Untangling the Current Procurement Technology Developments for Buyers and Decision Makers

Last month, June 12, we held a webinar discussion with global procurement and supply chain consulting firm, GEP. The topic was ‘Procurement Technology Developments – Separating the Hype from the Reality,’ and it was designed to help CPOs and procurement practitioners make sense of the many technology developments happening in the market right now, the new solutions and digital resources that soon will be impacting the procurement industry, and their place in the procurement organisation.

We were genuinely delighted with the high number of registrants, and even more pleased with the number that actually turned out on the day! It’s quite normal, we have found, to lose about 40% of webinar registrants on the day, but on this occasion we retained a good 80% - which just goes to show how important this topic is for procurement leaders and those decision makers who are using tech to drive the organisation forward.

The discussion took a Q&A-style tract with Spend Matters UK/Europe general manager Jenny Draper, experienced international procurement consultant and co-founder of e-Three in the UK, questioning Paul Blake, director of technology marketing at GEP. Paul has plenty of experience with procurement technology, having been involved in the development of procurement software solutions since before the advent of the internet and having gained deep insight into how technology evolves. He also ran the development team that delivered Europe’s first B2B trading platform in the 1990s and implemented eCommerce networks on three continents in the early 2000s, so he has long-term experience of the trends and developments that affect procurement professionals. It’s fair to say he was well placed to talk about what the market has to offer, how to determine what is the best fit for your organisation and where to invest for your digital future – regardless of where you sit on your procurement journey.

Jenny had several questions for Paul – the first being about the most significant trends in procurement technology development.

Paul, having seen all sorts of technical solutions come and go during his 30 years in the industry, some promised and never delivered, talked about what in reality is in development and will come to bear on procurement, and what procurement professionals can actually do to take advantage of what is out there. Jenny’s interest lay in the area of AI.

Clearly, this is a hot topic for developers and customers in the tech space at the moment, he explains. Basically it’s a tool that will make a significant difference to how we work, IF we get it right, and IF its use in business is managed in the right way! This is important, because while AI gives us power and the control to make decisions more rapidly and more completely than ever before, we must ask – are these the right decisions?

Time is a crucial part in decision making – it gives us the space to consider whether we’re making the right choice. Whether selecting a supplier or choosing to purchase something, for example, we traditionally would do that through meetings, and discussions, and on paper – there was plenty of opportunity for someone to do the due diligence and decide if the right choice was being taken, the right fit, and so on.

If AI gives us the power to do this rapidly, in some cases immediately, and the ‘machine’ is telling us what to do, does that mean we still have full oversight?

While it gives us huge power, we need to be assured that we have the comfort and confidence that what it is telling us is founded on the right principles. So a lot of what is going on now in the development of AI, is not just designing it as a replacement for human decision making, but actually factoring in the whole process, the due diligence, underneath it all.

We must remember that AI has been around for a long time, and fundamentally it has three capabilities. One is in machine learning, which, in terms of algorithms, he says, has not changed much over the years. What has changed, the others, is the vast amounts of data in real time, dynamic resource allocation, and the computing power that, along with the transition to the cloud, allows vendors to consider levels of insight and opportunities never possible before.

The question for users/buyers is, while we are talking about emergent human-type predictive analysis from a machine that brings the cognitive element to AI, and allows some vendors to be in a position to offer ‘everything’ in this sophisticated S2P marketplace, can you actually use it all? Do you need it all? How much of it can you use? This yields a different answer from every organisation.

That pretty much encompasses just one of the discussions in this webinar, the conversation went on to cover thoughts on blockchain, RPA optimisation, and other technologies, how they differ, how customers are buying and using them, especially in terms of risk, compliance and CSR, their global impact and finally the subject of ‘Procurement for the Greater Good’ – one of Jenny’s favourite topics.

It was a very frank discussion, with some genuinely pertinent questions from the audience around the problems we need to address when employing tech, what organisations need to consider when undertaking a S2P transaction, and the deeper impact of risk. Well worth a 45-minute listen – and you can do that by registering briefly and gaining access to the recorded webinar:

Procurement Technology Developments – Separating the Hype from the Reality, courtesy of GEP.

 

 

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