Tag Archives: cognitive technology

Smarter relationship management with ClientLoyalty

Procurious caught up with Kent Barnett, Chairman and CEO of ClientLoyalty at ISM2016, Indianapolis USA.


CPOs worldwide recognise the need to keep track of supplier relationships to reduce costs, minimise risk, and uncover opportunities to grow their businesses. Voice of the supplier surveys are common, yet the technology employed is often archaic. Typically, stand-alone web-based surveys are sent out, with the results downloaded into spreadsheets and painstakingly interpreted by analysts. Subsequent surveys are often not linked to the ones that have gone before, and even if they are, it’s left to human analysts to make intelligent connections and interpret the trends.

“This is the gap we discovered in the business services space”, says Kent Barnett, CEO of ClientLoyalty. “Organisations rarely use data to manage the voice of the supplier process, and hence miss out on an enormous opportunity to employ a continuous improvement methodology. They also fail to put that data to work by translating the information into meaningful action.”

The potential impacts of failed business relationships are huge. For buyers, it means wasted time and painful switching costs, while for suppliers, it means churn. In Barnett’s words, “a revolving door is never good for business”. That’s why ClientLoyalty’s founders saw a need to create a supplier performance management system that would build long-term, meaningful relationships between buyers and suppliers.

How ClientLoyalty works

The easy-to-use system is built to optimise relationships through transparency. Users can input operational metrics (KPIs), which are reported using a simple green, yellow and red approach. The system gathers direct feedback and social sentiment, using in-built algorithms to scan the web and track suppliers’ reputation ratings.

The data is delivered in the form of alerts (risk flags), dashboards, and report-out tools. “We call it a data-driven solution”, says Barnett. “The system uses NPS (Net Promoter Score) and the AI generates recommendations on how to reduce detractors and raise your score. Six Sigma is another important part of our measurement methodology – it’s all about smarter relationship management.” All data is benchmarked across ClientLoyalty’s growing client base, showing the low end, high end, and where your supplier falls.

The artificial intelligence kicks in with recommendations on how to improve performance, and is one of the most valuable aspects of ClientLoyalty’s system. This aspect addresses the major gap and frustration many CPOs have with voice of the supplier surveys – there’s really no point in gathering data on relationship strength if you are not going to do anything with that information. ClientLoyalty’s automatically generated recommendations provide a factual base to create a targeted action plan that will improve supplier relationships and save you money.

The results

“We’re creating a business culture that’s based around accountable performance, one company at a time”, says Barnett. “The key is having clear and transparent communications, with the ultimate goal of turning business relationships into business partnerships.”

ClientLoyalty is software that optimises relationships between B2B buyers and suppliers, helping organisations continuously improve by analysing direct feedback, social sentiment and operational data to create stronger bonds of loyalty. If your organization is a buyer of goods and services and needs to manage critical supplier relationships, or a supplier of goods and services and needs to manage strategic client relationships, ClientLoyalty can help you connect with your business partners using data-driven management tools.

Is Any Profession Safe From AI Disruption?

Would you trust an “artificially intelligent colleague” to solve your legal disputes? It may be closer than you think as AI and cognitive technology advances prove no industry is safe from disruption.


At the end of last week, it was announced that a major US law firm, Baker & Hostetler, had hired Ross to run its bankruptcy practice. Not major news you might think, until you realise that ROSS is the world’s first “artificially intelligent attorney”.

Built upon the same concept as IBM’s Watson, and using the same cognitive technology, ROSS is another example of a major technological disruptor, and proof that no profession is safe from the advance of AI.

Setting a Precedent

In many ways, ROSS is very similar to the original Watson technology. The AI can read and understand language, generate hypotheses for questions it is asked, and can back up these hypotheses with research and citations from legal literature and cases.

The success of ROSS is centred on how it learns. As the AI interacts more with its human colleagues, it learns from its experience, getting more intelligent and faster at problem solving with each task it does.

It can also perform these tasks faster than human counterparts, examining thousands of documents in a fraction of the time it would take a person to do. It is also able to filter these results, and only presents the most relevant cases and citations from the data available.

Although Baker & Hostetler are the first to publicly announce signing up ROSS, Andrew Arruda, CEO and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence, has confirmed that a number of other law firms have already signed licences to use ROSS too.

Big Data for Recruitment

Big Data, AI and cognitive technologies all go hand in hand, with many seeing Big Data as a key driver behind the development and advancement of the technologies. At the Big Ideas Summit, Barry Ward, Procurement Brand Manager at IBM, stated that 80 per cent of the data available to us is unstructured.

Unstructured data is difficult for humans to sift through, and find relevant information with any speed. Cognitive technologies, such as IBM Watson and ROSS, have been designed specifically to work with this unstructured data. While the potential applications for procurement from Big Data have been spoken about extensively, it’s to the recruitment industry that we look now.

A recent edition of the BBC Radio 4 In Business programme highlighted the work of Bill Nowacki, MD of Decision Science at KPMG. Nowacki works with Big Data, trying to improve the way organisations work, by analysing the data available to them.

One facet of this is uncovering the so-called “data trail” left by individuals when they use electronic devices, search on the Internet, and post on social media. All this data can be pulled together to generate a picture of the individual in question.

In a corporate setting, it can show how people are performing. There are further applications in the recruitment process too. Potential candidates can be identified by on comparing them with high performers already in the organisation, as well as assessing the candidates for cultural fit.

The benefit of using Big Data and cognitive technologies in recruitment is the lack of bias in the process. Whereas human interactions can fall victim to inbuilt bias, the technology has no such issues.

And as the technologies learn from experience, it’s possible that the recruitment process may benefit from greater understanding of personality traits, individuals’ values and norms, and create a fairer process all round.

Events in Brief

A couple of final pieces of news from Procurious this week include what you’ll be seeing on the site soon. We’re attending Coupa Inspire and ISM2016 and we’ll be bringing all the major headlines and information from these great events in the coming weeks.

Last week was Coupa Inspire, where the business announced that it had connected its 2 millionth business on its Open Business Network, plus Sir Richard Branson, and his son Sam, gave a keynote address on a variety of topics including the importance of philanthropy, leadership and inspiring others. Plus Sir Richard also talked about his plans to build Virgin Hotels in space!

Stay tuned for more on these topics soon!

What do you think of the latest AI developments? Do we have anything to worry about from AI in the future, or is it just the stuff of science fiction? Let us know your thoughts.

Each week we sniff out the top procurement and supply chain headlines for you to enjoy…

Concerns over US Retail Sector Health

  • Macy’s, the largest department store chain in the US, has increased fears over the health of the US retail sector with its poor Quarter 1 results.
  • The company announced its worst quarterly sales since 2009, with sales falling 5.6 per cent, for a fifth consecutive quarterly decline.
  • A move away from traditional stores to online shopping and fast fashion has been blamed for the struggles of many companies in the retail sector.
  • With consumer demand not expected to increase for department stores, Macy’s is now intensifying its cost cutting efforts.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Switzerland Tops Global Supply Chain Index

  • Switzerland has taken top spot in the 2016 FM Global Resilience Index, unseating 2015 leader Norway.
  • The index ranks the supply chain resilience of 130 countries according to nine drivers that affect business vulnerability.
  • Falling oil prices have been blamed for the falling ranking of Norway and a number of other countries, including Kuwait and Venezuela.
  • Terrorism has also been a factor in the 2016 rankings, with Belgium, Pakistan and Nigeria all dropping down the list.

Read more at Supply Management

Release 15 Announced at Coupa Inspire

  • Release 15 is Coupa’s second major release of the year, delivering a number of enhancements across the platform.
  • Hyperlocalised Languages addresses local language requirements across 100 countries, along with terminology unique to individual businesses, by allowing customers to modify Coupa’s 20+ languages for their own purposes.
  • Updated Sourcing Recommendations Engine enables savings initiatives to now be recommended based on predicted trends in expenses spend.
  • The New Supplier Risk Recommendations Engine monitors supplier data and reports on risk triggers including expiring certificates and outdated information.
Read more at Coupa

Harness the Power of Unstructured Data

Do we still need the smartest guys in the room if we have the smartest machine? IBM paint a vision for the future of procurement and the power of unstructured data.

Unstructured Data

“Are you going to be relevant in 3-5 years’ time?”

What a start to the day! Barry Ward, Senior Procurement Brand Manager at IBM Global Procurement, has just left the stage, leaving the assembled thought leaders with something big to think about.

Barry, a 27-year veteran in supply chain at IBM, is currently European lead for commercialising Procurement Analytic Solutions with IBM’s clients. This leaves him ideally positioned to provide context for all the discussions that will be happening throughout the day at Big Ideas.

Summarising the global business environment that procurement is currently operating in, Barry described a fast and relentless pace of change, major disruption across markets, and high levels of external upheaval.

Technology as a Disruptor

With increasingly stretched resources, organisations are being asked to do more with less, all the while trying to stay on top of information which, given a greater speed of dissemination, could quickly impact the brand and reputation of the company.

According to Ward, there are “mountains of data” available to organisations. However, as it’s 80 per cent unstructured, and needs sifted before use, it isn’t useful. Procurement needs to harness the power of this unstructured data. This is where the development of cognitive technology looks to be a boon to procurement.

The potential for these cognitive technologies, such as IBM’s own Watson, are just mind-blowing. As the technologies are developed, they will be able to do everything that a human can do, but in a fraction of the time. This is more than AI, it’s like have a computerised “colleague”.

Upskilling Procurement

These technologies will take over the manually intensive activities currently done in procurement, facilitating the ability for work to be carried out anywhere, at any time, in line with increasing mobile access and social collaboration.

The Watson Buying System is just one facet of this technology. IBM are at the stage of proof of concept of this technology. The system will assist with purchasing, based on needs of buyers. It can match pictures of items, or match speech too, to catalogues, and get goods bought for users and delivered anywhere it’s needed.

Systems will provide real-time data, showing potential risks in the supply chain, and how they are being mitigated. According to Barry, mitigating risk through predictive technology will no longer be a “nice to have”, but will become essential for organisations.

Procurement will play a major role in this cognitive revolution, using it to drive value-adding activities for the business, such as a focus on innovation. However, this will bring a challenge of ensuring that procurement have the correct skills to leverage this opportunity.

Procurement professionals will focus more on a data science-type role, as well as on SRM activities. Innovation will be found through building proper, collaborative relationships throughout the supply chain.

Challenge to CPOs

Barry ended by issuing 3 calls to action to procurement leaders:

  1. CPOs need to adjust the design of their organisation.
  2. Enabling success for procurement will be driven by using the right technology.
  3. Procurement needs to upskill in order to drive value-adds for the organisation.

There is no time to waste. There’s no time for incremental steps. As Barry says, it’s time for CPOs to be bold.

Procurement Will Be ‘Cognitive’

It’s time to redesign the function to be ‘Cognitive’. Procurement once again faces revolution, and this time it is beyond ‘only’ a transformation. The function we know today will cease to be.

Cognitive Technology

The first turning point saw the profession move to an industrialised model, including centralisation and strategic sourcing. Later on, transformation reached another key step, enabling Category Management, and increasing focus on automation for higher efficiency, better compliance, and outstanding cost savings.

Taking the function to the next level, CPOs then focused on supplier innovation and risk mitigation, to provide more value to their stakeholders on top of day-to-day savings.

Today, equipped with the right technology, CPOs have the opportunity of accessing, and acting upon, huge volumes of relevant data in order to truly impact supplier innovation and mitigate risk, two major mandates in today’s procurement environment. Deriving insight from this data provides the modern CPO with an incredible opportunity to execute procurement strategy on an entirely new level.

New, Data-Driven Era

As the buying function continues to automate, CPOs can plan and prepare for a new data-driven, ‘Cognitive’ era.

Let’s firstly clarify what cognitive technology is, before we explore its implications. Cognitive technologies are products of the field of artificial intelligence. They are able to ingest data and continuously learn as humans would, but with data on an enormous scale. They can perform tasks that only humans could, thereby allowing the workforce to concentrate on more innovative work streams.

Cognitive technology now brings the capability to ingest all (even unstructured) data, and can understand its meaning, reason and context to generate hypotheses, arguments and recommendations from which procurement professionals can make more informed decisions.

How is This Relevant to Procurement?

It means that we can now apply technology to automate and execute tasks that were initially performed manually. Many companies have now implemented catalogues, and automated PO creation, invoicing and reporting, all being ‘operational’ or administrative tasks.

What Procurement cognitive technologies bring to the table is the ability to take over strategic sourcing tasks, such as RFx creation, analysis and even scoring, including a level of complexity and data analysis that can’t be handled by ‘human’ on the same scale.

Even market research or negotiation can be improved, to reach a point when the technology will perform these tasks in a better, more efficient and secure manner.

What Does That Mean for our Procurement Function?

It means that the opportunity for Procurement is huge. However, the function needs to be ready and start considering how technology will indeed transform their very role and skill-set in their organisations.

1. Changing CPO Focus: Today, focus is placed on the front end of the procurement lifecycle, mostly on steps until the contract signature with suppliers. Introducing Cognitive technology to this part of the process will allow procurement to concentrate more on the post-contract signature activities. Vendor management will become critical, improving supplier collaboration, innovation and value-add.

2. Organisational Structure: Is the relevance of organisation by spend category diminishing? The model was relevant to procurement objectives which were to industrialise operations, consolidate, standardise and leverage volumes to generate savings. But today we know that we are reaching the limits of this model, and we are changing our success factors towards outcomes and values, so organisational changes to reflect this will pave the way to a function that is successful and efficient.

3. Measuring Procurement Success: One of our key measures is savings, but because KPIs such as revenue growth, value add, innovations, customer satisfaction, and risk management are also becoming increasingly important, we need to be able to implement a reliable calculation model to quantify progress.

4. Technology Assessment: Are CPOs equipped with the right tools to fully enable this collaborative approach with stakeholders and suppliers, as well as being well to manage risk and protect their brand?

5. Skills and Training: CPOs will need to define what new skills their team will need to develop to be successful in a new strategic model of cognitive procurement. Key competencies such as a collaborative ability to manage complex vendor and stakeholder relationships, leveraging technology, influential communication skills, problem solving, and changing agent attitude, will become even more critical.

In fact, failing to acknowledge the need to evolve will put the procurement function in a position of road blocker rather than a growth enabler, threatening competitive advantage. Embracing a cognitive approach encapsulating procurement data represents a key stepping stone for procurement organisations to remain relevant to the business and successfully differentiate themselves.

With the right strategy, structure, skill-set and cognitive technology, the procurement function is best placed to thrive and evidence its value to the organisation.

IBM are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, being held in London on April 21st. 

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.