AI 'a long way off changing procurement', say experts

Execs from ServiceNow, Fannie Mae, Fujitsu and Enable tell Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE NY that AI is not mature enough to revolutionise procurement

AI is "a long way off" impacting supply chain and procurement at a level seen with chatbot AI solutions like ChatGPT, leading technology experts have told Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE NY.     

Guests from firms including AWS, Mastercard, EY, Capgemini and Snowflake spoke across two stages at the event, which showcased leading-edge thinking around digital transformation, innovation and sustainable practices. The event was attended by virtual delegates from around the world.  

A highlight was a discussion of generative AI solutions in procurement, and how this needs to be balanced with human expertise and the value of human relationships.  

The Procurement Strategies Forum featured: 

AI 'long way off' meaningfully changing procurement 

“As a technologist I love ChatGPT but in terms of procurement and supply chain we're a long way off seeing meaningful changes to our business,” said Ocampo.

He added: “There are parts of the business its going to be great at, such as virtual agents, but regarding learning algorithms that generate recommendations, we're a long way off.”

Fujistu's Rees agreed, saying AI "is only part of the solution for procurement strategies", adding: “It's not going to solve everything and we shouldn't expect it to. In procurement we have lots of data and make lots of decisions. We get decision crossroads, and if we make a wrong decision it's difficult to find our way back.”

He continued: “In theory, AI should give us the opportunity to make better and more-informed decisions, but it won't make the decision for us, and nor should it.“

Gilham expanded on this, saying how human knowledge is still vital to understanding problems but that AI "is still a very useful tool".

He said: “Data on its own isn't that useful. We've got to understand the business the data relates to, and that's where it's going to struggle because requires a lot of tribal knowledge in most businesses.”

He added: “It's about getting out there and understanding data trends. In many cases, none of this is written down. I think AI has a long learning curve before it can blend the two pieces together. What it potentially can do is help us focus more on the important things.”

Karmacharya of Fannie Mae agreed, saying: “In the near what I am excited about the most is the use of AI on spend analytics and contract analytics. We can use AI tools that can help us be more efficient about identifying risks in a contract model. I have also experimented with using intelligent tools to score red lines across various suppliers. 

“There is definitely potential, but I think we still have some way to go to get to really using it on a day-to-day basis.”

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