Should We Fear AI or Welcome It?
While academics grapple with the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the classroom, procurement professionals in higher education see opportunities ahead. Concerns about relevancy exist, but with the right perspective, AI can be a valuable tool within the higher education procurement role.
AI has emerged as a transformative force in higher education, offering opportunities and challenges. We recently discussed the impact of AI on higher education operations and procurement with members of our higher education advisory board. The general consensus was that AI has transformative potential to enhance efficiency, mitigate risks, and revolutionize communication and analytics within universities.
Don Buffum of Mississippi State University believes embracing AI as a tool is a no-brainer. He states, “Rather than spending hours reading the vendors’ fine print, we can run it through a tool like that and know where to look, what to look for, and what might need negotiation and change.”
Seeing AI as a valuable tool rather than a threat is a healthy mindset during any impending change. Humberto Speziani of the University of Miami says, “Right now, the conversation is more on the academic side. But our IT department is determining how we can leverage the tool to create efficiencies.”
The group discussed embracing AI while recognizing short-term advantages. Procurement departments can leverage AI to compare contract terms, identify conflicts, and assess vendor risk, saving time and enhancing efficiency. AI empowers procurement professionals to navigate complex contracts effectively, identify negotiation opportunities, and streamline processes. Buffum adds, “It could be a great tool to compare the standard terms and conditions in our contracts with supplier standard terms and conditions and highlight conflicts. We can use the tool to determine a vendor’s level of risk.”
Concerns within the classroom regarding AI technologies revolve around job displacement, accuracy and reliability of information, data privacy, and ethical considerations. Professors worry about their relevancy and if students are taking shortcuts. However, most institutions are ready to ensure the development of critical thinking skills in students.
Similarly, it is crucial for operations leaders in higher education institutions to address concerns while exploring the benefits and potential applications of AI. While the academic side discusses AI’s potential, IT departments focus on leveraging AI for operational efficiencies. AI offers opportunities to optimize processes, automate tasks, and improve resource allocation. By using AI-driven tools, universities can enhance productivity, reduce costs, and provide a seamless experience for students and faculty.
James Dwyer of Arizona State University believes the integration of AI is critical for operations, communication, and analytics. He notes, “We’re also looking at it from an analytic standpoint and how we can use the technology to better utilize the information we’re getting.” AI can revolutionize communication channels, streamline information flow, facilitate collaboration, and enable universities to extract meaningful insights from vast amounts of data for strategic decision-making and continuous improvement. This is not a time to shy away from the unknown. On the contrary, it is time to embrace AI and take control. Whether it disrupts or assimilates, fear is not a strategy for any role. The advisory board believes it’s time to embrace the bot to learn more about it. As Buffum said, “While our faculty wrestles with the impact in the classroom, procurement looks at it as a tool. We don’t fear it because we have adapted to various other tools over time.”