Travel and Expense

From Back Office to Tip of the Spear: How AI Will Transform T&E

Christopher Juneau |

With budgets tightening, market competition intensifying, and skilled talent increasingly harder to come by, there are growing expectations for teams across every organization to do more with less. And finance teams are no exception.

This pressure, however, comes at an opportune time. The increased availability of artificial intelligence (AI) tools for the general population over the past year has catapulted the technology into the mainstream, sparking widespread speculation about—and enthusiasm for—its potential impact. Finance leaders are equally excited. Nearly half (45%) of businesses see opportunities for AI to improve their payments process, expense management, and analytics, according to IDC.

SAP Concur solutions are designed to help businesses capitalize on these shifts, relevantly, reliably, and responsibly. At SAP Concur, AI technology has underpinned our core travel, expense, and invoice solutions alongside our market leadership position for the past 10 years. Our solutions are making it easier than ever to capture, manage, and analyze spend. In a world where these technologies will practically manage themselves, our customers can focus on what matters to them, unlocking new opportunities for innovation and new avenues for growth.

Streamlining User Experience While Ensuring Compliance

For end users, submitting travel and other expenses can be a time-consuming, complex process. This, unfortunately, is often a necessary byproduct of the strict compliance needs of finance teams. For them, ensuring the accuracy of expense reports is critical to control costs.

However, with Verify, our self-serve audit solution within Concur Expense, this tradeoff between a good user experience and complex compliance needs disappears. Using AI and machine learning, Verify automatically reviews expense reports to identify potential compliance issues, such as duplicate receipts across employees, out-of-policy spending, and incorrect dates. A company’s finance department no longer must worry if their random audits are sufficient to identify non-compliance. Verify will perform 100% of an audit on their behalf, and only those reports with Verify exceptions require review by a human auditor. And as AI technology continues to mature, over time, the tool could flag policy exceptions early on, preventing problems from reoccurring while further reducing time and cost associated with the process.

Using AI and machine learning to capture expense receipts in the moment has proven to drive compliance earlier in the expense reporting process as well. When our customers adopt ExpenseIt, they’ve seen returned expense reports drop from 14% to 1.2%. Employees can spend an average of 18 minutes correcting a previously submitted expense report, costing roughly $52, according to a 2020 GBTA study. Assuming a company’s employees submit 1,000 expense reports each month, using Concur Expense with ExpenseIt could save an estimated $47,320 in productivity cost improvements and 273 personnel hours monthly.

The result: With AI and machine learning, users get a better, more streamlined experience, and compliance teams get the accurate, comprehensive expense reports they need. It’s a win for both sides.

Generating Insights

We are combining advances in generative AI with our unrivaled customer data and in-house machine learning to leverage AI in ways that no other travel and expense management company can.

Business travel and its related expenses generate a tremendous amount of data. This makes end-to-end travel and expense (T&E) ideal for AI use cases, as the technology can sift through data to recognize patterns that aren’t visible to the human eye—even a human with the most advanced reporting tool. 

Consider Concur Detect by Oversight, our AI-powered expense auditing solution that primarily focuses on post-payment analysis to identify anomalies and potential fraud. By looking at expense data collected over weeks and months, Concur Detect can analyze post-payment trends and patterns to identify instances of fraud and misuse.

But spotting fraud is just the start. The true power of solutions like Concur Detect is unlocked when businesses use this data to inform future decisions. For example, by extrapolating travel and spending trends, finance teams can better plan and negotiate their expense budgets. AI could provide the insights necessary to adjust or rewrite travel and expense policies based on business needs and realities. Additionally, this technology could help finance teams and travel managers determine actual return on investment of individual business trips and other expenses, providing lessons that can guide decisions for the company.

Improving Employee Satisfaction

When it comes to AI, automating processes is not the end game. Instead, the true promise of the technology is to eliminate laborious, mundane tasks that reduce employee satisfaction and distract them from the creative, strategic elements of their job.

For example, consider the expense audit process. In 2022, $1.6 billion in spending exceptions went unexamined by finance teams, according to an analysis of spending data from Oversight customers. This is perhaps unsurprising given how time-consuming the manual auditing process can be.

AI, however, changes that. Ninety-seven percent of the 2.8 million expense reports that passed through Verify between January 2022 and June 2023 were audited automatically, leaving only 3% to be audited by a finance colleague. And when finance teams can automatically identify common cases of misuse, waste, and non-compliant spending, it frees them up to focus on higher-value work that contributes more to the future of the business, such as forecasting and risk analysis.

Defining a New Role for T&E

The bottom line: When used properly, AI doesn’t just offer finance teams new ways to reduce costs. It also provides better insights and greater confidence in the state of their business. In this context, T&E plays a key role in shaping where business goes next.

AI will sever the historical tradeoffs organizations were forced to make between efficiency and compliance in the T&E process. The result of this seismic shift is an organization that is more intelligent, more resilient, more sustainable, and, ultimately, more profitable.

To learn more about how Verify and other SAP Concur solutions can transform your T&E operations, click here.  


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