Background: Salon Solutions is the premiere event in Europe for all things related to the fields of digital transformation, Big Data, e-procurement and e-business in general – more than 6,000 visitors attended in 2016. As a major presenter hosting six roundtable discussions, Determine covered many topics of critical interest regarding source-to-pay. While I did not present all of these topics, I thought it would be informative to put them into a series of blogs, which we are sharing this week.
As a speaker at conferences like Salons Solutions that look at the future of procurement solutions, I get a lot of questions – and real concerns – about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).
I like to explain how Artificial Intelligence — the combination of Big Data ( availability of massive data), machine or deep learning (ability to predict based on the past) and robotic task automation (automatic execution of business processes based on rules) — is going to drastically change how procurement solutions are used, and how much additional value they will bring to the business.
Artificial Intelligence, real job impact?
However, it seems to scare many purchasers, who ask me if “machines” are going to replace their jobs or not. To answer, I’ll take the same approach as machine learning: try to predict the future based on past experience.
In 2002, just after founding b-pack, one of the first procure-to-pay web solutions to hit the market and now part of Determine, I had to market and sell the solution. The main marketing driver was about savings, and how these solutions would make businesses much more efficient. But, we had to avoid talking about cutting jobs.
One of the first customers we had, a real estate company, was looking at justifying the purchase of our solution. We came to the conclusion that the platform could replace an entire team scanning and manually entering invoices all day long that were being received by fax or mail from suppliers. By being able to manage the PO process entirely online, including modifications and PO flipping, we could guarantee more than 90% of touch-free invoices. This was an incredible performance at that time.
When meeting with the CEO, the decision maker, he told me that he had a strategic initiative to increase customer satisfaction. Our procurement solution offered a great opportunity for the company to move the people from doing invoice entering to the customer support team. And that is exactly what happened.
Robots took my job…thankfully.
In less than a year, several employees moved from accounts receivable to business support. The feedback I got was that they seemed to enjoy building customer relationships much better than spending the day receiving, scanning and entering invoices. Overall, in this regard the company was ahead of its time. They were very successful in the market, and had a much better customer satisfaction rating than competitors.
In summary, I would say that the more automation and value we provide through our solutions, the more business our customers are able to do. We shouldn’t consider AI, machine learning and smart applications a job threat; however, adaptation and change management will be required as machines continue to keep doing more and more to help businesses run more efficiently.
In the short term, Artificial Intelligence is going to be mainly used to help employees do a better job.In the midterm, it will replace job repetition with a lot of new career opportunities.
If you haven’t read them yet, check out my Topics 1 and 2 blogs from Salon Solutions in Paris – Managing business complexity: Keep it simple. and Millennials and technology: Get Ready for a Revolution in Procurement Solutions.
If you’d like to learn more about how our technology can help your business and people work smarter, schedule a personalized demonstration of the Determine Cloud Platform. Also check out the range of resources we have available in our Thought Leadership Library.