By Dennis Bouley
Everyday workplace conversations (either around the water cooler or online) often allude new business trends or new terms that are used to describe those trends. Listed below are some of the more common terms that get thrown around that we can refer to as “new digital world” types of terms. The information below represents a set of loose descriptions but provides a general idea of what people (whether they be suppliers, procurement colleagues or line of business executives) mean when they use these terms:
1. Artificial Intelligence combines a set of defined rules, intelligence and information in order to come up with recommended decisions or actions based on the data. For example, when requisitions are coming from different sources, artificial intelligence can flag some as a procurement risk or as an opportunity for savings.
2. Big Data describes the large volume of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. More and more devices both gather and generate data and more integrated networks link large pools of data to each other. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. How organizations work with that data is what really matters.. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.
3. Blockchain is an automated distributed public ledger that records transactions from multiple sources in a highly secure, trusted environment. Networks of computers use cryptography to allow each participant on the network to update the ledger in a secure manner, without a central authority – virtually eliminating the possibility of hacking.
4. Cloud computingis characterized by a network of remote servers hosted either in colocation facilities or in hyperscale data centers (like those hosted by companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft) that store, manage, and process data. Rather than relying on local servers, cloud users typically have a connection through a communication gateway to cloud resources. Flavors of cloud computing include public, private, or hybrid and the services that a cloud architecture can provide include broad categories such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) among others.
5.Digitization is the process of converting information into a digital (i.e., computer-readable) format, in which the information is organized into bits. Digitization creates the infrastructure for Digitalization.
6. Digitalization, takes the process a step further. Digitalization implies the use of digital technologies and of data in order to create revenue, improve business, replace/transform business processes and create an environment for digital business, whereby digital information is at the core. A fresh example of digitalization at work is the concept of a “digital twin” where a virtual version of an operating process, a machine or a plant is built (prior to building the real thing) to help make highly accurate predictions for how that process, machine, or plant will actually behave once in operation. Digitalization, in essence, represents a corporate framework that allows for the exploitation of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) benefits.
7. Digital Transformation, the third step of the process, consists, in essence, of a business strategy that leverages digitalization to lower costs and increase profitability across the business.
8. Edge Computing refers to processing power that is embedded either inside or close to machines (in a factory environment) or to sophisticated medical equipment like CAT scan machines (in a healthcare environment) or in distributed office environments for the purpose of enabling functions such as local business analytics and control automation functions. Examples of devices that offer edge computing capabilities include sensor hubs, actuators, IoT gateways, and edge servers.
9. Industrial edge refers to places where industrial assets and people are located. In such environments employees work alongside the production line interacting with industrial devices such as machines and controllers.
10. Machine learning refers to any technology that trains a given system with previously categorized data and applies that to all uncategorized data. As a result, additional insights to spend data (in a procurement environment) are accessed in a simpler, less time-consuming fashion and with more accuracy.
These are just a few of the terms that are helping us to better understand the trends across business that are influencing how technology-assisted procurement work gets done. More new terms will come as our digitized workplace continues to evolve.
Dennis Bouley is Editorial Director of MyPurchasingCenter.com and special advisor to MediaSolve Group, a strategic B2B marketing services firm focused on helping companies and institutions leverage the web and social media to achieve business goals. He spent 18 years at Schneider Electric as Managing Editor of Global Publications, and was responsible for cross-division management of the corporation’s white paper and customer success story processes. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working for IBM managing both small and large accounts. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island and holds a Certificat Annuel from the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
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