March 20, 2019
Why AI is procurement professionals’ new BFF
By: Tom Fahey

The procurement organizations that I talk to are very interested in using artificial intelligence (AI) to enrich the source-to-pay process with relevant and real-time information. But there is still a lot of head scratching around the concept. What problems could it actually solve? How exactly would it work? How would it change the way things are done?

For anyone asking these questions, I encourage you to ground your thinking in two truths. First, AI is not science fiction. It is here and now. In fact, Accenture is actively enhancing our procurement platforms with our Procurement Market Intelligence Advisor. It helps to eliminate the manual task of searching for information, accelerating the process and increasing the relevancy of the information found.

Second—and you may be surprised to hear this from me of all people—the story of AI in procurement is not a pure technology play. The power of AI comes from people and digital together. AI uncovers relevant and new information fast. Procurement experts turn this information into critical insights, creatively applying it to solve novel problems. In my observation, people often underestimate the value of human judgement, something no machine can replicate today.

Here’s how the Procurement Market Intelligence Advisor works. It crawls unstructured text across thousands of digital sources—thousands of times faster than humans could. It extracts key patterns with advanced machine learning techniques and text analytics to provide procurement professionals with laser-focused supplier intelligence with automated narration capabilities. And because the Advisor is continually learning, the accuracy and relevance of information, and the speed of retrieval, is improving all the time.

Forget science fiction. Here’s a sneak peak of 3 ways #procurement organizations are using AI in source-to-pay.

While it is still early days, I am excited to share how we are using this innovative tool today:

  • Marketing Agency Portal. When choosing the right supplier, context matters. Beyond knowing what suppliers do, procurement should know who they work with, what industries they serve, and more. We are using the AI-powered Advisor in the marketing category to do this quickly. Instead of trying to manually mine endless data, marketing and procurement professionals can turn to the Advisor to examine agency relationships and performance, evaluate competitors and monitor industry trends, producing a “heat map” that shows critical relationships for analysis.


  • Supplier Intelligence. Supplier profiles are key tools of the trade in procurement. But developing profiles that are comprehensive and up-to-date can be time consuming and tedious. We are using the Procurement Market Intelligence Advisor to build rich supplier profiles on the fly from pre-configured data sources. Decision makers get at-a-glance facts about a supplier’s headquarters, leadership, business offerings and competitors to inform their thinking.


  • Supplier or Product Discovery. The Advisor is helping our procurement specialists identify emerging suppliers, products and technologies in specific categories. By mining the evolving relationships among suppliers, competitors and business offerings, category managers can stay ahead of industry trends, get an early pulse on competitor activities and compare suppliers without investing loads of time in data sourcing and analysis.

As our people and our clients learn more about how Artificial Intelligence can transform the way they work, we look forward to building and exploring breakthrough use cases that should bring the next wave of people-digital power to procurement.

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