Ops Digest #15: The Year in Business Operations and Technology

January 12, 2024
December 18, 2023
min read
Ops Digest #15: The Year in Business Operations and Technology

This is a preview of Ops Digest, our monthly newsletter for operations teams. This month, we're looking back at the year in ops. Subscribe and receive these newsletters in your inbox every month!

Looking back, 2023—for everyone—was undoubtedly the year of generative AI. (Or, perhaps, the first year of a generative AI era.) That’s what probably every other tech end-of-year roundup listicle and thought piece will say, and that’s because it’s true. AI has had a big impact on the tech world this year.

But AI has had an even bigger impact on the world of business operations specifically.

When Open AI launched ChatGPT in late 2022, the app garnered more than a million users in just a few days, and only grew from there. Quickly, enterprises of all stripes began finding ways to leverage this tool, and others like it, to increase efficiency and automate manual work.

Meanwhile, other tech trends emerged—some of them also related to the genAI boom.

In procurement, 2023 saw a huge rise in appreciation for the importance of process orchestration, particularly around intake orchestration and process experience.

Last summer, Kearney’s Dr. Elouise Epstein called process orchestration a “critically important innovation” for procurement organizations.

A Deloitte survey found that embracing process orchestration as a pillar for digitization had emerged as one of the three biggest priorities for leading CPOs.

And in one of its hype cycle reports, Gartner said that procurement intake management was emphatically and rapidly on the rise.

In legal ops, this year brought more attention to the potential of AI to automate administrative work and to empower legal ops teams to better enable lawyers to more strategically serve the business.

In both of those areas (and many others), there was an urgency around the need to do more with less, as budgets shrank and purse strings tightened. But the positive side of that need is the affirmation that people, and their unique and deep skill sets, are more important than ever.

Why squander your hard-earned financial and logistical acumen trying to cajole everyone in your company to follow painstaking, static procurement processes? Why train for years as a lawyer only to spend your days fielding emails? These are tasks that can be improved or fully automated with AI. 2023 was the year that organizations awoke to this reality en masse.

That’s partly because 2023 proved, in terms both tangible and irrefutable, the business value of using new, innovative technologies like LLMs at the process level to finally, actually put people first.

At Tonkean, this was music to our ears, because using technology at the process level to put people first has been our cardinal mission since Sagi Eliyahu and Offir Talmor started the company in 2015.

It’s long been our opinion that AI’s most game-changing promise is to provide operations teams new opportunities for creating newly intelligent and adaptive process experiences that truly empower employees by putting people first. So we focused our own efforts this year on cutting through the hype and finding ways to help organizations employ AI at the process level of their operations in order to deliver tangible, human-centric benefits.

We’ll expound more on all this below. But first, here are some of the most interesting stories from the world of ops from the past year. And—why not—let’s look back at 12, one for each month of the year that was.

Top of the Ops

  • If Microsoft indeed plans to pour $10 billion into OpenAI (maker of ChatGPT), its products may get a boost from AI—which could affect operations in every organization that uses them—positively, negatively, or both | CNBC
  • Will ChatGPT bring NLP AI into legal ops in a new and powerful way? Probably not, says a Bloomberg Law survey | AboutBLaw
  • A pitch to transform business operations through process mining | HBR
  • The UK’s slow procurement procedures can’t keep pace with AI development, a manufacturers' association representative told Parliament | The Register
  • The global legal tech market is growing (especially in APAC) and is expected to hit $45.1 billion by 2030 | GlobeNewswire
  • Surveys: 40% of legal professionals already use generative AI tools, or plan to in the future; and only 7% of legal professionals believe generative AI will have “no impact” on the practice of law | LawNext, LawNext
  • “I'm increasingly feeling that intake and orchestration will consume its source-to-pay host over the next decade,” says Spend Matters CEO | LinkedIn
  • Beware of the folly of “mythologizing” new powerful tech like AI | New Yorker
  • Bill Gates on watching ChatGPT ace an AP bio test: “I knew I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface.” | GatesNotes
  • Process orchestration is critical to improving the procurement experience | SupplyChainBrain
  • Don’t rush your organization’s legal ops transformation, says Netflix’s legal ops chief. Change is gradual and purposeful | Legal Dive
  • Microsoft joined the FinOps Foundation; a press release noted that Microsoft is the fourth major cloud provider to join the group, after Google Cloud, Oracle, and Tencent | PRNewswire

If you have some insightful news or knowledge about the world of Ops to share, let us know!

Ops in the Field

At Tonkean, our twin themes of 2023 were “fit” and “focus.”

Specifically, we focused our efforts—technologically, communally, and otherwise—on serving two specific operational verticals: legal and procurement.

And so, we launched two product suites, ProcurementWorks and LegalWorks. We created a new generative AI-based tool, called the AI Front Door—an AI-powered intake experience for submitting—and proactively resolving—internal requests. We continued to upgrade and add to our core platform offering. And we won awards and the attention of media outlets, influencers, and research outfits.

Here’s a short summary (for more details, check out this end-of-year blog recap post!):

  • The AI Front Door is an AI-powered intake experience for submitting—and proactively resolving—internal requests. It supports frictionless service interactions with a plain-language user experience and is accessible to requesters via email, Slack/Teams, or a customized web portal. It provides intelligent assistance that’s personalized and context-aware and that understands employees’ intentions and accommodates their preferences moment-to-moment. And it does all this without compromising on policies.
  • ProcurementWorks is a product suite that gives procurement teams what they need to create guided internal buying experiences that reduce risk, increase efficiency, and create net-new business value, via internal processes that people will actually follow. It offers a unified intake experience, and it prominently features the AI Front Door as a central intake channel for all purchase requests. It deploys a wide range of out-of-the-box procurement workflows like PO management, invoice processing, and spend control, and it provides an audit trail of all actions and approvals to mitigate risk and maintain SOX compliance and audit readiness.
  • LegalWorks is a matter lifecycle management solution that enables legal teams to harness the potential of AI-powered process automation technology safely—in a way that not only increases process adoption, improves performance, and creates business value, but that actively lowers risk and better ensures compliance. It enables you to gather requests from anywhere, and triage those requests, automatically handling the simple ones (like NDAs and SOWs) and routing the more complex ones to the right person or group.
  • To enhance LegalWorks, we also launched AI-enhanced legal intake forms. Powered in part by the AI Front Door, the new forms make the experience of initiating and following legal processes more efficient, thanks to real-time data enrichment from a wide range of plug-and-play integrations and adaptive user-guidance.
  • General platform enhancements: In addition to the above releases, this year we completely overhauled our form sequences. We transitioned to Workspace Apps and Custom Interface, and we added the ability to allow guest user access to Tonkean. We also completely redesigned the visual Process Mapper (part of our Module Builder) to enhance all users' experience and context on their processes.
  • We added a key partnership with ClearLaw, an innovative AI company focused on contracting intelligence. Other important data sources we added or improved include Netsuite, Coupa, SAP Ariba, AWS Textract, Google Drive, SharePoint, IronClad, DocuSign, ServiceNow, Azure OpenAI, FiveTran, Jira, Anthropic, and more.
  • We’ve made our presence known at key industry events like CLOC CGI 2023 and SIG, both by participating as a vendor on show floors and as thought leaders, speaking at event sessions.

In closing, here are some eye-popping 2023 Tonkean stats:

  • 60+ native data sources added
  • 7.7 billion steps automated
  • 288 million requests handled
  • 250 steps automated every second
  • 10 requests handled every second

Read the whole story here. On to 2024…

Tell us about clever solutions and success stories you want your Ops peers to know about for future newsletters!

Modern Business Operations

On this episode of Modern Business Operations, host Seth Colaner is joined by Susan Walsh, Founder and Managing Director of The Classification Guru Ltd. Susan delves deep into the world of data quality, the vast challenges within dirty data and the compelling need for experienced human insight.

Seth and Susan discuss the challenges therein and how to approach a solution:

  • Data quality is not prioritized until problems arise. Preventative data cleaning is undervalued.
  • Clean data helps procurement analyze supplier spend and risk.
  • AI tools still require extensive human checking of data.
  • Start by identifying the client’s problems and end goals for the data.
  • Decision-makers who don’t do the work may not see the value of data projects.
  • Failed data project pitches waste time better spent working on the business.
  • Managing people has proven to be the biggest stress to business.

Subscribe to the Modern Business Operations podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Maestro's Minutes

Here’s everything we did in this month’s Tonkean release notes:

Module Builder:  

  • There are two new Formulas: Concatenate With Line Breaks (works in exactly the same way as a conventional Concatenate, but with added line breaks in between each value) and HMAC SHA-256 Encryption (added a new Encoding Type parameter to this formula, allowing you to specify whether you want to use 16 or 64-bit encryption).

Custom Item Interfaces and Workspace Apps:

  • Set Action button display and disabled states: You can now specify conditions that determine when a button in the Actions widget or at the top of an interface is hidden or disabled. This update enables you to display buttons based on the context of your workflow, showing only the relevant actions to the user and making it clearer which actions they're able to perform.
  • Widget width configuration: Rather than a simple Full and Half width values, you now have greater control over the display width for widgets. This enhancement makes possible richer and more customized layouts that better serve your unique workflow. For example, you can now display a large preview of an image and include an in-line description.
  • On load actions: You now have the option to initiate an action in your workflow immediately upon loading an interface, using the new On Load Actions feature. This feature is helpful if your interface or app page includes embedded or linked content that requires regular refreshing.

Enterprise Components: Users can now integrate the OnSolve data source with their Tonkean solutions. Additionally, the Coupa data source has been enhanced with the following updates:

  • New entities - Content Groups, Content Types, Unit of Measure, Requisition Line, Period and Accounts
  • New data source actions - Add Comment and Submit Contract for Approval

Bug fixes:

  • Gong integrations were failing to collect the Call entity when the call's participant object was missing.
  • Some users were unable to open the Rich Text widget configuration panel after setting the widget title to too few characters.
  • The search field in the Actions widget was not filtering results properly.
  • In no-code data sources, attempting to delete a query param from the middle of the list deleted the last param in the list.
  • The Array Index Of formula was not working properly when wrapped by a Map formula.
  • The Comments widget was not wrapping text, creating a horizontal scroll for long comments.

Also, Tonkean was featured in the ProcureTech100 2023 Yearbook, which identifies and champions the 100 pioneering digital procurement technology, data, and analytics solutions that are supercharging procurement and the enterprise. Click here to download a copy and read up on Tonkean and our procurement pioneer peers!

ICYMI: Last week’s webinar—a joint effort between Art of Procurement and Tonkean. Titled “Signs Your Intake-to-Procure Process May Be Broken, And How to Fix It,” this panel discussed how improving the intake-to-procure process can resolve myriad symptoms, and deliver additional benefits as well.It featured Tonkean co-founder and CEO Sagi Eliyahu and Head of Procurement Dan Coor. You’ll learn:

  • Why now is the time to explore your intake process symptoms and start looking for a cure
  • The role that AI and automation can play in improving your company’s intake-to-procure health
  • Additional benefits procurement can deliver by streamlining workflows and reducing friction

Thanks for checking out Ops Digest! To learn more about who Tonkean is or what we do, we have a few different kinds of trials that you can sign up for. They walk users through our most salient solutions, including Legal intake, Purchasing Approval, Invoice Intake, and Email inbox automation. Sign up for one here!

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