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Understanding AI’s Role in New-age B2B Technology Applications: AI TechBytes with Amazon Business’ Douglas Gray

Understanding AI's Role in New-age B2B Technology Applications: AI TechBytes with AWS's Douglas Gray’s TechBytes interview is a dedicated conversation platform for AI in B2B technology insights. Today, we have Douglas Gray, Chief Technology Officer at Amazon Business talking to us about the different ways customers use AI in B2B technology workflows.

Reaching over $35 billion in annualized sales worldwide in 2023, Amazon Business is one of the fastest-growing ventures in Amazon’s history. Today, Amazon Business provides the tools and analytics that give businesses control, visibility, and insight into purchasing, supply chain, and other activities to improve the business buying process. Our interview focused on Doug’s role at Amazon Business and how his team creates a fruitful relationship with AI engineers and users to meet today’s demand for high-speed Machine Learning deployments within the Cloud.

Here’s the full interview with Doug.

Hi Doug, welcome to our’s TechBytes Interview Series. As a seasoned technology expert, please tell us about your journey in the AI Cloud industry.

I joined Amazon Business as the Chief Technology Officer in 2021. I’m responsible for leading the innovation, product and software development, and sales and deployment processes to deliver increased customer value. Before my current role, I was the GM & SVP of Engineering at Indeed where I transformed products to serve customer needs worldwide.

Who are your 6 million customers and how do they leverage your products/ services?

Our customers range from sole proprietors to organizations (non-profits, education institutes, healthcare facilities, government agencies, etc.) and multinational enterprises with tens of thousands of employees, with the tools they need to improve the business buying process.

Customers leverage various cost-efficient solutions such as quantity discounts for everyday products and supplies and the option to subscribe and save with automated delivery of items they order frequently. Several other tools are designed to make business buying easier and more convenient including Business Prime, a popular membership amongst small businesses. Business Prime offers free shipping on eligible items, personalized deals, convenient shipping, and more. With convenient shipping, our customers have a predictable delivery schedule that they can depend on.

Through integrated solutions, Amazon Business Partners are uniquely positioned to help organizations at any stage of the procurement journey. How is AI helping you at the backend?

With Amazon Business Analytics, we use artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the procurement process and to manage smart business buying.

By leveraging AI, we can streamline the procurement experience in a variety of other ways: proactive product recommendations with AI-powered search, smart chatbots for easy customer service needs, and more seamless systems integrations (like our Punchout integration).

In our 2024 Amazon Business State of Procurement report we found that 98 percent of decision-makers globally are already planning investments or upgrades in analytics and insights tools, automation, and AI-driven optimization of purchasing decisions in the next few years. They are also interested in discovering or learning about new digital tools that could scale up their procurement operations. With this increased demand, it’s important to have product solutions that can serve all businesses’ needs and we are constantly looking at how we can up-level our offerings to better meet them where they are.

What new tools and features have Amazon Business added to their B2B solutions for the unmet needs of their customers?

With continued supply chain and economic challenges, we consistently reevaluate market needs so our customers can stick to a budget, free up cash flow and ensure time efficiency to help drive business growth. For example, we heard from customers that it was difficult to find and select certain types of products, so we introduced more filters based on their needs, including: local sellers, women-owned, veteran-owned, small businesses, Black-owned, and other small businesses. This has not only helped businesses purchase the right product, but it has also helped keep them within budget.

We know credit is at the forefront of sole proprietors and small business owners’ minds, so in Nov. 2023, we announced an expanded partnership with Affirm to offer customers a pay-over-time option at checkout, a first for Amazon Business.

By selecting Affirm at checkout and entering a few pieces of business information, an instant credit decision is made. If approved, there are various customized pay-over-time options our customers can choose ranging from three to 48 months. Each transaction is finalized with the confidence that they’ll never pay more than the price agreed upon upfront.

As a Tech Leader, what industries would be the fastest to adopt AI/ML with smoother efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets for 2024?

In our 2024 State of Procurement Report, we learned that most procurement leaders are keen to invest in new technologies, including AI, to improve efficiency and capabilities. The report found that 45% of respondents would be willing to incorporate AI into their procurement efforts immediately or within a year—80% reported they would be willing to do so within two years. That said, the industries that lead the charge to adopt AI immediately or within a year were the tech sector (52%), telecom (51%), and medical/pharmaceuticals (49%), followed by healthcare services (38%) and government respondents (39%).

As an AI advocate, what are some key challenges and opportunities you see in leveraging AI for B2B tech applications for software product development, sales and deployment processes?

The 2024 State of Procurement Report also revealed key challenges and opportunities for AI. Specifically, 38% of respondents reported wanting to spend less time/energy on cost and budget, something AI has helped improve.

Procurement professionals reported additional challenges for the next year — security and technology and technological changes/AI.

That said, there was also an awareness of the importance and opportunities that arise from leveraging this technology. 44% of respondents reported wanting to use technology for quicker or deeper data analysis and 43% reported using technology to save time. To do so, B2B companies must invest in this technology. That’s why we weren’t surprised that 98% of respondents were planning investments in automation and AI for their procurement operations in the next few years.

How should young technology professionals train themselves to work better with Automation and AI-based tools?

Amazon Business offers various educational resources for professionals in the procurement industry, including this webinar on how to use AI & analytics to drive intelligent procurement. We also offer resources through training videos for administrators and buyers to learn how to create a successful, data-driven procurement program. All of these programs would be a good place for young technology professionals to start, however, if they are looking for resources outside of the procurement industry, Coursera has a broad and deep catalog of training courses to provide the foundation that technology professionals need. I highly recommend Generative AI with Large Language Models.

Explain why integrations like SSO and SCIM are so important for Amazon Business and the procurement industry.

Our customers need technology integrations to work seamlessly for them to connect all of their various systems and business processes.

A few of the primary methods of integration include Punchout, Punch-In, Integrated Search, and Single Sign-on.

Single Sign-On (SSO) is an integral part of most organizations’ identity management strategy, which is why Amazon Business’ SSO technology is a key offering. Our SSO benefits include central control access, one-click secure buyer access, and an accelerated program adoption to simplify the buying onboarding experience.

SCIM for Amazon Business was announced in January 2024 and is now available with Okta and Azure customers globally. SCIM is an add-on SSO feature that allows companies to automate user onboarding, offboarding, and group management at scale.

We love the webinars you did featuring Amazon Business last year. Could you tell us what are your webinar content syndication plans for the next 18 months?

Amazon Business is committed to the growth of our business customers. In 2024, we plan to continue to act as a resource for businesses by continuing our annual programs and data reports that allow us to supply procurement professionals with the knowledge and tools they need to continue to grow.

Tag one person in the AI/ML sector, whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Reid Hoffman.

Thank you, Doug! That was fun and we hope to see you back on’s TechBytes interview soon.

Doug Gray is the Chief Technology Officer at Amazon Business.

Doug joined Amazon Business in 2021 and today, he’s responsible for leading product innovation to deliver increased customer value. Before Amazon, he led engineering teams at Indeed, transforming products to serve customer needs worldwide.

Amazon Business

Amazon Business helps millions of customers worldwide — from small businesses, schools, hospitals, nonprofits, and government agencies to large enterprises with global operations — reshape their procurement with cost and time savings, greater productivity, and insightful purchasing analytics.

Procurement and business leaders enjoy convenient shipping options on hundreds of millions of supplies across categories like office, IT, janitorial, food service, and professional medical supplies. Customers also have access to a variety of business-tailored features and benefits, including a curated site experience, Business Prime, business-only pricing and selection, single or multi-user business accounts, approvals workflow, purchasing system integrations, payment solutions, tax exemptions, and dedicated customer support.

Amazon Business is available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and India.

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