Artificial intelligence will power digital assistants to interact with human users and improve procurement software, SAP Ariba says.

Malevolent robots often seek to rule the world in science fiction movies, but there might be plenty of procurement managers willing to let them pitch in with purchasing tasks. That’s the impetus behind plans for a digital procurement software bot powered by artificial intelligence that’s being designed by SAP Ariba.

The company aims to have the bot enable users of SAP Ariba’s cloud-based applications to manage key tasks with greater simplicity, efficiency and speed, the company says. SAP Ariba is a unit of business software company SAP SE.

Intelligent bots are driving a new range of interactions that “allow people to be more efficient and smarter in what they do,” says Dinesh Shahane, chief technology officer, SAP Ariba. “We are investing in these types of applications and technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver a next-generation user experience for our customers that promises to transform procurement as we know it.”

The intelligent digital assistant can interact with the users of SAP Ariba’s procurement software wherever the digital assistants are, including in web applications or any communication channel, SAP Ariba announced at its annual conference last week in Las Vegas.

Through its bot, the company plans to enable buyers and suppliers to “talk” with their SAP Ariba applications much as they would communicate with digital assistants that interact with users of Apple Inc.’s Siri or Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa applications. Using machine learning tools, the bot will be able to train and learn about a user’s preferences and a company’s policies and procedures, and guide actions accordingly to reduce errors and speed processing. For example, the bot would be expected to recognize—and correct—inaccurate pricing in an electronic invoice before a supplier sent it to a customer.

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SAP Ariba says it will make its procurement bot available by the end of the year as part of a package of bot applications that SAP is developing.

In addition to beefing up its procurement technology, SAP Ariba also plans to add blockchain digital ledger capabilities to its software applications and the Ariba Network to streamline supply chains. Ariba Network is an internet platform that connects buyers and sellers of products and services.

Blockchain is a digital ledger technology that businesses can use to track transactions and products from end to end of the purchasing process and share the data among multiple parties. “One of the things blockchain does is facilitate greater visibility and trust,” says Joe Fox, senior vice president, business development and strategy, SAP Ariba. “In embedding it across our applications and network, we can enable supply chains that are smarter, faster and more transparent from sourcing all the way through settlement.”

SAP Ariba says it will join forces with Everledger, a London-based technology company that provides digital ledger services that track diamonds and other valuable products, to extend those services to Ariba Network.

Everledger securely captures the defining characteristics of valuable objects such as diamonds and creates a digital thumbprint that’s stored on the blockchain. The data provides insurance companies, banks and other stakeholders across supply chains with a history of an item’s authenticity, existence and ownership, SAP Ariba says.

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