It is clear that the economic impact of the global pandemic, significant inflation, and the war in Ukraine is accelerating procurement’s transformation from a transactional function to a key enabler of cost management and business growth. In 2020 and 2021, change was thrust upon us all. In 2022 and beyond, companies have the opportunity to own that transformation.
The public’s imagination has been heavily shaped by science fiction, with the term AI evoking images of robots like WALL-E, C3PO from Star Wars and David from Stephen Spielberg’s movie A.I. Scientists and technologists refer to this kind of humanlike AI as “general artificial intelligence.” General AI attempts to mimic the kind of abstract thought and typical problem-solving skills seen in humans.
Procurement has been an essential partner to businesses throughout the pandemic. While there are many factors that have led to its prominence, not all of them will have a long-term impact. In 2022, the tradtional function of procurement and the roles it performs will change drastically.
The best-performing procurement organizations traditionally operate at a lower cost than typical procurement organizations (i.e., peers), while also providing greater strategic value and overall effectiveness.
Automation has become quite the norm across all industries. However, modern automation places a premium on interconnectedness. So it's no surprise that cyber risks are on the rise. It also means there's a greater probability of danger for every party involved.
Manufacturing growth has skyrocketed over the last few decades, but the industry continues to lag in growing its most important asset: its people. A spike in retirements, paired with a drop in analytical leaders entering the field, is creating demand for procurement and supply chain talent that far outpaces supply.
The stark reality is, many, if not most, businesses fall short when implementing automated processes within procurement. Company leaders driven to improve efficiency and flexibility often attempt to revolutionize their entire function at once, opting for the "done and dusted" approach; this is a flawed strategy.
Organizations are putting a magnifying glass to their global workforce. Through continuous changes in local employment laws and additional scrutiny towards proper worker classification both domestically and globally, globalization and centralization of an organization’s talent is more important than ever.
Companies who had not centralized their global workforce are now having to consolidate and audit their once independently running teams. Many are finding that having a decentralized HR function is putting their organizations at risk.
Though terrible, the pandemic has given us much-needed time to pause, reflect, and perhaps make some changes to the way we live our lives. We have a chance to reevaluate what is really important to us. What brings us happiness? What drains our energy? What experiences add meaning to our days? Which ones take it away? We have an opportunity to face this challenge in a way that makes us better people.
At the time of writing this piece, I am just one of five million people emerging from the world’s longest coronavirus-related lockdown, in Melbourne, Australia. For nearly two months, I was only allowed to leave the house once a day for essential items and required to stay within three miles of my home. From takeaway meals to IT support, to doctor’s appointments, most of the goods and services I've needed have been ordered virtually. Since COVID-19 hit, I’m amazed at how quickly the world went virtual.
Artificial Intelligence and the Pandemic
Artificial Intelligence (AI) defines the 21st century, impacting and driving transformation across every business and industry. With the new norms thrust upon us due to the pandemic, businesses and industries have had to find ways to transform overnight. Previously, it may have taken several years for an organization to make an incremental change or improvement.
Since March, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs, bringing the United States’ unemployment rate to its highest point since the Great Depression. The near-term pain is obvious, but how will this seismic economic event influence the workforce a generation from now?
Well, many companies adopt automation in only one department of their business, while the rest of the department will rely on legacy systems. An automation platform cannot perform to its ultimate capabilities if the whole company is not on the same system. When you talk about company-wide automation, many companies are hesitant to deploy automation company-wide because it can require a lot of training and the system may not be user-friendly.
Amid the pandemic, it’s fair to say the outsourced service operating model, particularly in customer service, has experienced forced change. While cost has always been the key driver in services outsourcing, Covid-19 has caused a monumental shift from cost being the critical point, to risk management and quality as the metrics and measures that now matter most. Call centers have had a particularly tough time of things; the actions that many of them have taken have been admirable, but it’s becoming clearer that long-term change has accelerated to the short term.