A procurement digitalisation expert predicts that an emerging digital technology fusing artificial intelligence (AI) with robotics has the potential to transform procurement jobs in the foreseeable future, undertaking the most laborious aspects of the role and freeing practitioners to concentrate on the more human tasks of building business relationships.

Despite procurement and supply chain jobs involving crucial human relational functions, such as managing stakeholders and suppliers, many practitioners find themselves having insufficient time to devote to them. Transactional activities, data collection, responding to urgencies, etc., take their toll on a professional’s time. But procurement digitalist, Bertrand Maltaverne, believes that is about to change. New generation Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology fuses the ability to ‘do’ these repetitive and tedious tasks with an AI-powered ability to ‘learn’ what else needs to be done to release practitioners, including procurement and supply chain interims, from time-consuming chores.

RPA is preconfigured software programmed with a menu of business rules, enabling it to automatically execute a range of processes, tasks, transactions, and activities with near-infallible accuracy. It frees up resources by sparing practitioners a raft of hitherto manual tasks, allowing them to re-focus their efforts on core business. Until now, the main drawback of RPA was that it only does what it’s told, doing so by ‘robotically’ executing whatever set of rules given. But newer generation RPA solutions integrate AI to understand input-based natural language processing, learn from exceptions and errors, and generate revised rules based on experience.

Maltaverne said: “RPA, in combination with other technologies, is an efficient way to connect silos (from a data perspective) to win back valuable time and remove the “robot” work from the desk of procurement teams so they can focus on the human side of their job. On top of that, procurement organisations can gain tremendous insights from implementing RPA because it can make new data digitally accessible and more visible.”

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