In the next couple of years (even by the end of 2021), human involvement could become noticeably limited to providing strategic oversight of high-profile businesses or organizations. Naturally, procurement functions will follow these dramatic changes.
Cognitive models that mimic human thought processes will completely undertake complex procedures, while routine tasks will be delegated to Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Reason behind it?
It’s actually quite simple. Core values of strategic sourcing & procurement are aligned with the automation and the discarding of manual, time-consuming tasks.
While robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global business software market, it’s fair to say that many organizations still don’t realize their full potential.
Having said that, businesses that embrace the advantage of this monumental strategic shift could expect a drastic increase in their efficiency and growth potential.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Basically, RPA is a type of software that imitates the activity of a human within a process, such as carrying a task.
The term itself is derived from the idea of software that replicates the action a user takes through the interface of a specific computer system. RPA will record anything we do through clicking on a screen or typing into a keyboard and then repeat it (most common examples are simple tasks, such as log-in, recording, etc). Unlike artificial intelligence that can learn from data and evolve all by itself, RPA remains the same.
Key benefits of RPA?
In the field of procurement, RPA will noticeably impact vast number of processes, from contract, category, supplier relationship, or risk management, to ordering or HR services.
But, there are criteria required for the successful implementation of RPA in a business organization.
The most important requirements are:
- process characteristics- readable; repetitive; rule-based; low exception; high ROI; unchangeable, error-prone, etc.
- high volumes of a specific action- log-in/out; field entry; copy/paste; screen navigation, etc.
According to leading researchers in the field, procurement is not quite optimistic about RPA compared to other corporate functions, although a large percentage of procurement organizations are already using RPA solutions (around 40%).
In my view, procurement has significant potential, especially when placed in cross-functional processes, while silo mentality is often the problem. RPA also shows an impressive savings potential and the ability to deliver improved accuracy and speed.
However, early adopters have numerous challenges in turning their RPA programs into a larger scale. Today’s organizations should learn from the mistakes of those pioneers. Key recommendations are:
- Selecting RPA opportunities carefully
- Plan its roadmap and consider cross-functional benefits
- Build an internal RPA team or center of excellence
As automated processes continue to evolve, so will the procurement, until it reaches the point where it becomes a condensed center managed by AI, bots, and RPA, driven by a tiny proportion of human input, mostly regarding priorities and strategic direction.
Do you agree on this matter, or is it just another hype? Let me know your thoughts.