Cognitive Procurement is Coming …

But precisely what form will it take?

Over on LinkedIn, the procurement dynamo asks what is the role of machines in the future of Procurement? Why? Because, in some cases, machines are now, supposedly, threatening the knowledge workers because they can collect and process more information, memorize way more than we can, and enable us to do things that were previously impossible.

And that is true, but they are still not intelligent. They can emulate intelligence through (evolutionary) programming, they can make predictions (using advanced mathematical based algorithm) that hit the mark much more often than the average analyst, and they can find connections we miss. But at the same time they can emulate grave stupidity when they decide to direct you to the camping supply store when a Brit asks for a torch, make false predictions when they just compute the trend without taking into account supply and demand, or connect carpentry to stock trading because both deal with floors. All algorithms have breaking points, especially near untested boundaries. But you don’t know where they are or when they’ll be hit.

The reality is that even though some knowledge workers are being displaced, the need for knowledge workers to create, maintain, and improve these algorithms … and find new areas in which they can push capability forward. Every time an algorithm or machine displaces someone out of an existing job, a new job is created, even if it’s not that apparent. True, a good software solution can replace 10 to 100 workers doing brute force tactical or grunt work with one or two drivers, but someone has to build the software, sell the software, maintain the software, and start a new initiative to build the next generation. Plus, when a company isn’t focussed on non-value add activities, they can dedicate teams to identifying and chasing value-add activities — who might even create new lines of business, and new jobs, in the process.

So yes, the procurement dynamo is right, the future will be man and machine, in a delicate dance, and the focus will be on cognitive activities, but mainly on the human side … finding ways to properly apply, and verify, new technology. Weeding out the false positives with intelligence, identifying the false negatives with insight, and finding new applications the machines themselves will not.

Thus, the true form of cognitive procurement is smarter Procurement Professionals with more TQ than they have today.

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Procurement is Coming …

  1. Alan Holland

    Good post; personally I would be more bullish about what AI can deliver. Just 5 years ago; the common narrative was that AI would never exceed expert human performance in particularly complex tasks such as surgery, driving, poker etc. You’re right in saying that AI can appear incredibly stupid when it makes an obvious mistake when a certain rule was not encoded in the AI. However, it will only make that mistake once if it is corrected and is continuously improving.


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