Artificial Intelligence

Cognitive Automation: Reading the Tea Leaves

Cognitive automation mimics human brain functions

As more enterprises and service providers adopt cognitive automation to improve their manual processes, reading the tea leaves or better yet, examining case studies suggests a new job landscape with some fairly drastic improvements in efficiency.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) provides a useful summary article explaining how to deconstruct work into tasks that can be automated. Here three characteristics are used to assess our work:

  • Repetitive vs. variable work;
  • Dependent vs. interdependent work; and
  • Physical work vs. mental work. 

Any automation assessment model should also take into consideration the nature and complexity of both the inputs and outputs onto which we can overlay these three characteristics to assess the impact of automation based upon the nature of work itself. 

Basic automation has arguably had the highest level of impact so far. It is applied to rote, highly repeatable and low variance tasks. For example, basic automation supports the IT back office such as regular back-ups of data or automated provisioning of software resources (such as email accounts and CRM access).

These activities can be highly automated due to the nature of the work and low probability of exceptions to workflows. The inputs can be highly structured with very little variability while outputs are often binary. The result is either a successful completion or an exception. These tasks are very independent with interactions typically only with application interfaces. There is very little mental effort required.

Greg Council, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management

The Role of AI in Your Vendor Negotiations

Robot with AI

Negotiation is a fundamentally human act between two or more people. When it comes to vendor negotiations, this is driven by the prior (and future) relationship between human counterparties. While digital processes can support this mission, if a key decision maker involved in a vendor negotiation goes on vacation, changes jobs or gets hit by a bus, the negotiation will stall or scramble to reach a conclusion. It’s a good reminder that no matter what role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in a negotiation, the negotiation process and award decision are driven by humans. 

The true purpose of AI is to make human negotiators more effective by reducing their time spent on busywork (rather than removing humans from the negotiation process). This insight about how technology can augment and empower procurement teams (rather than displacing them), is of fundamental importance 

For those participating in the vendor negotiations, it is likely that their companies book travel through a digital app that aggregates and discounts airline tickets. It is also likely that the hotel and ride to the meeting are also booked via digital apps. Thus, the technology stack that supports this “in-person meeting” is being mediated by a variety of digital apps (many of which already leverage AI), apps that support (rather than displace) the crucial in-person business negotiation by reducing the number of low-value transactional tasks and phone calls.

Edmund Zagorin, Founder and CEO, Bid Ops Inc.

Artificial Intelligence Spawns the Next Largest Divide

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is creating the next largest divide not only between people, but also between organizations. Taking full advantage of AI requires a two-pronged approach by any enterprise. First is to identify the business processes that can gain most from the introduction of AI. Second is to treat AI as a key component in any reengineering effort with quality data as one of the highest priorities.  

Since one key beneficial attribute of AI is that it can replace tedious, low-value human tasks, it is important to target processes that enable staff to focus on other higher-value areas. The perspective of pragmatically tackling routine processes first is echoed in research presented by Harvard Business Review, which provides a useful construct by defining three types of AI: one applied for automation, another for delivering insight, and a third for customer engagement.  

Data Science: the Key to Successful AI 

Greg Council, Vice President of Product Management, Parascript

A Source of Inspiration: The Midwestern Regional SIGnature Event

It was the very best one-day event I have attended in my life! The Midwestern Regional SIGnature Event, held on March 6 at the Minneapolis Central Library, was attended by 66 extraordinary third-party risk management and sourcing professionals. Not only was the agenda amazing, but every speaker delivered insightful content and engaged the audience. At the Executive Roundtable, we had thoughtful conversations about many issues. Tom Lutz from U.S. Bank led a “day in the life” discussion that lasted almost 45 minutes because so many people wanted to discuss what he was doing, and it prompted other conversations as well. 
 
In our opening session, Linda Tuck Chapman, a Sourcing Supernova Hall of Fame inductee, knocked it out of the park by delivering an interactive workshop on third-party risk management. People said that their two hours of training FLEW BY. When the group joined back together, we had an incredible presentation by Rohan Ranadive from BB&T about building an AI-powered digital workforce which prompted so many questions, I had to stop them to stay on agenda! Then we had an absolutely inspiring one-hour talk by Nancy Brooks, the CPO of Best Buy. Nancy shared that she had declined previous invitations to speak, because she doesn’t care for speaking engagements, but she agreed to speak at SIG’s event because she had a story that needed to be shared about her team. We are thrilled that she joined us. She engaged everyone with Best Buy’s story the entire time and Nancy’s team was so proud to be there.   
 
Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

SIG Speaks to Bruce Morton, Global Head of Strategy, Allegis Global Solutions

An image of the Denver, Colorado, skyline.

Bruce is a distinguished thought leader and global innovator, with over three decades’ experience within the human capital and workforce management industry. In his current role, Bruce is involved in new services and product idea generation, sales presentations, internal and external evangelism, digital and social media strategies, and lead generation. He gives us an inside look into his role, how he acts as a key partner to the business and his outlook on the future of work.

Your CPO keynote presentation at the Denver CPO Meet and Eat is about leveraging spend management within services categories--why is this an important topic?

There is a lot of talk about spend analytics, data and how that is the future of success. Our position is that spend analytics is a wonderful tool and capability but we’ve yet to see the capability evolve beyond goods-level detail.  As procurement teams are continuing to try to find ways to better address services spend and deliver value to their organizations, we feel that there is tremendous opportunity by thinking differently about this space.

Can you share a little more about your day-to-day role and responsibilities as the Global Head of Strategy for Allegis Global Solutions (AGS)?

Stacy Mendoza, Digital Marketing Specialist

Interview with Data Scientist Alexander Beck, PhD

Image of an interactive web of dots.

Alexander Beck, PhD, is a data scientist with a demonstrated history of utilizing machine learning and data science in the financial sector, especially asset management. Alexander has a 10-year track record in business applicable artificial intelligence research, including in the fields of financial markets and customer analytics.

Data scientists analyze and interpret mountains of complex digital data to inform decision-making and strategic processes. When it comes to digital procurement and supply chains, data scientists can automate workflows and employ predictive analytics to more accurately forecast demand or disruption.

IBM predicts that demand for data scientists will increase by 28 percent by 2020, with Finance and Insurance, Professional Services and IT generating the most demand. This role often requires an advanced degree, such as a master’s or PhD. For those who are looking to add data scientists to their teams or want to learn how to best work with data scientists, Alexander shares insight into his function, how he assists the business to make informed decisions and automate workflows, and highlights some common misconceptions about data scientists.

Stacy Mendoza, Digital Marketing Specialist

8 Keys to Ensure Ethical Sourcing Standards

An image of gears with text overlay that has ethical statements.

In my last blog, I spoke about ethical sourcing and the many benefits it can have for your company. Seems like a no-brainer, right? When attempting to put in a plan to obliterate unethical practices in your supply chain, it starts to be risky business. The best way to mitigate risk is to set up a solid plan and be diligent about following through with it. 

In my research to find a clear plan to mitigate unethical practices, I found a slew of proposed methods. Unfortunately, I felt that many of them seemed too simple—basically, too easy and too good to be true. I finally came across a solid and thorough plan proposed by Declan Kearney, the founder of 360° Supplier View, who shares tips with companies to ensure ethical sourcing practices in their supply chain.

Do Your Research

Make sure you do your research on your suppliers…and their suppliers. With myriad complex regulations now put in place, go out and learn from case studies and the resources that will act as a survival guide as you attempt to research your vendors and suppliers.

Stay Away from the Fat Cat

Assess whether the higher-ups in your supplier organization are well known or politically aligned. These individuals are more susceptible to bribery or corruption.

Hailey Corr, Junior Editor and Marketing Associate, Outsource and SIG

Getting Smarter with RPA

Machine learning capabilities allow a bot to identify a mistake and apply a fix.

As the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market matures, enterprises are taking stock of lessons learned and exploring ways to take existing RPA capabilities to the next level.

Early days were characterized by excitement over the dramatic productivity and cost-saving benefits enabled by RPA. Over time, however, the limitations of rules-based bots have emerged. For one thing, basic RPA tools can’t adjust to new conditions or changes in their environment. Even the slightest deviation from the process they’re trained to follow triggers an exception that requires a human to step in, thereby sapping the solution’s productivity.

Another issue is the complexity surrounding deployment of RPA bots. While instructing a bot to perform a task is relatively easy, it does involve a level of programming expertise. Most end users of RPA are on the business side and lack the requisite technical knowledge. That means that setting up a bot requires an RPA programmer. Demand for RPA skills, meanwhile, is through the roof.  (Witness the volume of urgent “we’re hiring” notices on LinkedIn pleading for people with Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath certifications.) As a result, because the intervention of scarce technical resources is required, bottlenecks often occur when deploying a bot for a business user.

Alex Kozlov, Director of Content for Softtek US & Canada

Dropping the L in Machine Learning…is Machine Earning on the Horizon?

blockchain

At Singularity University’s Global Summit, keynote speaker David Roberts posed the question, “What if machines made more money than people?” Sounds crazy…but is it? With Blockchain, could that be the way of the future?

I confess that when he asked the question, I still didn’t feel comfortable enough with the concept of blockchain to have an informed opinion on the viability of it. So I did what 77% of people do when seeking information on the Web…I Googled it…and I kept Googling it until I found articles that dissected the concept well enough that it made sense. If you are equally confused by the term, hopefully this analysis will benefit you as well…because rest assured, you WILL need to understand it—especially if you work in sourcing, outsourcing or supply chain as the potential is unlimited.

Fundamentally, blockchain allows consumers to transact directly with one another without the need for an intermediary, like a bank. If you use Paypal and select “eCheck” as your payment method to reimburse a friend for say a concert ticket, it appears to go directly from you to them. In actuality it first has to clear your bank, which can take 3-5 business days, or up to 8 days if another country is involved. Blockchain removes the middleman by using digital currency (aka cryptocurrency) which can be spent with companies or people who are set up to accept it as a form of payment. The digital currency can be converted to cold, hard cash, but with thousands of companies now taking digital payments it is not really the norm.  

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

The Impacts of Artificial Intelligence on Medicine

Our world is shaped by technology. From the second we wake up until the moment our heads hit the pillow at night, we are constantly interacting with technology to manage our lives, to get us from point A to point B or to check in on our loved ones through social media. We interact with Artificial Intelligence (AI) so often that most of us don’t even realize that we’re doing it. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed by the new, flashy inventions that seem to be released daily. AI makes our lives easier, can even make a person’s life safer and in some cases, it can extend it.

I’m currently seeking my nursing degree and in my Essentials of Nursing class, it was discussed that in the US alone, 50% of all adults are living with at least one chronic disease. These illnesses not only have an impact on a person’s overall health and their independence, but it can also pose an enormous financial burden. In 2015, the total national health expenditures were $3.2 trillion and those costs are continuing to increase, especially as our population ages. Within 10 years, the population of people above 65 years of age will exceed the number of children under five for the first time in human history.

Brittany Miller, Marketing Analyst, SIG

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