The Picasso Way for Procurement

Alan Holland

April 6, 2022

Transposing complex subjects to simplified abstract forms is a major theme in art. Art is about shining a light upon what is most important. Seeing fundamental patterns amongst the noise; distinguishing simple forms amongst the complex and revealing salient details which convey the most meaningful attributes of the study.

Pablo Picasso, The Bull, 1945. Credit: sorarium/flickr

In 1945, Picasso produced 11 lithographs depicting stages of abstraction. He was aiming to capture the ‘essence of a bull’ in this process. This series of prints and gradual abstraction revealed much of the thought process behind his masterpieces. The initial stages involved focusing upon salient features that were exaggerated in a caricature. Then the simplification with curved lines that tends towards straighter lines occurs as the abstraction tends towards an extreme. 

It also inspired some famous product designers such as Apple’s Jonathan Ive. He has applied these principles of abstraction to minimalist design and influenced renowned products such as the iPhone and iPad. It is a philosophy that extends to all Apple products because it tends to enhance usability and understanding whilst also being admired for beautiful simplicity.

For example, the remote control for an Apple TV contrasts with that of a regular smart remote control. This minimalist style is sometimes referred to as ‘The Picasso Way’.


The AppleTV remote contrasted with a standard remote control. 

The Picasso Way is not just confined to product design; it can be applied in business process automation. It is necessary to first embrace the complexity and nuanced details when identifying what best practice looks and feels like when conducted manually. In the case of Sourcing Automation, this is the step whereby a subject matter expert crafts a template event in Sourcing Optimizer.

Where Picasso started with a most detailed and realistic picture with shadows and detailed features; a sourcing optimization expert starts with an event design that is crafted in fine detail. Analogously, it involves the most rigorous and fine detail on topics such as crafted outlier detection formulas, inter-lot and intra-lot data validation rules and hyper-detailed scenario listing that inspects all non-cost objectives and multi-criteria objectives. It is a level of detail that most would not aim to achieve in designing a single-shot event.

But this is the first stage in moving towards abstracting away the complexity as we automate the details that need not be conducted manually and instead encode these actions in a software agent so that we tend towards a complete abstraction that requires only key decisions that human actors are required to make.

In line with Picasso’s approach, the next steps of abstraction involve exaggerating the key features. In Sourcing Automation, this is analogous to applying hyper-sensitive noise detection. Detecting noise and edge cases in automated events is critical. So data cleansing rules are exaggerated beyond that of anything that a human user would bother to implement because some of the edge cases may be so rare. But when a process is automated and execution could be repeated 1000’s of times, then hyper-paranoia over potential anomalous data from bidders is beneficial.

Now we move into the simplification phase. Sourcing would naturally involve a seven step process where procurement needs to design bid sheets, configure parameters, schedule rounds of bidding, invite bidders, sense-check new data received and evaluate scenarios and produce reports.

End to end automation of a sourcing process is akin to minimalist design to simplify the human inputs. The end results should be simple and intuitive controls that require no training. Complexity should all reside under the hood. Keelvar has built a native automation framework so that software agents can automate all steps of the sourcing process from beginning to end. Chat bot infrastructure is present as the point of interaction. A human in the loop can influence the process and interact with the software agent in a simple manner.

Keelvar is, effectively, abstracting away much of the process and removing these details from view and just leaving steps in the process that require human action.

Behind the scenes, our Intelligent Automation bots can doing much of the heavy lifting in the sourcing process.

The Picasso Way has influenced product design in a beautiful way over the past decades. It is now time for The Picasso Way to revolutionize business processes. Keelvar is leading that movement in procurement.

For more information on our Sourcing Optimization and Automation products, or for a custom demo, contact us here.

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