How to Transform Your Procurement Process with Natural Language Generation
Posted by Amenallah Reghimi, VP of Product Management, Cognitive Intelligence, Category Management and Analytics in Autonomous Procurement on June 18, 2020
“Alexa… find information about Conversational Platforms in Procurement…”
Natural Language Generation (like Alexa and Siri) technologies are transforming the way business professionals and consumers interact with technology. Voice-enabled platforms are still in their infancy, but the technology rapidly advancing to enable more complex interactions. It’s only matter of time before we are all relying on Natural Language Generation (NLG) platforms to interpret data, research information and even perform tasks (like content marketing writing) on our behalf.
Apple, Amazon and Google have perhaps received the most attention from their use of natural language, voice-enabled technology in consumer applications. For years they’ve been competing head-to-head to develop the smartest, most intuitive voice-command technology on the market.
This technology is now establishing itself in business applications. It’s only natural to wonder about the implications of conversational platforms in various industries, like procurement. Many eProcurement providers are in the process of developing natural language applications within their service suite. It’s a sign of recognition that business intelligence technology is a game-changer in product differentiation.
For more on how voice technologies are impacting business, watch our webinar, Look Who’s Talking: Conversational Procurement Platforms.
According to Narrative Science, a technology company specializing in NLG, natural language generation should be looked at as a subfield of artificial intelligence. They define NLG as “a software process that automatically transforms data into plain-English content.”
The application of NLG can be quite simple. Picture any system that uses templates to customize information that is specific and personal to the recipient. We see this every day, like when your mobile phone provider sends you a text notification to let you know that you’re running out of data, or your bank informs you of a suspicious transaction.
Applications of NLG in Sourcing and Procurement
Many eProcurement service providers are integrating NLG capabilities in their spend and contract analytics solutions. Features like chatbots and smart contracts seek to make procurement processes more intelligent by creating better and more meaningful connections between people, processes, systems, data and context. There are additional use cases for NLG as well. Let’s dive into a few applications where this technology is improving the end-user experience of traditional procurement tools.
Conversational platforms allow users to issue voice commands to perform simple tasks such as “create an RFQ.” As the platform learns from the user’s intention of the request, the system may suggest follow-up actions and begin to proactively complete activities without being prompted. The platform can automatically pull data from other parts of the system to build the RFQ with one simple command, saving time for human users. Then, it can summarize the RFQ in plain language for the user.
Contract Document Creation
NLG capabilities within contract applications can allow you to search for specific contracts, view and perform tasks, and approve or reject documents. The natural language feedback from the tool makes interactions quick and easy. Gone are the days of clicking through folder structures or scrolling through a list of search results.
Faster Data Insights
Several sourcing and procurement software suites can quickly run reports and display complex analytics via a conversational reporting tool. With a simple voice command, a casual user can retrieve the information they need (based on specific criteria). The business intelligence team can spend less time processing requests for reports and more time doing strategic work for the organization.
Self Service Capabilities for Product Requisitions and Order Creation
With NLG, employees, customers or suppliers can use voice commands to place, modify, cancel or check the status of an order. This is especially useful for the casual user who simply wants to complete a task in the quickest method possible.
JAGGAER—On the Cutting Edge of NLG
JAGGAER is making waves within the procurement community with their NLG applications. Here are some features customers are beginning to take advantage of:
JAGGAER’s Smart Assistant allows users to use natural language voice commands to quickly and easily find answers to questions or get technical product support. The Smart Assistant is a powerful tool aimed to streamline many standard procurement processes or simplify operations.
JAGGAER’s product suite has built-in, individualized voice recognition, providing users a secure way to run events, authorize approvals and create new requests. With this new feature, users can speed up processes that used to take days to complete in the past.
There is still a lot of room for growth of NLG platforms, so it’s best get started by trialing solutions internally first to get comfortable with the technology. Once you’ve gained some hands-on experience and analyzed the potential ROI, you can begin to roll out these advanced features to your customers.
Human skills are still an integral piece of the puzzle and should not be under-estimated. NLG applications still cannot replace those with the right analytical and data science skills. To get the most benefit from this new technology, keep in mind the applicable use cases in procurement to see where more advanced analysis makes the most sense.