Historically consulting companies have been relying on people intensive processes in order to perform a comprehensive audit of supplier spends and identify sources of cost optmization. As we have seen in a previous article that AI based softwares can replace manual and tedious tasks, automate analysis and take actions. So will cost optimization consultants be also robotized by Artificial Intelligence algorithms ?
The testimonial of a leading international cost saving consulting group
We have interviewed, Thibaut Charmeil, managing partner at Ayming, the leading international Business Performance consulting group, who uses Conciliator™, Dhatim's Enteprise AutomationPlatform for its cost optimization missions.
As a top consulting practice in business performance improvement, Ayming naturally is interested in how it can boost its own performance for clients.
Dhatim’s Conciliator™ is now helping the firm’s consultants achieve significant savings and productivity gains, enabling Ayming to explore how digital tools can change how it works.
Ayming has over 30 years’ experience in helping businesses improve their operational and financial performance. A 1500-strong business, Ayming operates in 16 countries worldwide with knowledge and innovation at the heart of what the consultancy does.
Thibaut Charmeil is managing partner for operations performance at Ayming. In driving one of the firm’s three main business lines (the other two are finance and innovation, and HR performance), Thibaut is always focused on how his consulting team can deliver even greater value to their clients.
Introduction of an Artificial Intelligence based software in 2015
In summer 2015 he came across Dhatim’s Conciliator™ and decided to explore how its artificial intelligence and data analytics could be applied by Ayming. A current project for a global bank provided an ideal testing ground.
The bank had engaged Ayming to check whether the amounts on the invoices it received should be paid according the contracts that the bank had with those suppliers. The volumes and complexity of data were huge and Thibaut decided to run Conciliator™ on top of the work already done by his team.
A visibile increase of productivity and comprehensiveness
The results were impressive. Using Conciliator™ enabled Ayming to generate additional savings that the team could never have achieved without Conciliator™. This was because of how the tool could interpret hand written notations on the contracts that were impossible for a human to do. The other reason was how Conciliator™ could process and analyse large volumes of data much more faster than the Excel programs used by the two-person consultant team.
Conciliator™ achieved impressive savings and productivity gains. On top of the existing savings we achieved an additional 18% of savings that couldn’t have been uncovered without Conciliator™. By more efficiently processing the Big Data involved, there was a further 28% productivity boost too. Altogether, this came in as a big monetary benefit for our client in the millions of euros, says Thibaut.
The success of this project has clarified for Thibaut how Conciliator™ can be an important tool for the consulting team in other engagements.
We loved the tool and how effective it was for us. It doesn’t replace a consultant but augments what they do in finding savings and enhances their productivity.
Consultants remains the experts who teach the machines
He sees Conciliator™ as extremely versatile but naturally needing the input of his consultants to tailor the rules engine to address the specific challenge.
Every contract is so different and our consultants can work with Conciliator™ to write the exact rules needed to extract the insights needed to help a client achieve a saving. Conciliator™ then learns how to optimise these rules and providing analytical results for our consultants to assess.
Ayming is further confirmation about how Conciliator™ can be applied beyond its origins in telecommunications. In working together, the two companies are looking to extend how Conciliator™ can be used for more complex data analytics projects.
In the first project, we pushed what is possible with the tool and have contributed to how Dhatim has expanded the capabilities of Conciliator™ to do much more. The capacity of the platform to write and run much more complex rules is greatly increased especially when consultants have to write up long rules with multiple, iterative if statements.
The close working relationship has led Thibaut to consider how Ayming could be part of a wider ecosystem of businesses who can use their skills to innovate with Conciliator™.
Consultants and machines are going to work hands-in-hands
Dhatim is joining us on leads and pitches. Their tool supports how our consultants could do complex work on savings for clients. When the project involves massive volumes of Big Data there’ s an obvious application. But we can see how Dhatim could make it more efficient for us to do more spend management clean ups. There’s too often a long tail of expense that’s uncategorised and lumped together as other. Conciliator™ can be a really good tool to recategorize this 20% of unspecified spending in much finer detail, exposing valuable insights as part of competitively priced fixed fee project. Customising the rules in Conciliator™ could let us target this and other opportunities.
The use of Conciliator™ is changing how Thibaut sees Ayming running its business.
The interaction with Dhatim reflects how consulting will change in the future. Our kind of firm is hardly very digital but Conciliator™ shows how digital can be disruptive for us in a good way. The future for how we uncover more operational performance benefits for our client more efficiently is going to be how we use digital tools like Conciliator™ to deliver added value with a human touch. We are at an important inflection point where the worlds of consulting and digital are touching. We need to make best use of the AI and Big Data analytics capabilities in Conciliator™ for how our future role will evolve. A potential future for us could be releasing our own customised Conciliator™ app and monetising our rules intellectual property.
Dhatim's Conciliator™ will be a tool available to operational performance consultants in Ayming and there is a close cooperation between the two firms in continuing to evolve the tool for business performance consultancy
Digital tools like Conciliator™ now are part of our DNA in doing effective spend management consultancy. Together we are combining our knowledge to open up the market and boost the use of these AI and Big Data tools to another level for ourselves and our clients.
Despite the power of Artificial Intelligence, AI based algorythms are not yet capabale of learning by themselves and automated all tasks. It is the combination of expertise and AI based software that provides the best results today. Therefore cost savings consultants not only will not be replaced by robots in the short terms but they will increase their productivity and the comprehensiveness of their work thanks to new technologies.
Photo credits: Alex Knight