not clear for the leaders concerned yet.”

Last week we outlined the key soft skills procurement professionals should be developing to prepare for the cognitive age.  But what about the attitude on the ground? Procurement professionals are still wary of the impact cognitive technology will have on the function, which results in a level of pushback and reluctance to accept the changes that are coming.

The warm embrace of cognitive technology

“It may be reasonable to look at the state of technologies today and think ‘No worries, I can’t see anything out there that could do my job’, but that’s not the risk.” John explains. ” The risk is that these technologies, coupled with other disruptors, could make your job obsolete and truly redundant. Imagine being a farrier at the very beginning of the 20th century; if you were thinking ‘Thank goodness they haven’t invented a machine that can shoe horses better than me’, you were kind of missing the point.”

So what is Justin McBryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM ,seeing in terms of pushback within his organisation?

“I don’t know if I would characterise it as a pushback so to speak.

“We see it as a warm embrace across the organisation but a wary embrace as well. As we digitise the organisation and continue to march forward into the cognitive era, certainly the technologies on the horizon are noticed and seen [by our employees.]

“But I say a warm embrace because a lot of the technologies we are building, have built and continue to build need the procurement skills and institutional knowledge that we’ve built over the years including all of our great people. In terms of where we are today and as we’ve been rolling out Watson Supply Chain etc. we see it as more of an embrace.”

Cognitive tech is “not necessarily a replacement of the person, it’s someone sitting next to you and helping you.”

The environment that Justin describes is one of collobaration, with seasoned procurement pros looking to help machines learn and work alongside them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing so with the wary eye of “what’s next?”

But as Justin points out, as procurement teams embrace and integrate these cognitive technologies, they can also be asking themselves “What can I do to begin to point my skill development in the right direction?”

Exploiting the advantages of cognitive technology

There’s a lot of scare mongering out in the field that says that if you’re not a data scientist, you don’t have a future in Procurement.

But we’re reassured by the fact that IBM is working hard on developing its employees’ soft skills and is a strong advocate for how cognitive tech will allow professionals to better perform their roles not seek to replace them.

When it comes down to data scientists versus soft skills experts, Justin believes they’re sequential from each other and likens it to climbing up two different kinds of hills, “We want the majority of our organisation to build up on their soft skills. We’re happy if everyone builds up their analytics skills. We certainly need a solid group up at the top who can drive the innovation and integration of the cognitive tools.

“We need our best and brightest from a data scientist perspective but not all of us need to be there.”

“If we continue down the cognitive path we’re going to have a lot of tools to add to the procurement portfolio. The digitisation of our organisations  free up time for our employees to focus on two big things that are important for procurement:

  1. Getting closer to clients
  2. Creating time and space to innovate on our processes and innovate on the solutions that we’re delivering to our client

“The more we add to the digital cognitive portfolio of tools that procurement pros can use, the more time that is freed up on the innovation and client engagement space, [which is an opportunity for procurement] to exploit the advatages of the cognitive era.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place TODAY at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Does Your Procurement Team Have The Human Touch?

We’ve had quite enough of the scare-mongering out there that says the robots are coming to steal our jobs! We’ve got some inside info that suggests having a human touch in your procurement team is by far the most important thing!

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

We’ve heard it all before, right? Cognitive technology is coming and, in case you hadn’t gathered, it’s a pretty big deal.

By 2020 all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

Given the scare mongering and hype around AI, most procurement professionals have accepted that they must map out their cognitive journeys, hone their skills and prepare for a very different future.

But what does that future look like?  Are procurement teams of the future made up entirely of savvy data scientists? Can you even have a future in procurement if you’re not a data whizz?

Can you beat the bots with the human touch?

Our latest webinar, in partnership with IBM, takes the more optimistic, and realistic, approach that humans can, and will, win the day!

The idea that everyone needs to be a data scientist is a total  fallacy. In reality, only a very small percentage of the workplace actually needs these skills. The rest of the procurement workforce will need to be managing relationships with the supply chain ecosystem.

If cognitive technology like IBM’s Watson can handle the sourcing, the market intelligence and the data, the biggest gap for procurement to worry about is soft skills.

Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day examines how procurement’s role is transforming. We explore why the function needs to develop arelationship with the organisation that is much more strategic, placing it in a partnering and consultative role.

Think you could do with learning more about the importance of soft skills in the cognitive age, and which ones you should be concentrating on within your teams?  Sign up for our webinar on 24th October and check out our FAQs below for all the information you require:

What content can I expect from the webinar?

We’ll be discussing:

  • What cognitive tools are on the horizon?
  • How will the advancement of cognitive technology be an enabler, and not the disabler, of your procurement career?
  • Why  is the most robotically advanced procurement team in the world, focusing on their employees soft skills?
  • How can procurement teams map out their cognitive and talent journeys alongside each other?
  • If soft skills are king, which ones should you be developing?

Who are the guest speakers?

Tania Seary – Founder, Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

John Viner-Smith – Principal, Mercer 

John earned his masters in international procurement from Kedge Business School in Bordeaux in 2003 and went to work at JPMorgan Chase as HR Sourcing Manager for EMEA.

After a couple of years at JPM he moved into consulting with ATKearney, specialising in Procurement work and stayed in Consulting until 2009 (he moved to Deloitte) until moving back into industry with Dixons Stores Group, where he was Senior Category Manager for Marketing and IT.

After that he spent two years as a Principal at KPMG in Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory, where he became involved in work around Robotic Process Automation and Cognitive Computing in Shared Services environments before moving to Mercer to focus on a commercial excellence again.

He writes and lectures in leading business schools on the topic of Commercial Negotiation. John  currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife and two children.

Justin McBryan-  Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager, IBM

Justin has 20 years of Supply Chain experience and currently serves as IBM Procurements Learning & Development and Strategy Leader at IBM.
He has most recently been a Supply Chain Consultant for IBM specialising in logistics and procurement across numerous Industry verticals around the globe, including extended work in China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
Justin’s passion for learning and development stems from his desire to collaborate and scale expertise through large organizations. Justin is a proud graduate of Loyola University-New Orleans and currently resides in New York City with his wife.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar via this platform. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions and we’d love for you to pick their brains . Questions can be submitted throughout the live stream via the webinar platform, or via Twitter when you tag #Beatthebots @procurious_

If you think of a brilliant question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Supercharge Your Intelligence

How can technology improve the savings, scope and speed of your supplier searches by supercharging your intelligence

The event might be over, but you can still  register for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago to access footage  from the event. 

“There’s a tremendous opportunity [for procurement] to leverage technology and data to accelerate processes and bring insight into the organisation.” says Stephany Lapierre, founder and CEO of tealbook.

After 10 years building a successful strategic sourcing consulting firm, Stephany launched tealbook in 2014, a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to enrich supplier master data and accelerates supplier identification and qualification by as much as 90 per cent.

At The Big Ideas Summit last week we interviewed Stephany to learn the results of a recent partnership with The Hackett Group:

What’s the big problem?

We know that procurement processes need to be more agile. Particularly in larger organisations, which are threatened by disruption, the ability to adapt and be more flexible is of paramount importance to ensure survival.

But, as Stephany points out, when it comes to identifying qualified suppliers, agility is not procurement’s strong point…yet!

“By the time a business comes to procurement with supplier requirements, it takes an average of 41 hours of effort to come back with a list of qualified suppliers,” she begins.

“I was with a Fortune 500 CPO recently and asked him one question:

“When the business comes to procurement, what’s the process for getting back to them with a vetted list of qualified suppliers?”

“He spoke for ten minutes, listing all of the internal and external sources used by procurement!

“We have a portal, we use our analysts, third party analysts, we buy market intelligence reports, we use Google, as our stakeholders, and the list went on.

“If it takes 41 hours of efforts (typically taking 5 to 6 weeks), procurement is a bottle neck. You can now make that information available in real time… that changes the conversation. It’s game changing!”

If traditional approaches to decision making are broken, what does that mean for the future of procurement?

The Upside Of Supplier Intelligence

tealbook recently partnered with The Hackett Group to research the cost, effort, and business impact of supplier discovery and qualification. The resulting data became the foundation of a four-city series of executive roundtables focused on exploring and capturing the strategic impact of having access to actionable supplier intelligence to meet the demand of the business that requires speed, agility and innovation.

Over the course of those four evenings, The Hackett Group data came alive through the diverse perspectives of over 40 procurement thought leaders. Their combined insights are now available in a new white paper, The Upside of Accessible Supplier Intelligence, which was launched at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in Chicago.

The paper addresses the transformative potential of supplier intelligence based on the themes we heard loud and clear from our executive participants, as well as discussion around the following points:

  • 15% of the sourcing process is spent identifying and qualifying suppliers.
  • It takes an average of 41 hours of effort per sourcing event, which translates into 23,165 hours for the average enterprise.
  • Over 60 percent of supplier discovery & qualification efforts are handled by strategic resources (category managers and senior category managers).
  • Applying machine learning and peer-driven intelligence to this challenge creates a strategic opportunity to accelerate and improve this process while increasing procurement’s total impact on the top and bottom line.

Procurement: The Guardian of Enterprise?

Procurement must find a way to reduce tactical work and reassign hours to strategic opportunities which will allow procurement to deliver better savings while aligning with the speed and expectations of the rest of the business.

Having instant access to trusted, actionable intelligence will therefore be a mandatory piece of the procurement technology landscape in market leading companies.

As Phil Ideson (Art of Procurement), the moderator for all four cities, stated in one of the roundtables,

“…Procurement is a function ripe for disruption. We have to be careful not to disrupt ourselves by being rooted on our traditional ways.”

Download the full tealbook white paper here.

Want to see more from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action including video interviews with our speakers and attendees.