How IBM Watson Orchestrate uses AI to automate procurement
Announced at THINK 2021, IBM unveiled Watson Orchestrate to help businesses that are rapidly embracing automation as part of their digital transformation.
IBM says automation software can be used to augment human capabilities and free-up staff to focus on more strategic work that requires critical thinking and human interaction.
This very thought was echoed by Ninian Wilson, Vodafone Group Procurement Director, when interviewed by Procurement and Supply Chain Digital magazines recently, as he shared his views on an exciting future for procurement.
Wilson explained how Vodafone is shifting “to what we call ‘autonomous sourcing’, which is going to be the next sort of quantum leap in procurement – procurement that runs itself with almost no human intervention”.
Watson Orchestrate will provide workers with access to their own interactive AI to help them perform tasks faster – from procuring approvals to contract lifecycle management.
Market research commissioned by IBM recently found that almost one-third of IT professionals surveyed globally say their business is now using artificial intelligence (AI), with 43% saying their company has accelerated their rollout of AI as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Global AI Adoption Index 2021 revealed that while AI adoption was flat in 2020, the need for AI has been accelerated and is already changing how businesses automate key workflows.
5 Ways IBM Watson Orchestrate Works Smarter
1. Self-serve and easy to use automation
Business professionals can use natural language to interact with Watson Orchestrate, without the need for IT skills.
2. Learns and improves as it goes
Watson Orchestrate understands and maintains context based on organisational knowledge and prior interactions. It can pull data from Salesforce, SAP or Workday.
3. Improves productivity and business performance
Research from Forrester shows IBM’s automation technologies can help businesses reduce manual processes by 80%.
4. Part of a single portfolio for business and IT AI-powered automation
While most technology companies tend to focus on either business or IT automation, IBM offers a single portfolio comprising both sets of capabilities, all built on Red Hat OpenShift and available to run anywhere.
5. Supported by an automation ecosystem
According to a new “Global AI Adoption Index 2021” survey , 80% of companies are already using, or plan to use in the next 12 months, automation software and tools.
More than 30 companies have said they intend to join IBM’s ecosystem of partners using IBM Cloud Paks for Automation, including Confluent, GitLab, HCL Technologies, Infosys, Intel, Tata Consultancy Services, Whitespace, and Wipro.
Watson Orchestrate is currently in preview in the IBM Cloud Paks for Automation.
How Covid-19 Shook Up the Who's Who of American Retail
According to the new Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 analysis report, the massive shift in ecommerce habits due to COVID-19 resulted in a windfall for the US’s largest retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Target.
The study found that the top 500 companies generated a combined total of $849.5 billion in online sales in 2020, representing a 45.3 per cent increase YoY, the largest jump since Digital Commerce 360 began tracking the statistic in 2006 and more than double the median growth of 18.0% seen over the last decade.
Although retailers of all sizes saw an uptick from online sales, in large part, throughout the pandemic, customers looked to familiar big name brands to fulfil much of their essential needs. Demand for items began to spike as manufacturing in Asia was forced to shut down, causing supply chain shortages. As large retailers tend to hold more inventory, this became a crucial differentiator for customers, says Digital Commerce 360.
Combined, Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Target Corp. added $265 billion in US revenue to the $791.70 billion U.S. ecommerce market in 2020, accounting for a third of the market.
Considering the need for people to stay busy during lockdowns as well as the requirements of homeschooling, it’s not surprising Joann, a crafting company, showed the fastest online growth of Digital Commerce 360’s top 500.
- In 2019, the bottom 100 of the top 500 registered the fastest growth while the top 100 showing the slowest growth rate. In 2020, however, the analysis showed the opposite, the top 100 largest companies grew at a rate greater than that of the whole, and the top 10 on the list enjoyed a growth rate even faster than the top 100.
- In 2020, collectively the top 10 grew web sales 52.5%, almost five percentage points faster than the top 100 and accounted for 62.8% of Top 500 sales, up from 59.9% in 2019.
- Who made the top 10 was shaken up some. For example, Walmart made it into the second spot, both Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. crept into the top 10 for the first time, landing at No. 8 and No. 10 respectively
Segments of retail that enjoyed fueled courtesy of COVID included toys and hobbies, jumping an average of 24 spots in the rankings and food and beverage merchants moved up an average 23 ranks. In contrast, apparel retailers dropped an average 15 positions in the Top 500, whereas jewellery retailers fell an average of 10 spots.
Although Digital Commerce 360 attributes some of the growth to stock positions and the ability of large retailers to manage supply chain issues, even the largest internet retailer experienced disruption. In March of 2020, during the first save of the US pandemic, even the Amazonian giant found themselves running into meeting customer commitments and delivering orders on time. Order cancellations and extended lead times became commonplace. For a time, Amazon stopped fulfilling orders for items considered “non-essential”.
Despite the issues, Amazon maintained its spot as the top online retailer in North America by a large margin, representing 35.7% of all Top 500 sales. Although it should be noted that the share is down from the 36.7% it saw in 2019.
At the outset of the pandemic Etsy, a solely ecommerce company focused on handmade, vintage items and craft supplies, was expected to perform poorly. However, as supply chain shortages for face masks caused a sudden need for cloth masks, many began to turn to Etsy, tripling its stock value by June.