“People have to consciously decide, am I going to ignore or resist AI, or am I going to embrace this opportunity? If you try to hold back the tide, you’re going to get swamped. So, go with it, and embrace it.” – Clive R. Heal, Founder & CEO at LavenirAI
Procurement is standing at the edge of a remarkable, if not historic, period of transformation and change, driven by emerging technologies and AI. But standing on the edge and looking out into the vastness of a new reality can be overwhelming, especially as the pace of that change seems to be speeding up by the minute.
In a recent four-part special series, “AI-Empowered Procurement,” Philip Ideson spoke with Clive R. Heal, Founder and CEO, and Bill Michels, Chief Commercial Officer, both from LavenirAI, to explore how procurement can prepare for the changes that lie ahead… and adapt to the changes that are already here.
Change, especially large-scale change, is often met with resistance, fear, or denial, but Clive and Bill advise that this is not the time to resist, but rather, the time to embrace, welcome, and harness the power of the impending procurement metaverse.
Here are a few key excerpts from our conversation with Clive and Bill in the fourth and final episode in the series, as they discuss the key changes they see coming for procurement, the mindset procurement should have in order to meet the challenges ahead and, most importantly, to take advantage of the opportunity that this technology unlocks.
What do you expect to see for procurement in the metaverse over the next three years?
Clive: I think over the next three years we’re talking more about the metaverse rather than the procurement metaverse. The bigger metaverse comes first, and then procurement will follow on in terms of our use of the metaverse for procure tech and our day-to-day interactions with our business partners and our suppliers.
People will get fed up with hitting keyboards, and that will be replaced by conversational AI and the opportunity to talk to the technology. Virtual reality is coming in, and I also think we’re going to see people conversing with avatars, which is all driving us towards one procure tech metaverse where everything is connected and integrated.
How will this accelerate the pace of change in the procure tech space?
Clive: I think every procure tech company will have a procurement metaverse-enabled product, like VR or conversational AI. That will become our environment where we work with suppliers and business partners. But by the time we see this, people will already have that familiarity with the metaverse because they’ll have been using it in a social context to connect with their real or avatar friends or from a consumer perspective to make purchases. All of these technologies are going to fit together in the metaverse.
Conversing with avatars may seem jarring for some people. What kind of mindset do you think is needed to be speaking with an avatar versus a real human?
Clive: Younger generations don’t actually mind whether they’re talking to an avatar or a real person, which can be a little shocking or surprising to some. Once you start to have conversations with avatars, especially the photorealistic avatars arriving now, it’s very difficult to tell if it’s a real person or an avatar. Once you get used to it, it’s nothing to be frightened of; in fact, many people find it quite good fun.
Procurement can be slower to change than other areas of the business. How do we address different attitudes or feelings about the change that is clearly coming, or already here in many cases?
Bill: I’ve done a lot of transformational change programs, and you get to see how people react to change. People usually do one of four things: they either stick their head in the sand and hope it goes away, they embrace change and move forward, they resist change altogether, or they sit on the fence and wait to see if that change is going to be successful.
In my experience, the people who embrace change move forward very fast in their organizations. I’ve seen several people do that and go right to the top. The resistors… I’ve never seen them stay with the business.
What do you think is the biggest change procurement is facing now?
Bill: I think the biggest change coming is that the tactical and transactional work will be gone. If you’re in that space now, you need to look at how you can move to a more strategic role and upskill your capabilities.
How will AI change specific jobs or roles within procurement?
Bill: If you’re wondering, “will AI replace my job?” I think the procurement job is going to change to a more strategic role. It’ll be about aligning, architecting, and integrating supply chains and making them collaborate.
How do we address the fear that some people might have about these changes?
Clive: The human subconscious fights to protect its construct of reality, and it also tends to ignore, deny, or resist any new changes. People have to consciously decide, ‘am I going to ignore or deny or resist this? Or, am I going to embrace this opportunity for me personally in my role and in my career?’
If you try to hold back the tide, you’re going to get swamped, so the key point here is to go with it and embrace it.