This post was originally published on LinkedIn
Keelvar Konnect was back with a bang in October in a city familiar to many of our team. Zurich is such a hub for procurement in Europe that it was a natural choice for the return of in-person gatherings and the launch of Keelvar’s new Autonomous Sourcing offering.
The event was located in the surroundings of the Papiersaal and Folium, an old paper mill that is refurbished and situated in a modern urban setting in the south east district of Zurich.
Almost twenty of the Keelvar team were present to greet attendees. The format, whilst always evolving, sticks to its roots and focuses heavily upon being educational and practical. The theme of Build a Bot workshops was continued after the successful first outing in late 2019 in Amsterdam.
Back then, it was just prototype bots we built but this time around things had moved on considerably. Besides the most obvious fact that Keelvar’s team is four times larger now, more importantly we were ready with a newly architected Autonomous Sourcing solution. The new offering enables rapid design and development of sourcing bots in any category that can be deployed to production within ninety minutes and ready for use. The Konnect event was the first occasion to showcase these capabilities in public.
But up first were none other than two of the most famous names in Digital Procurement and Sourcing:; Armin Scharlach (Partner at Oliver Wyman) and Jacob Larsen (Founder at Moneyball CPH).
"The event was the first occasion to showcase the capabilities of our newly architeched Autonomous Sourcing solution in public"
Armin opened the event with a great foundational talk on the importance of process and sourcing optimization. He cited some examples of how companies used scenario analysis to reconsider some decisions when they were given insights into cost trade-offs. Overall, it gave the audience a sense of how holistic cost analysis should occur and why it’s important to invite expressive offers. It set the scene perfectly.
Jacob Larsen followed up with insights about how to best apply sourcing optimization so that companies can navigate a path to constructing outcomes that balance multiple objectives. He also gave a fascinating insight into how Maersk pioneered their ‘SlingBid’ automated sourcing application.
They improvised with a patchwork of robotic process automation (RPA) and other solutions to automate auction execution. This was ahead of the curve — by several years! Proof of market demand for software applications is strengthened when companies try to do these things themselves.
Unbeknownst to Keelvar, whilst we were building the first generation of sourcing bots in 2019-2021, Maersk were also working on solving this similar challenge. Like all initial variations of solutions, the first versions are intended to prove value but don’t necessarily scale. But with value proven it was time to productize this approach and include optimization in the sourcing process so that it could scale robustly and drive processes that exceed human expert performance!
Next, I presented our first reveal of Autonomous Sourcing, Keelvar’s vision and new product aimed at scaling sourcing excellence. What is new for Procurement is that it is now possible to build sourcing bots extremely quickly, and without any coding by software engineers.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that Autonomous Sourcing is the biggest breakthrough in ProcureTech since the advent of the eAuction"
This no-code Automation has been seen in other domains but it is a first for Sourcing. The theme centered on the need to embrace category complexity. In order to successfully deploy automation at scale, one needs to automate many sourcing processes that are tuned to the needs of each category. So, a sourcing bot for Ocean FCL, a bot for Flexible Packaging, MRO, and others should be tailored to the required process and then made available.
Essentially, taking the value Armin was referring to in sourcing optimization — a robust product-driven approach to automating this process (as Maersk had done for eAuctions) and making it configurable for any category extremely quickly.
The end-to-end process has numerous steps, however. Intake forms to gather demand need to be specific to categories so that requesters can clearly articulate requirements and depend on helper functions specific to datasets in those categories. Supplier recommendations are also key and need tailoring per category.
I finished the presentation by highlighting a matrix of basic-to-advanced capabilities that may be required for each of the seven steps in a sourcing process. Each automated workflow — or sourcing bot — can take its own path that is crafted by a Bot Architect. The next step was to illustrate how these Bot Architects can build these solutions quickly. It was time for the Build-a-Bot workshops! But not before lunch.
The afternoon sessions focused on applications and approaches to adoption. One of the four Build-a-Bot workshops returned with an end-to-end demonstration of a bot that was developed in under 90 minutes.
I believe it is fair to say that there was universal praise for the innovation on display here. It was clear that Procurement is now coming to a stage with Autonomous Sourcing that it could unleash so much more creativity as automated workflows start to carry the weight of all operational work, releasing time to focus on strategic and creative options.
Keelvar Konnect was a milestone moment. It is not an exaggeration to say that Autonomous Sourcing is the biggest breakthrough in ProcureTech since the advent of the eAuction almost 25 years ago. Many organizations will be moving to adopt this at scale in 2023.
Pierrick L’Ebraly, Chief of Staff at Keelvar, organized a workshop illustrating the strategic approaches to prioritizing categories. Eddie McDaid, Chief Commercial Officer, highlighted our continued investment in this arena and how customer-centric we have always been. Valentina Roques concluded with a thank you to all our guests and team members who made it such a success.