Mercell advances the public sector into an AI-native environment

Interview with Ibrahim En-nali, CTO of Mercell


Public procurement, whether aimed at enhancing public services or addressing sustainability goals, involves extensive tender documentation. Meeting various requirements, certifications, and regulations leads to significant workload, negotiation rounds, data management, and cost control for both buyers and suppliers. Navigating these complexities in this dynamic environment requires careful management within tight deadlines and often limited resources. 

The public sector is gradually incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into public procurement, introducing advanced tools and capabilities that streamline the tender process. AI effectively manages large volumes of data, mitigates errors, and improves efficiency, resulting in more effective and streamlined procurement processes. 

Mercell is a leading public tendering & bidding SaaS vendor leveraging AI to redefine how public procurement operates. In this interview, Ibrahim En-nali, CTO of Mercell, discusses the company’s AI vision, new AI capabilities, upcoming initiatives, and how AI creates benefits and efficiencies for both buyers and suppliers.


Q: What are the latest AI trends shaping public procurement?

The current AI trends in public procurement are both exciting and transformative. Generative AI is one of the most prominent trends. It assists in creating tenders and corresponding bids by leveraging accumulated knowledge from both buyers and suppliers. This can include suggestions and validations against a comprehensive knowledge base, significantly reducing the manual work involved. In fact, it’s estimated that 50-80% of current manual tasks in public procurement could be automated using AI, allowing a better focus on more strategic activities.

In addition to generative AI, targeted AI applications are also on the rise. These applications are tailored to address unique challenges and requirements specific to procurement operations. By leveraging historical data, real-time information feeds, and predictive analytics, targeted AI can provide specialised procurement assistance, simulate bids, enhance analytics, and even predict future events.


Q: Ibrahim, can you share Mercell’s vision in the context of AI and its role in public procurement?

Absolutely. Mercell's overarching goal is to enhance public procurement processes, fostering transparency, efficiency, and innovation. AI aligns perfectly with our platform strategy, significantly enhancing its effectiveness. By automating tasks and providing actionable insights, AI simplifies interactions between buyers and suppliers throughout the tendering process. This approach ensures better outcomes for all parties involved. 

Our commitment is to continually support our customers by addressing critical pain points such as managing procurement specifications, overcoming language barriers, and identifying potential risks. Unlike competitors focusing on one market segment, Mercell caters to both buyers and suppliers, and we are investing in cutting-edge AI features and tools across our solutions.


Q: Where is Mercell embedding AI across its solutions?

At Mercell, we prioritise the integration of AI capabilities throughout our entire portfolio, covering every stage of the procurement lifecycle. Our initial focus is on incorporating AI into our Tender Discovery solution, designed to boost supplier engagement and enhance competition in public spending. 

Tender documentation is often intricate and extensive, with unique requirements and industry-specific terminology. By leveraging state-of-the-art AI technologies in Natural Language Processing (NLP) for semantic search capabilities, all Mercell supplier customers will have access to our new embedded Tender Summarisation AI capability. This empowers suppliers to distil lengthy documents into concise, easy-to-understand tender summaries. For example, a regular 50+ pages tender specification document can be condensed into a single page. Our advanced AI algorithms enable our customers to efficiently highlight and extract crucial details such as project descriptions, budget estimates, submission deadlines, supplier qualifications, and bid submission instructions.

Additionally, we are also introducing Better Tender Matching, designed to help customers discover the most relevant opportunities with unparalleled accuracy. By analysing key aspects such as type of service or goods, location, and other relevant factors extracted from tenders, the AI algorithm accurately pairs eligible suppliers with new tender opportunities. Our algorithm calculates the degree of match based on the provided criterias.  

This is just the beginning of our AI journey. We are committed to leveraging AI to address specific pain points that our customers face.  


Q: You’ve mentioned competition in this space. How does Mercell  differentiate itself in terms of AI capabilities?

Mercell stands out in several ways. Firstly, we recognize the importance of data quality in the performance, accuracy, and reliability of our new AI capabilities. Upholding high-quality practices across the data lifecycle is key for Mercell.

With our extensive experience in the market, we ensure a trustworthy foundation of data entry integrity. This wealth of knowledge, enriched with historical tender data points, enables us to generate accurate, actionable insights, providing greater value for our customers. Our deep understanding of the market allows us to train AI models effectively, offer accurate and reliable predictions, and ensure the reliability and effectiveness of our solutions. This experience provides us with better insights for refining our AI capabilities, continually enhancing our ability to meet the needs of both buyers and suppliers.

Additionally, Mercell differentiates itself by offering an end-to-end solution that spans the entire public procurement journey. As a leading provider in this business, we have the unique advantage of being able to seamlessly integrate both tender and bidding data in our AI models. This holistic approach ensures that actionable insights are extracted from the entire procurement process. 


Q: Ethical considerations are at the forefront of AI development. How does Mercell ensure ethical procurement and regulatory compliance when deploying AI?

Mercell places a strong emphasis on ethical considerations and regulatory compliance in the deployment of AI. We implement robust data privacy and security measures to safeguard information. Particularly noteworthy is our approach to using technologies that do not rely on customer data, reflecting our dedication to ethical and transparent practices. 

The data sources include publicly available data, such as government procurement websites and industry-specific tender platforms. These sources comply with relevant laws and regulations, operating under legal frameworks that ensure transparency, bias mitigation, and fairness. The processing of this data adheres to these legal standards, ensuring compliance with applicable legal framework.


Q: Looking ahead, what future AI capabilities do you foresee being integrated into the Mercell platform?

Our commitment of advancing the public sector into an AI-native environment is shown in the R&D resources we are allocating to our solution roadmap. In our pursuit of future AI capabilities, we are also considering partnerships with other companies, academia, and research organisations to stay at the forefront of innovation. 

Among our future AI enhancements, we are interested in improving how suppliers can monitor their market and identify opportunities with ease powered by AI. We want to limit friction and complexity related to monitoring procurement opportunities.

All of the future AI capabilities that we have on our roadmap are poised to address all the core pain points our customers are facing, with the goal of reshaping procurement processes, and opening up new business opportunities. 


Q: It’s clear that AI is here to transform public procurement.
To conclude, what advice would you give to public buyers and suppliers alike interested in adopting AI technologies?

In this era of AI-driven transformation, public sector organisations and suppliers stand to benefit greatly from the collaborative efforts of experienced partners like Mercell.

By leveraging their deep understanding of AI technologies and extensive industry experience, these partners can provide tailored solutions that address specific procurement challenges and maximise the value of AI investments. Whether it's optimising tendering processes, enhancing supplier management, or ensuring regulatory compliance, the expertise and support offered by seasoned partners are indispensable in navigating the complexities of AI adoption and driving tangible results within public procurement.