Why Procurement Should Give Cognitive Tech A Warm Embrace
When you pushback on the advances of cognitive technology, you’re buying yourself, and procurement, minimial time. Working side by side in a warm embrace is the way to do it!
There’s no question that procurement teams needs to prepare for their own cognitive journeys, to consider what their company’s digital transformation will look like, and then think about how to prepare, or even influence it.
But in doing so, are they also mapping out a talent journey?
The 2017 Deloitte CPO survey interestingly revealed that whilst the vast majority of procurement leaders see the need to train and develop their people, only 31 per cent were planning to focus on training in digital skills in the coming year.
John Viner Smith, Principal, Mercer and speaker on today’s webinar has some thoughts on why this is the case, “I think part of the reason is that there’s no consensus at present as to what the skills people need to acquire are to be ready for this [cogntive] world. It’s just not clear for the leaders concerned yet.”
Last week we outlined the key soft skills procurement professionals should be developing to prepare for the cognitive age. But what about the attitude on the ground? Procurement professionals are still wary of the impact cognitive technology will have on the function, which results in a level of pushback and reluctance to accept the changes that are coming.
The warm embrace of cognitive technology
“It may be reasonable to look at the state of technologies today and think ‘No worries, I can’t see anything out there that could do my job’, but that’s not the risk.” John explains. ” The risk is that these technologies, coupled with other disruptors, could make your job obsolete and truly redundant. Imagine being a farrier at the very beginning of the 20th century; if you were thinking ‘Thank goodness they haven’t invented a machine that can shoe horses better than me’, you were kind of missing the point.”
So what is Justin McBryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM ,seeing in terms of pushback within his organisation?
“I don’t know if I would characterise it as a pushback so to speak.
“We see it as a warm embrace across the organisation but a wary embrace as well. As we digitise the organisation and continue to march forward into the cognitive era, certainly the technologies on the horizon are noticed and seen [by our employees.]
“But I say a warm embrace because a lot of the technologies we are building, have built and continue to build need the procurement skills and institutional knowledge that we’ve built over the years including all of our great people. In terms of where we are today and as we’ve been rolling out Watson Supply Chain etc. we see it as more of an embrace.”
Cognitive tech is “not necessarily a replacement of the person, it’s someone sitting next to you and helping you.”
The environment that Justin describes is one of collobaration, with seasoned procurement pros looking to help machines learn and work alongside them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing so with the wary eye of “what’s next?”
But as Justin points out, as procurement teams embrace and integrate these cognitive technologies, they can also be asking themselves “What can I do to begin to point my skill development in the right direction?”
Exploiting the advantages of cognitive technology
There’s a lot of scare mongering out in the field that says that if you’re not a data scientist, you don’t have a future in Procurement.
But we’re reassured by the fact that IBM is working hard on developing its employees’ soft skills and is a strong advocate for how cognitive tech will allow professionals to better perform their roles not seek to replace them.
When it comes down to data scientists versus soft skills experts, Justin believes they’re sequential from each other and likens it to climbing up two different kinds of hills, “We want the majority of our organisation to build up on their soft skills. We’re happy if everyone builds up their analytics skills. We certainly need a solid group up at the top who can drive the innovation and integration of the cognitive tools.
“We need our best and brightest from a data scientist perspective but not all of us need to be there.”
“If we continue down the cognitive path we’re going to have a lot of tools to add to the procurement portfolio. The digitisation of our organisations free up time for our employees to focus on two big things that are important for procurement:
- Getting closer to clients
- Creating time and space to innovate on our processes and innovate on the solutions that we’re delivering to our client
“The more we add to the digital cognitive portfolio of tools that procurement pros can use, the more time that is freed up on the innovation and client engagement space, [which is an opportunity for procurement] to exploit the advatages of the cognitive era.”