Is AI Coming For Your Procurement Job?

Discover the potential impact of ChatGPT on procurement jobs. Will AI eventually replace humans? Read on to explore the possibilities and implications.

With every technological advancement, the fear that robots or automation will take our jobs resurfaces. It’s here again with generative artificial intelligence applications like ChatGPT.

You may remember when Microsoft Excel was the new job-stealer. It eliminated the need for ledger keepers, scrawling in bound paper books with a sharpened pencil. More recently, Robot Process Automation applications took over jobs in skilled professions like accounting and procurement.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Check out Procurious articles from 2019 through 2023 about the threat of AI taking procurement jobs. Should you be worried?

Never fear; the fear cycle has begun again. The recent emergence of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence models has anyone who works with technology questioning the future of their job.

Does Technology Take Jobs?

Should you be worried? It’s a legitimate concern. Up to 15% of the global workforce could be displaced by automation through 2030, according to McKinsey research. In tech-based economies like Europe, Japan, and the U.S., that number could be closer to 25%.

It’s true that over the years, technology has replaced people in many jobs. If your current position consists of copying and pasting information between spreadsheets or from one application to another, it should be automated. You have better things to do with your intelligence and initiative.

However, technology has been an overall net job creator. Sure, there’s some disruption. And it seems a lot more disruptive if your job has been disrupted. There will be new jobs available that didn’t exist last year. There are already job postings for ChatGTP prompt creators. Who knows what will be available next year or in five years?

Should you be worried about your job today? Plenty of news stories outline the sometimes scary and often hilarious shortcomings of AI interfaces. The models frequently return highly believable but often erroneous results. It’s like a person who thinks the loudest voice wins. If you repeat the wrong information with authority, many people will believe it.

The results are often written properly, but the actual content crumbles under scrutiny. It’s like a four-year-old making up a knock-knock joke. They will understand the format but don’t yet understand the internal logic of the joke that makes it funny. 

ChatGPT will wholly fabricate research results, referencing scholarly journal articles that simply don’t exist, or cite studies that are nowhere to be found.

Despite the funny fails, there are things the AI is good at. Anything rules-based, even basic computer programming, it can do well. Where we see the man behind the curtain, or lack thereof, is in anything ambiguous or creative. Humans are still much more adept at recognising associations between unrelated concepts.

Does Technology Make Work Better?

As we’ve seen in previous technological leaps, new opportunities will arise while outdated processes and practices fade.

Jobs may not be displaced so much as augmented by AI. McKinsey analysis found that about 30% of the activities in 60% of occupations could be automated. Your job could include more automation that hopefully takes care of the boring parts.

Experts predict there will be a need for people to analyse content to see if it was created by a person or by the generative AI, adding to the daily workload. 

“In addition to everything else we have to do, we also have to make time for the labor of distinguishing between human and AI, and the bureaucracy that will be built around it,” Ian Bogost wrote in The Atlantic.

Many secretarial and administrative jobs disappeared when desktop computers and Microsoft Office became prevalent. People were expected to type their own letters and emails and manage their own spreadsheets. Former secretaries moved on to bigger and better things. 

Things got done faster with less labor. In the same way, artificial intelligence tools can complement human labor and intelligence.

Procurement may turn out to be a hotbed of AI activity. It blends numeric and language-based data, and analysing and interpreting vast amounts of information is right in the AI’s sweet spot. AI is good at consuming large amounts of information, synthesising what it has learned and delivering summarised information. It can predict outcomes based on trends and past performance.

“Today’s legal, finance, procurement, sales, and operations departments must have access to the critical data within their company’s contracts, and this can only be done at scale with AI,” said Jerry Ting, Co-Founder and CEO of Evisort told NASDAQ. “AI-enabled technology helps business leaders realise the value of negotiated contracts by connecting contract data across the organisation.”

Artificial Intelligence is Already Here

Your procurement team may not actually face the choice of using AI or not. It’s here. Already, AI-based tools can analyse huge amounts of spend data from multiple sources and formats and assign classifications and run analyses. 

Over time, it can create a highly accurate model of your spend to automate tasks and provide complex insights. Sourcing becomes faster and more accurate with an AI tool, searching for vendors that meet specific requirements. Procurement teams can be freed from manually creating specs and statements of work as AI tools automate repetitive steps.

The AI can help crunch numbers for analytics and use language-based skills for risk management monitoring and other repetitive, formulaic tasks. Freed from labor-intensive chores, procurement teams can shine in supplier innovation and management and negotiations.

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for the value of human judgment in understanding the perspectives of business partners and vendors.

Are you thinking about using AI to automate procurement workflow? Or are you afraid it will become self-aware and try to take over? Tell us your human thoughts before it’s too late!