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ATMs Provide a Cautionary Counterweight to Digital Transformation Optimism (Thinkers360)

This content was published on the Thinkers360 blog on April 27, 2019

In the March/April Harvard Business Review there is a fantastic article on Operational Transparency by Ryan W. Buell. His research shows that when customers don’t have a clear understanding of the effort and expertise required to complete a task, they assign less value to it and customer satisfaction suffers. 

Buell illustrates his point with the adoption of ATMs. When first introduced in the late 1960s, ATMs were successful beyond banks’ wildest expectations. Customers loved the 24/7 access to funds and banks loved the decrease in staffing costs. But the news wasn’t all good. As Buell writes:

“When customers use ATMs more and tellers less, their overall level of satisfaction with their bank goes down. It turns out that when consumers can’t see the work that’s being done to serve them, their perception is that less effort went into delivering the service, so they don’t appreciate or value it as much.”

I believe this offers a critical consideration for procurement organizations pushing full steam ahead with digital transformation. Transformation almost always implies automation, with overall accuracy and improved buyer empowerment being the goals. But perceptions can be hard to control, regardless of the intent. Buell’s research serves as a counterweight to digital optimism, and reminds us that as automation lifts the weight of any given effort, we have to ensure the user understanding required to ensure the same level of value assignment and satisfaction.

So how will procurement ensure that our value assignment (something that we might already say is in question) survives digital transformation?

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Savior, Slave or Sidekick: What is your perspective on automation? (ATSC blog)

This content was published on the ATSC blog on April 29, 2019

Automation has become a ‘catch-all’ term for the use of technology to address a range of tasks and business objectives. Although the whole business world has been swept up in the hype and optimism surrounding automation, the impact within the supply chain profession has been particularly significant, due to the fact that we can benefit from both physical automation (e.g. warehouse robotics, driverless fleets) and software-based automation (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotic process automation).

If we focus specifically on software-based automation, supply chain professionals are advantageously positioned. We have extensive experience leveraging technology to improve operational efficiency and streamline processes. Solutions such as inventory management, supply chain control towers or source to pay platforms have given us firsthand knowledge of how to (and how not to) select, implement and monitor enterprise technology.

Although the automation trend now has us focused on the potential benefits chatbots and smart machines – technologies that seem ‘futuristic’ to say the least – the fact remains that no technology is the answer to all of a company’s problems. If we ask too much of our technology, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past and failing to optimize the automation and meet user expectations.

How we perceive the automation we evaluate and implement has as much to do with its ability to deliver a sustained ROI as the design of the technology itself.

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Can the Whole Foods and Amazon Grocery chains exist under the same corporate umbrella? (Determine)

This content was posted on the Determine blog on April 23, 2019

Amazon recently announced that they will open a “traditional” grocery chain. This is in addition to their 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods and their experimentation with Amazon Go, a fully automated (i.e. cashier-less) convenience store-style market. All three will meet a similar kind of consumer need, just in a different way. This will likely result in the creation of three completely different cost models and profitability rates – not to mention three very different procurement and supply chain operations.

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On Earth Day, Digital Networks Turning Global Commerce a Brighter Shade of Green (SAP Ariba)

Kelly Barner is quoted in the following article published by SAP Ariba on April 19, 2019.

When Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, its organizers envisioned a future where the nations of the world would band together to protect the environment. At the time, technological advancement was widely associated with the rapid industrialization of the developing world, contributing to smog, polluted waterways and toxic landfills. Few might have predicted that 49 years later, technology would take the forefront in global efforts to achieve greener, more environmentally sustainable business practices across borders and industries. By opening up transparency among the millions of buyers and suppliers who engage in commerce every day, digital networks enable trading partners to gauge each other’s adherence to Earth-friendly standards in their business operations.

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