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In this episode of AOP Introducing, Clive R. Heal speaks with Kelly Barner about his vision and drive for applying AI in procurement.

When Clive founded LavenirAI in 2020, the conversation around AI and how it would impact procurement was focused mainly on automation and its unfortunate byproduct – job loss. 

“Too much of the technology at that time was all about automating transactions, taking out jobs, and removing people,” said Clive. “The technology was there to help the company, but on an individual level, it was actually taking out jobs.”

Clive saw a better future for AI-powered procurement, one where AI enhanced, rather than replaced, procurement’s capabilities: “I thought, ‘how can we use technology to help everybody become a better procurement professional and a better negotiator?”

LavenirAI, an AI-powered negotiation training and development platform for procurement, was founded to fill that gap. Since then, Clive has continued to see a world (or, metaverse, rather) of opportunity for AI to amplify procurement’s potential for value creation. From conversational AI to virtual reality VR and the metaverse, these are tools procurement can leverage for impact TODAY. 

While some might wonder if the inevitable integration of these technologies into our everyday workflows puts the ‘human factor’ in personal connection at risk of being automated out of procurement. This is where LavenirAI shows what is really possible.

“Negotiation is a core competency that procurement does every day … and strategic negotiation – not transactional automated negotiations with bots – is a social process. It’s about people interacting with people, it’s where the rubber hits the road,” said Clive. 

With LavenirAI, trainees practice their negotiation skills on-demand with life-like digital sales avatars, or “digital mentors,” powered by AI. These digital negotiation coaches engage in conversations and answer questions, each with a different style of thinking, emoting, or communicating. Each avatar is trained to replicate realistic conversations and interactions and prepare trainees to have more effective negotiations with real-life suppliers.

The next iteration of this AI-powered training and development technology will take procurement a step further into virtual reality, where a VR headset will provide a fully immersive experience. Trainees will no longer be honing their negotiation skills while looking at a flat screen – it will feel like they are actually in the same room, having face-to-face negotiations in real time with the avatar.

If practice is what really matters in becoming a more skilled negotiator, why not just practice with a real person or on suppliers, as procurement have traditionally done? Again, Clive says, it’s about leveraging AI to enhance the learning process and extract the maximum value and learnings out of the interactions, not replacing them altogether with technology.

“When procurement negotiates with suppliers, you don’t ever get feedback,” he said. “You just have to sit there and reflect to yourself after a real negotiation, ‘Did I do a good job? Did I pick up on everything I could have done? Did I miss some of the body language?” 

But when you practice with a digital mentor, the algorithm gives individual and team feedback and measures how impactful the trainee’s negotiation skills are and where there are areas for improvement. Arming CPOs or Human Resources and Learning & Development leaders with this kind of feedback about their teams’ negotiation skills can help drive future trainings, identify what is working and not working, and improve skills over time so ultimately the business sees better results. 

“If a trainee is scoring better with the avatar and we can see with the data that they’re learning and getting better from all of the practice, when he or she then sits down with a real supplier, they are going to deliver more value to the business.”

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