Basware Connect – AI, eInvoicing, Pizza and Prosecco

The Basware Connect event yesterday at CodeNode in the City of London had over 200 registrations and there were a good 150 delegates there on the day.  As Nancy Clinton said last year (I missed that day), it is a good venue, very contemporary but not painfully “hipster”, there was good networking and a relaxed but professional feel to the event.

Again, Basware blended some hard tech content, from their own folk looking at product roadmaps and developments (if you're into eInvoicing, there is some interesting stuff we should come back to in that area), and also experts such as Duncan Jones from Forrester and Magnus Bergfors from Gartner, along with some practitioner stories.  That last category included a very good session from Chris Bell, Commercial Director at the City of London Corporation – we’ll have another post on that to come.

But before those sessions, Louis Fernandes, Basware’s UK country manager (see picture above), kicked off and defined the themes for the very forward-focused day. Science fiction is becoming science fact, he said – for instance, machines can lipread better than people. Current job roles are becoming obsolete, as we can all see.

But he is positive about the future - for instance, predictive analytics enhances human efforts, rather than replacing it. Technology will improve tactical and strategic decision-making, but humans will retain ultimate responsibility for decisions and indeed will take legal responsibility. Technology insights drive decisions, roles are redefined, and we will have a huge flow of data every day. Fernandes also described the three levels of AI-related input in what we thought was a useful manner - like this.

  1. Assisted intelligence – AI supporting human decisions e.g. smart coding technologies on invoices, with AI making suggestions for coding
  2. Augmented intelligence - AI working more “independently” and making recommendations for action e.g. AI identifying payment risks, fraud analysis
  3. Autonomous intelligence – at this stage, we are removing tasks, and leaving them to AI. For instance, supporting workflow by analysing and routing requisitions

He also talked about the need in the new world for different skills - logic, collaboration, judgement, decision-making … now, I’m not sure these are very different from those listed on my appraisal form when I was a young manager at Mars many years ago, to be honest, but there is no doubt the nature of many roles and the skills required will change in the digitised world.

A good start anyway, and then Rohit Talwar who we featured in one of our event previews gave a fascinating presentation on AI and business, stuffed full of content. We’ll definitely be back to tell you more about that session.

That was followed by perhaps the most unusual procurement conference session I’ve ever attended. It was basically a 30-minute lecture, no slides, no visuals, from Mark O'Connell, author of "To Be A Machine", talking about “The Merger of Minds and Machines”.

He (very dramatically) asked us to imagine having our brain removed and all the data in it transferred into a computer, then roamed through the words of St Augustine, the “revenge of the nerds”, the meaning of the “fall” of Adam and Eve, beheaded corpses in a cryogenic storage facility, and (fundamentally) the philosophy of being human.

It was fascinating stuff, as he talked about the trans-humanism movement (people who believe that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of technology), and whether we will eventually “become” machines. Or are we already – are we living in “the singularity” today?  That was the thought he left us with! I’ve got his book – available here – and perhaps we’ll tell you more about his session and review the book in a couple of weeks’ time when I’ve read it.

So, a very good day, and we’ll be back with a couple of further articles on the Talwar and Bell sessions certainly. Oh yes, I spoke as well, looking at the role of “procurement” post-digitalisation, so no doubt we will return to that too at some point.  And one final learning from yesterday; if you want your delegates to hang around until the very end of the agenda, then have a very enjoyable networking session, finishing the day with “pizza and prosecco” seems like a very good way to do that!

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