Hello Procurement: SAP Ariba invites buyers, suppliers to chat with a bot

Dive Brief:

  • SAP Ariba debuted plans for a new AI-powered chatbot, named Procurement, at its user conference in Las Vegas, Venture Beat reported Wednesday. Procurement will interact with users verbally, much like Siri or Alexa, and will be one of a suite of bots launched by the end of 2017.
  • Buyers and suppliers can often be frustrated by the procurement process, especially when invoices are or must be rejected due to simple errors or coded preferences, SAP Ariba said in a press release.
  • The new bot is intended to smooth the procurement process for users via machine learning, through which it will learn user’s preferences, company policies and procedures to assist with error reduction and faster processing.  

Dive Insight:

All new technology has one thing in common: the mission to make a burdensome process more efficient. SAP Ariba first did so by creating a common platform for suppliers and buyers to engage each other, but the company is looking to take efficiency one step further this year with its chatbots.

In this case, the company aims to reduce delays in the invoicing process by having a chatbot learn buyer preferences and supplier information, so each party does not have to. In other words, Procurement is being offered as a middleman to the purchasing process, available by voice command. New supplier? No problem, if they were using Procurement the information should be available. Gone are the days of back-and-forth e-mails, according to SAP Ariba.

A bot like Procurement is machine learning at its best. However, history shows uptake for technology assistants can be controversial. If SAP Ariba is to succeed, they must ensure the bot feels natural, unobstrusive and meets expectations of speed (CIO Dive remarks Microsoft's Clippy is a good example of a failed bot experiment). If the experiment does succeed, though, users can expect reductions in wasted time — always a goal for the supply chain manager.

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Filed Under: Procurement Technology
Top image credit: SoftBank Robotics