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“It’s incumbent upon all of us to be change ready, to be curious, to always be learning because this overestimated technology today will truly be delivering huge results tomorrow.”Alan Veeck, CEO & Founder at Summit Procurement

Alan Veeck, CEO & Founder at Summit Procurement, is a self-avowed contrarian thinker and maybe even a bit of a skeptic when it comes to AI. 

While nearly everyone else in the space is trying to figure out how and where to apply AI as quickly as they can across their workflows, Alan is one of the few voices today urging procurement to avoid falling victim to the hype and instead take a more measured approach to AI. In this podcast episode, he shares his thoughts on procurement’s (over)reaction to this new technology.

Don’t mistake Alan’s hesitancy to join the AI frenzy for a rejection of it. He’s no Luddite, and he still sees a future where all paths indeed lead to AI. But, says Alan, “maybe walk, don’t run” towards these emerging technologies that he still acknowledges will likely change much of what we know and do today.

We had a rich, and very timely conversation around AI, and his unique point of view offers a refreshingly measured and even optimistic perspective that is critically lacking in today’s discourse. 

Here, in his own words, are some of the highlights from our talk as Alan offers us a new way of thinking about the digital revolution we’re all living in now: 

AI at scale? We’re not there yet

“Have I seen true AI in procurement at scale working really well? No, not really. As a matter of fact, I have to say that most of the generative AI stuff is where I have seen it work best – where you craft an email or have it answer a question or have it bring back a set of suppliers.” 

An optimistic – but realistic – view of AI

“While I am a contrarian today, I am a tech optimist. I am an AI optimist in the long run. … Whoever was the famous person who said, ‘Most technology is overestimated in the short run and underestimated in the long run,” if I had a tattoo, that’s what it would say.”

[Note: The famous person was Roy Amara, an American scientist, futurist, and President of the Institute of the Future. Amara’s Law is: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”]

No, AI isn’t coming for your procurement job

“It is the biggest understatement. I will say no, AI is not taking your job. We are doing just fine. That’s a part of the reason why I got hot and bothered and decided to call myself an AI contrarian. I was talking to one person in particular who I think was injecting the hype cycle into their veins with a needle. Again, the operative quote that everybody should remember and use here is: AI is not going to take your job. Somebody else using AI is going to take your job. It’s incumbent upon all of us to be change ready, to be curious, and to always be learning because this overestimated technology today will truly be delivering huge results tomorrow.”

Resistance is Futile

“The process we’re in now is all iterative. The cost of admission to being world-class in this space is practice. You cannot just wait until the end, find faith, and all of a sudden be able to use all those tools that truly have become strong. It is through steady and deliberate practice that you are going to find yourself at the end with the opportunity to use the best AI tools.

The change is accelerating and happening fast. It’s incumbent upon everybody to practice. You have got to get in there and become conversant in this technology. Otherwise, you will find yourself left behind.”

Think Small, Not Big with AI

“This is an individual’s game. This doesn’t happen at the enterprise level. I think of the poor clients that I work with who are investing millions – if not tens of millions – of dollars into enterprise-wide AI solutions. Those tech stacks are going to be obsolete very fast.”

To CPOs: Don’t Get Carried Away

“Many CPOs are getting pressure from the CEO, the CFO, and the CRO who ask ‘What are we doing with AI?’ The places where I have felt like CPOs have put their foot in it is when they don’t resist that pressure and they get caught up in the hype cycle. 

Have a firm backbone. Realize that there aren’t so many sub functions within procurement that you can say, ‘AI is going to completely revolutionize this today.’ Fight the urge to go out and buy a new piece of hot technology.” 

Stop Looking for The Promised Land

“One of the things that everybody thinks when they think of technology is nirvana. They think, ‘I am going to achieve pure bliss. This technology is going to solve all my problems.’ But as we know, it always creates as many – or more – problems than it solves. 

Maybe that is the nasty way that technology works. You have to take the good, put up with the bad, and constantly iterate and change – sometimes, completely change and buy new technology that might be the next leapfrog-level of tech. 

I am old enough to know and I have been around this block enough to know that there is no nirvana here.” 

Even Contrarians Embrace Change 

“In a decade or so from now, I think we will still be chasing nirvana and not finding it. We will even be amazed now if we look back and say to ourselves, ‘My goodness! Cast back 12 years from now to 2012 and think about what the technology landscape looked like.’ You can remember when the first iPhones came out. I can remember when the first mobile phones came out. But nobody nowadays can imagine living without either one of those things. In 12 years’ time, with the accelerating way that technology works, we won’t even recognize 2024 which will be a good thing.”

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