Artificial Intelligence in procurement, are we there yet?


As a procurement professional I embarked into the task of checking out what´s new on the technology front. Most of latest articles, blog post and so on talked about AI (artificial Intelligence). There are different types of AI for different task. The main idea is to replicate human intelligence with a combination of hardware, software, algorithms and anything that can aid the human thought process or even replace it. When you think about it you can dream big, I mean Really Big. The idea can open to an endless range of possibilities. Just the idea of replicating human thought process is marvelous and the notion that we might even do it faster, and better is mind blowing.

The intense dreaming and scenarios has taken us into a flood of great ideas, ideas that, when you check out the latest technology seem feasible. But how many of these ideas are real or a reality in the short term? To tell you the truth, is hard tell. There amazing developments as we speak and technology is as accelerated as ever.

For procurement there are some pretty neat ideas starting to materialize, but as of today they are mostly prototype or very expensive proprietary developments on a lab level. I set out to find commercially available solutions for procurement and found very little available. We are getting there, but we are not there yet. Many of the e-sourcing solutions have integrated some sort of AI in their latest version. Also analytics solutions and big data software are tapping AI, but they are business intelligence suites that can be used for procurement data or any data set. There are no commercial AI solutions yet to aid procurement process, but don´t despair. Commercial solutions for the procurement professional are around the corner.

AI themes that we might see in the coming year in procurement may include:

AI Analytics for spend analysis. There is no question that, making sense out of a set of data is one of the best fit for AI. The idea of having intelligence applied to your spend data will certainly be expected to yield insights beyond regular data crunching. Some Spend analysis software and services are starting to use it and are pushing the envelope of what can be done.

Logistics, warehouse, transport AI solutions. The logistics world is propelled by the faster, better, smarter way of doing things. AI can certainly do a great job in the thought process of learning and improving warehousing, transport routes, fitting more volume and moving it in more efficient ways. Inventory that is administered smart translate in monetary benefits for sure.

AI assisted RFx events. This is a controversial one. Some futurist have adventure in the idea that RFx will not be needing human interaction, others say that RFx without humans will not give the best benefits. One thing is for sure, humans or not the idea of using AI for the process is way too good not to venture in it. We are just scratching the surface with e-sourcing and tools are getting smarter every day. I guess will see how it turns out in the future.

AI process automation for the whole P2P. For the case of automation, this is here and it´s now. The P2P process if you have a good buck to spend, there are ERP that automate pretty well. The thing is that not all P2P can be automated. There is the sourcing part where we go back to the RFx. The rest, I can tell you, the future is here. Maybe the next step should be, “here for all” with more commercial, inexpensive solutions.

AI market analysis. Grab your seat for this one. AI concepts for market analysis will blow your mind. The possibilities are endless. From getting business intelligence deep rooted in the market, to advanced big data crunching to things like augmented reality, facial recognition, object recognition, etc. All can apply to getting that incredible accurate and right at the target information, and, in real time.

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