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Predictive Procurement: What Artificial Intelligence Promises to Purchasing


Social networks brought with them upheaval, by radically changing the way people and companies communicate with each other. With this we can see how a new technology has been able to change corporate practices, particularly in purchasing, by inducing a more collaborative approach in the supplier relationship. So, what about AI and robotization? Will these new digital technologies invest in purchasing? What results will such a transformation cause?

From Homes to Business: The Process of Adoption of New Web Technologies

After the SMACS (Social, Mobility, Access, Cloud, Security) — these new technologies from the internet — artificial intelligence (AI) and robotization prepare the next technological revolution. Consumers tend to initially adopt the uses of new technologies in the personal sphere before transposing them into professional applications.

This phenomenon is observed especially with social networks: Skype, initially designed for private use, is now a standard in all companies. Facebook or Twitter have inspired applications for businesses, such as Yammer, a microblogging solution for businesses. Often, these new uses are transferred from the personal sphere to the professional sphere through the communication/marketing function. Thus, as we described in a previous forum on purchasing, supplier evaluation systems, integrated into the platforms of digital purchasing solutions, are moving towards more simplicity, in the manner of sites such as TripAdvisor.

As far as AI is concerned, it is now entering consumers’ daily lives with applications such as Siri (Apple), Amazon Echo or Google Home in the form of digital personal assistants. Many startups use this technology, whose applications seem endless, driven by the wave of the UX or “user experience.” It is also the e-commerce players who have taken the lead on the issue with online virtual assistants with predictive baskets, which use complex algorithms analyzing user behavior. The transition from the personal world to the professional world is underway.

The Future: Towards an AI Replacement for Everything?

The IT giants set the tempo of the AI revolution. We immediately think of Watson, the cognitive technology launched by IBM. But if Watson’s applications are promising, the transfer of this technology to business analytics is still in its infancy, and Watson remains today a Jeopardy champion, far from an intelligent assistant to management, finance or administration. The Turing test to imitate human conversation was only successful once. Care and caution therefore remain the focus for an explosion of artificial intelligence in the business sphere.

Predictive Procurement: When Purchasing Can Count on the Best of Both Worlds

But as e-merchants have already shown, purchasing can already rely on functions that bring real efficiency and performance gains in the supplier relationship, and it is on these immediate benefits that SynerTrade have already evolved its solutions to, again, optimize the user experience. It involves using artificial intelligence to automate time-consuming and low-value tasks, freeing up purchasing teams and allowing them to focus on what will contribute to the overall performance of their business. In this category of automatable tasks, there are:

  • Processing of master data
  • Supplier evaluation requests
  • Processing user requests
  • The integration of data from the basic information system
  • Automatic recognition of clearly identifiable data in PDFs

We have based these developments on a recognized artificial intelligence framework for stable, reliable and scalable applications that provide support to buyers and suppliers on a daily basis. For example, the “Requisition Bot” helps buyers in their daily tasks thanks to the chat integrated into the solution. “HelpDesk Bot” allows users to be assisted easily in the use of our “Accelerate” suite. Our bots work from a powerful artificial intelligence engine, integrating many standard algorithms to which we have added our own algorithmic developments. Thus, we can combine power and total adaptation to the requirements of the purchasing environment.

Scalability is an inescapable dimension of our solutions. We rely on the potential of machine learning so that the future applications come from the real uses of our solutions: it is the dynamics of the “predictive procurement” that we aim, to fully release the talent and expertise of purchases on tasks with high added value such as sourcing, negotiation and detection of innovation, which robots cannot replace, even in the medium to long term. Developments will include:

  • Retrieving contract data to compare with orders and invoices
  • The detection of data on the net to enrich the data present in the IS
  • Intelligent classification of suppliers
  • Predictive shopping baskets
  • The prediction of expenditures according to data internal and external to the IS

Thus, purchasing can look at artificial intelligence and RPA as technologies that will allow them to free themselves from tasks with low added value, to secure and enrich supplier data, and to rationalize the expenditure. It is not, as sci-fi movies suggest, to replace man with machine, but rather to rely on the best of both worlds: to machine the automatic, repetitive and time-consuming tasks and allow humans to focus on the analytics, relational intelligence and innovation. The emergence of the “predictive procurement” will allow the purchasing departments to enter a new era where their business will no longer be restricted to applying a strategy defined upstream by the general management but will be able to capitalize on the artificial intelligence to have data-inspired winning strategies. A further step for purchasing departments as essential pillars of the company’s future.