What If Your Business Was So Intelligent That Nothing Came As A Surprise
Artificial intelligence (AI) is gearing up to help business leaders never be blindsided again. It’s not that AI will prevent hurricanes, worker strikes, ingredient shortages, or competitor surges. But it could mean companies aren’t taken by surprise because employees will have the ability to always make the best decisions, potentially turning major disasters into minor setbacks with reduced risk.
This is the kind of world a group of experts envisioned during a roundtable session at the recent SAP Ariba Live event entitled, “Explore the Future of Intelligent Procurement: Getting to Smarter Decisions.” Hosted by Drew Hofler, vice president of Portfolio Marketing at SAP Ariba, the breakout delved into how business processes like procurement are scaling new heights in intelligent automation.
Catch that exchange rate
According to Shivani Govil, vice president of AI and Intelligent Products at SAP Ariba, AI will help make people in procurement faster, smarter and more efficient.
“Every procurement officer says they have to do more with the resources they have, while creating value for the business,” she said. “Instead of chasing down POs and invoices, AI will free up people to spend less time on mundane, repetitive tasks, and more on value-added activities like sourcing strategies for greater value.”
Ideal candidates for AI-driven automation would be people doing repetitive tasks, such as call center employees answering the same basic questions all day. At the other end of the spectrum, experts responsible for complex, knowledge-intensive tasks like contract negotiation, can use AI to quickly obtain more information so they can get the best terms. For example, most companies have hundreds of contracts with suppliers worldwide with prices affected by fluctuating exchange rates. AI can monitor rates connected to contracts, automatically notifying procurement with savings opportunities as worldwide markets shift.
The right data has business value
Detecting business value from a surfeit of data in many formats looks different for every company. Margaret Laffan, director of Business Development for SAP Leonardo Machine Learning, talked about how one manufacturer is using unstructured data — images of broken pieces of jewelry — to figure out which matched their products, supporting customer loyalty by making repairs. In a heavy industry example, a large mining company in Latin America used image recognition to track which vehicle tires needed replacement, eliminating duplicate orders for less down-time and more cost-savings.
“The value machine learning brings to the supply chain is critical, but what you do with those insights is what matters,” said Laffan. “You have to take action. You need to integrate machine learning into an application where the process changes based on what’s been learned.”
Data quality drives insights
Govil said SAP Ariba is working on hundreds of use cases for AI in procurement that span numerous technologies including machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and visual recognition. Areas under investigation include sourcing, contracts, supplier risk, spend analysis and catalogs.
“We’re revamping sourcing for much more intelligence. We also want to make the entire contract life cycle more valuable to the business,” said Govil. “On the invoicing side, we are applying deep learning to categorize what’s upcoming, giving companies a better sense of spend and demand signals for improved future planning. We’re looking at bringing in external, unstructured data to calculate and head-off the impact of natural disasters, giving companies alternative suppliers to minimize down time.”
There’s always a gap between planning assumptions and future reality, but AI can shrink it big-time, taking business to a place where there are no more excuses and no more surprises.
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