Procurement specialists on LinkedIn discuss the role machines will play in the evolution of procurement. Will machines replace people as the age of cognitive procurement dawns? After all, machines already:
- Collect more information and process it more quickly than people
- Store (i.e. memorize) more information and use it in a wide range of applications
- Use stored data to pplypport planning, decision-making and cognitive procurement processes heretofore unknown
Machines can do all of this, but does that make them intelligent? To be sure, artificial intelligence mimics true intelligence in some ways such as the evolutionary programming (EP) paradigm, the ability to make accurate algorithmic predications human analysts cannot and the quick identification of connections in immense data stacks that a person might never discover.
However, machines can appear to be quite foolish too. Some would simply reply with “garbage in; garbage out,” and perhaps that’s true. For example, a native of the UK is sent to a hat store when he indicates his vehicle needs bonnet repair. In a more complex error, a computer might overlook supply and demand issues, base its decision on a computation of the trend, and miss the mark. All algorithms fail at some point, especially when venturing toward the boundary of their capabilities – boundaries that can only be discovered through trial and error.
As the potential of cognitive procurement becomes reality, machines will replace some knowledge workers. However, more than a century of technological advances has proved one thing: Technology creates more jobs than it replaces, and that will hold true here as well. Knowledge workers will be in demand to develop and utilize algorithms and find ways to improve them and apply them more productively. Take the creation of software, for example. Once the software has been developed, it begins replacing human workers currently doing the work it is designed to do. However, consider the jobs created:
- Software developer or team of developers with the ongoing role of updating the software and working on the next generation
- Marketing, advertising and sales personnel
- Technical support and customer service personnel
When a company replaces people with software, resources are freed up to invest in new business creation and the jobs that come with it.
In the future of cognitive procurement, both humans and machines will be required, each with clearly defined, essential and interdependent roles. While machines crunch massive data stacks with their algorithms, people will engage in cognitive activities such as developing, verifying and applying new technologies. Humans and their real intelligence vis-à-vis AI will identify false positives and negatives that would lead machines astray of the goal while also finding new ways to apply the artificial intelligence the machines possess.
In short, the future of the procurement professional is a person with the skillset to manage the machine science of cognitive procurement while practicing the art of procurement beyond the ability of any machine.
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