Is it true? Are Robots taking over Procurement?

It's coming, no doubt about it!

Cognitive technology is coming, and it is getting us to re-think the way we consider our future roles in society as employers, employees and consumers. The likes of Google and Amazon are already pushing into this area with everything from warehouse drones to self-driving cars. After seeing the latest artificial intelligence in action, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and the space exploration outfit SpaceX, fears that AI may turn on humans in more direct ways, so much so that he has given millions to seek ways of keeping AI "beneficial to humanity."

The area of Procurement falls very clearly under the umbrella term of Knowledge work, workers whose line of work requires us to ‘think for a living’. Knowledge workers account for a large quantity of jobs in today’s mature economy. Machines have taken over the less cognitive work. But with the rise of cognitive technology, this could all change?  

What does this mean for Novo-K, for you? Are consultancies facing extinction?

A significant number of procurement professionals have recognised that they must plan into the future of Cognitive Technology. At Novo-K we foresee our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams will need to augment if we don’t want the function of our consultancy to face extinction.

AI Versus Humanity

Procurious, in partnership with IBM, recently shared their more optimistic, and realistic, approach that humans can, and will, win the day (Procurious December 2017) 

A procurement workforce will always be needed to managing relationships with the supply chain ecosystem and governance set in place.

'Job Transformation, Not Job Replacement'

Humans must continue to build these machines and program them and repair them. But they must also train them. This is true of "deep learning". IBM is touting the arrival of Watson, a broad collection of online tools that use artificial intelligence to help diagnose disease, among other things, and so many others are exploring similar work. But whatever the message from IBM, such tools operate alongside humans, not in lieu of them. "Watson is like a robotic colleague," says Gownder of IBM. "It's job transformation, not job replacement."

Andrew Moore, the dean of the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who worked in AI and robotics at Google says that he has seen no evidence that this technology is stealing jobs—and that, as time goes on, it will likely create an enormous number of jobs.” Technology does change the mix of jobs. You're going to see doctors taking more of the role that involves the personal interaction with patients and less of the role of trying to keep huge amounts of evidence in their heads. The nurse may become more prestigious than the doctor,"

Yes, the revolution is coming but much of such technology is still in the early stages of development—and it still requires much help from humans and will continue to need repair and upgrade.

Is Augmentation the answer?

Augmentation, in contrast, means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by a greater use of machines. Some thoughtful knowledge workers and academics see this clearly being the way forward.

In The Harvard Business Review Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby propose a change in mindset, on the part of both workers and providers of work, that will lead to different outcomes—'a change from pursuing automation to promoting augmentation.’ This seemingly simple shift will have deep implications for how organisations are managed and how individuals strive to succeed. Knowledge workers will come to see smart machines as partners and collaborators in creative problem solving.

We think working alongside technology could change the future. What do you think? Tell us, share your thoughts @novoksmart /

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