Category Archives: Technology

AI Can Certainly Identify Relevant Case Law, But Can It Predict Judge’s Decisions?

We are all familiar with the use of AI in contract (lifecycle) management to scan contracts, decompose them into clauses, identify the type of clause, index the contract against the clause types, and identify entity and attribute types in those clauses. This is common practice for best-of-breed CLM providers like Icertis and Exari and standalone best-of-breed contract analytic providers like Counselytics and Seal Software.

But not all of these are designed to evaluate a contract, and more precisely, a contract dispute against existing law and case law to determine the likelihood of a ruling in a party’s favour. But that is apparently what the new AI entrants are shooting for.

As per this article in The Globe and Mail, a new AI entrant is offering simulation software that predicts how a court might rule in a given case involving tax law. The software, which takes client details, arguments, previous case law, and current law into account, crunches this, and other inputs, and delivers a simulated judgement claimed to be 90% accurate.

And now the company in question is turning its attention to labour law and hoping to offer a product soon that will offer the same type of predictive accuracy in this legal area. This will obviously be more difficult than tax as there are more grey areas as to what is a violation, but it may be achievable.

But is 90% accuracy enough? That’s 1 in 10 wrong predictions. But maybe it’s enough. If the software predicts that the plaintiff will lose, with 90% or more reliability, a case that could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the damages for pleading guilty are less than a million, the right legal strategy would obviously be to seek out a good deal and not risk losing it all in court.

Plus, if both sides of a pending legal battle had access to simulation software that always showed one side losing with significant confidence, then at least one side will always be up for negotiation, and that’s almost always cheaper than a costly court case. Plus, it gets a resolution quicker, and sometimes the biggest cost of a dispute is the lost time.

So while it will never be truly accurate, as you can’t truly predict how a judge will rule in any given situation (as a human interpretation of a grey area can always be different than what might be the typical interpretation), this might just be the software that lawyers, tax accountants, and, soon, HR professionals need to come to their senses and resolve the dispute before wasting time in court.

And if it works in these areas, maybe soon it can ingest global law and treaties and be applied to Procurement disputes …

The Big Bad Blockchain is Here … Well Almost … Well, Maybe …

Blockchain, originally developed to support bitcoin (which heralded the digital currency revolution), is being considered, or at least proposed, for a plethora of uses as a result of the continual promise of the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s one of the most hyped, and to be honest, the most over-hyped technologies out there. (As the doctor originally ranted in his initial post on The Big Bad Blockchain back in March, the blockchain has huge potential, but the reality of the blockchain in today’s supply chain is proprietary proposals that are akin to the most “open” supplier networks, which, as we all know, aren’t that open. In fact, one such network is famous for having prisoners, not customers.

But, as the doctor pointed out in We Need BlockChain, But Not for the Reasons You Think, we do need blockchain, and, in particular, a truly open, truly decentralized, truly open blockchain auditable by anyone and everyone (probably operated by a truly global non-profit conglomerate). Because, with that block chain, we could realize the secure transfer of IOUs between multiple supply chain parties. (And that would allow a return to a modern form of barter where supply chain partners could trade debts until they were ready to collect. [After all, one way to hedge currency exchange losses is to trade debts until you can buy or sell in your currency.]

But until we get there (as this is apparently very forward thinking even though trade started with barter), in the meantime there are three very good uses for a proper, open, block chain.

1. Transportation (Cost) Management

All affected parties in a supply can see who has what, when, what charges were applied, when, and how the total landed cost is affected.

2. E-Document Management Between Partners

In addition to the standard fare of purchase orders, acknowledgements, shipping notices, goods receipts, invoices, and payment notices, you also have e-Contracts, e-Agreements, dispute resolution communications, and other documentation critical to regulatory compliance and future lawsuit prevention.

3. Open Innovation Management

Right now we have a lot of crowd-sourcing networks and innovation management platforms where all sorts of parties can post and respond to all sorts of challenges. However, while they have their advantages, they have their disadvantage — in that not everyone wants to give a solution away without some confidence that, if their solution is best, they will get paid and, most importantly, even if it is not, their solution will not be stolen or used without renumeration or, at least, without acknowledgement. But with blockchain, the origin of each submission can be uniquely identified and verified throughout the network, which will help an organization maintain confidence as the ownership of IP can be proven and access can be tracked.

The big bad blockchain is coming, let’s just hope that it the right instantiation of it appears.

Seventy Years Ago Today …

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invent the point-contact transistor (when they first observed the effects) and pretty much paved the way for the modern electronics revolution as the transistor is the fundamental building block of modern electronics technology.

As defined by Wikipedia, a transistor is a semiconductor device (with at least three terminals) used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. A voltage or current applied to one pair of terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. When they are combined in integrated circuits, as they normally are today, they can create logic gates, and that’s the fundamental building block of modern computers. (The other primary components of an integrated circuit are diodes, resistors, and capacitors.)

Without transistors, we’d still be computing using vacuum tubes using machines that take up entire rooms and only using computers for mathematical calculations. The inventors were truly deserving of their nobel prize.

Procurement Innovation The Day After Tomorrow

This week has been all about Procurement Innovation and how maybe it’s a good thing that They Terk Er Jerbs! as the only jobs that are perfectly suited for software and robotic automatons are those that we really don’t want to do. Let them match line items. Let them scan barcodes. Let them push e-paper all the live long day. No one writes folk songs about the paper drivin’ man, so they can have the damn e-paper.

But they won’t stop at automatic e-paper or transaction mapping or even invisible buying. They will go deeper. They will go broader. They will take all that can be taken with computation alone. Wherever true intelligence is not needed, they will emerge. So where else will they emerge?

Software and the machines will be everywhere, in every job, and they will be there all the time. 24 / 7 / 365. They won’t be able to do everything, but they will be everywhere. In a presentation last week, the doctor covered a dozen different areas we’ll see them today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the day after that … just in Procurement alone. And these weren’t all the examples. We won’t cover them all in this blog (and if you want to know them all, keep your eyes out for an upcoming talk), but we will cover one today.

Specifically, once invisible buying is out of the way, one area they will considerably invade the average Procurement organization is through tail spend minimization. Not only will invisible buys take a chunk out of organizational tail spend, but all of that calculation will also identify

  • other buys that fit the MRO / regular re-order pattern that should be put under contract / rate card and left to invisible buys
  • buys that are becoming significant and should be analyzed for strategic sourcing

Not everything will fit in these 3 categories, but a big chunk will … and then further enhancements will take more and more out of tail spend until it becomes a vanishingly small part of organizational spend compared to what it is today. So watch for the future, it’s coming faster than you think.

They Terk Er Jerbs! Good for them.

Because, if they were intelligent, if they weren’t already insane, they would be! One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But an even better one is wanting to do the same mind-numbing task over and over and over again until anyone with a modicum of intelligence would go insane.

Like screwing the same rivet 10,000 times a day. Walking up and down the same 20 aisles looking for sold out products day after day. Or performing well-defined calculations millions and millions and millions of times. This last task is something good accounts payable and procurement folk have to do over their career without AI if they want to realize the savings they should.

I say let the machines do that. And then find ways to do more intelligent actions with the results that the machines can’t do. That’s Procurement Innovation. And if you were on the ball and set up your Google Alert and noticed that the doctor was in L.A. yesterday giving a talk on Procurement, and, more specifically, Procurement Innovation. Procurement Innovation that is going to arise when you let the machines do the tactical drudge work and focus on the more strategic aspects of product acquisition. And give yourself time to get innovative … and creative … instead of just pushing virtual buttons all day. (In some P2P systems, it takes 15 clicks to actually get a product delivered when it should take 0. And how many products do you need? It’s amazing you aren’t insane! Someone should calculate the mental strength and willpower of a Procurement professional. That would be an interesting study.)

One needs to remember that AI is not I, but it is A. It is artificial, and it is extremely well suited to running lots of advanced calculations against expert defined models, well-defined variables, and big data sets to identify opportunities, outliers, and options for pursuit even the smartest of us couldn’t see because our mental calculation powers stop in the ones per second while a typical laptop’s calculation capacity is in the millions per second. Even if the best algorithms we have are, relatively speaking, dumb, the machine will outperform us in evaluating data against models and desired outcomes and identifying the best directions to pursue (which is different than being able to evaluate the perceived best options and actually pick the best ones).

And because of this, it is extremely well suited to checking invoices against POs, goods receipts, and contracts — which is one key to making sure the savings that are negotiated are actually captured. The best I2P systems today with advanced OCR can reach invoice processing accuracy (IPA) levels of 98% with no human intervention, including automatic return to supplier if issues are identified, and the proper configuration of rules can enable up to 100% of these automatically processed, corrected, and confirmed invoices to be automatically queued for payment (and paid). Considering that the average invoice “error” rate in an organization is 10% to 15% and that this typically results in overpayments of 1.5% or more, automatically processing 98% of invoices and eliminating 98% of the errors is huge.

And it’s a key component of two of the innovations — true automation and overspend prevention — that the doctor highlighted in his talk that can be addressed today, and tomorrow, and change your work, and even your life. (When you work smarter, you will get smarter.)