The obstacles holding back voice-enabled procurement

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voice-enabled procurement

The partnership between SAP Ariba and IBM suggests procurement is set to become much smarter. The two firms joined forces to develop procurement applications with integrated technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).


As voice-enabled technology such as Amazon’s Alexa becomes increasingly commonplace in the home, the reality of using it for procurement is starting to seem like a very real prospect. However, the question remains as to how businesses will take advantage of this advanced functionality in the future. From my experience of developing such an app, I can tell you that it is not straightforward.


Voice recognition technology has huge potential to speed up and smoothen procurement processes when combined with AI. Not only can employees use it to place orders; it can also be used for analysing organisational-wide spend. Imagine the convenience of asking the device questions such as ‘how much did we spend on stationery in Q2?’ and immediately having the answer?


However, applying this technology to a procurement tool is a challenge. Voice-enabled apps need to be able to turn what would normally be a mouse click, keyboard type or touch into a single voice interaction. Users are familiar with clicking a single button, and so any voice interaction needs to give the same response to a question without the user having to give further clarity.


Beyond that, features such as PO approval and assessment of cost-effectiveness must be considered. Consumer apps that can be used to purchasing goods don’t need the same depth of functionality.


It would seem that other business functions outside of procurement are not fairing too well with voice-enabled apps either. CCS Insight notes many businesses as a whole are hesitant to use technology that recognises and understands speech, given the sensitive information being discussed in office environments.


Some app developers are working on securing them further by integrating voice recognition technology into the app. From a procurement perspective, this would mean only those permitted to buy items can use the app, preventing outsiders from having the ability to make orders or retrieve confidential data. Voice recognition doesn’t only serve as a security tactic; it can be set to recommend items based on the individual using it and their job role, as well as restricting them from buying other items.


The potential of voice recognition technology for procurement is immense and there is a need for CPOs to keep tabs on how voice-enabled technology is being developed because as history dictates, it doesn’t often take long for consumer trends to filter into the business world.


Peter Kinder is CTO at Wax Digital


This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.

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