A chief procurement officer has urged procurement practitioners not to assume that emerging digital technologies will automatically improve their performance but to focus instead on what they need it to do to add value.

Sylvie Noël, CPO at the insurance company Covéa Insurance, explained in an interview with Supply Managementthat many businesses were tempted to turn to new technologies to solve problems. But she urged practitioners in procurement jobs to be more discerning, to focus on specified pain points and remain open-minded over what solution would be the best fit.

Earlier this month, during the Ivalua Now: the Art of Procurementevent in Paris, Noël said that she wasn’t looking for any technology in particular, such as chatbots and AI: “What I’m looking for is for added value which will allow my team to focus on really doing business and not doing pure transactions. I’m not looking for technology, I’m looking for what will most benefit my team.”

She emphasised that there was no point in buying a digital tool if practitioners had not first worked out what they needed because, without this step, it wouldn’t deliver the desired results. In a comment equally applicable to permanent practitioners as well as procurement and supply chain interims, she added: “Tools will sustain the processes you want to implement but if you don’t know what those are yet, don’t buy anything, don’t spend any money. It’s totally useless.”

Noël is not taking an ‘anti-tech’ position. She and her team have used AI to optimise contract processing and analyse contract details. Her point is that the main factor for procurement teams in determining whether to install new technology is whether it will add value. Procurement and supply chain pros, she explained, were working today as part of an ecosystem far more than in the past. That entails showing colleagues in the ecosystem that added value may be broader than money, such as improved services, warranties and the other elements surrounding buying.