Public sector institutions bear a unique responsibility around travel, expense, and invoice management. For those in state and local government, as well as in higher education, there's no wiggle room when it comes to accountability.
When you have access to public funds, you also have a greater sense of obligation and a higher level of fiscal responsibility. Even small mistakes can have big consequences. Unfortunately, many in the public sector and higher ed find themselves saddled with manual processes and siloed data that gets in the way of fraud and compliance management.
Technology can help. Modernized solutions automate and integrate travel, expense, and invoice management with artificial intelligence and machine learning to simplify employee compliance while giving administrators more granular insight into spending activities.
Why automated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions?
Automation in travel, expense reporting, and vendor invoice processing can ease the burden on employees. The simpler it is for them to submit receipts and process invoices, the more likely they are to play by the rules. Automation is a boon to administrators as well. When reservations feed directly into the system and auditing functions take place automatically, they’re free to devote their energies to more important tasks.
Additionally, a modern travel, expense, and invoice management platform should deliver automated workflows, pulling together end-to-end data – from reservation to receipt – with minimal human effort. “It’s about transparency and it’s about automating discovery,” said Ralph Colunga, SAP Concur Thought Leadership, Travel, and Expense Technology Solutions. With automated routines, “you get descriptive words and exception reports for review, rather than having to look for a needle in a haystack.”
For example, a system may automatically gather itinerary data, receipts, and other key information to streamline the expense reporting process. And, an invoice processing tool can eliminate manual invoice routing and approvals. This means you can catch duplicate invoices, speed payments, and easily manage exceptions. GPS-enabled mileage tracking automatically delivers accurate mileage reporting, while online travel request systems can automatically import trip details and costs.
Leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence
Modern capabilities such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can ease the reporting and compliance burden on public sector and higher education by flagging potential issues that a human might miss.
ML and AI can be trained to spot anomalies to support detection and auditing. A human auditor can only see so much, whereas AI can dig deeper, faster via training on millions of anonymized expense reports as well as public information. Leveraging this vast knowledge base, AI can rapidly and accurately assess factors too numerous or subtle to be caught by manual means.
Technology also offers the means to bring a higher level of accuracy to public sector travel, expense and invoice processing. Take for example optical character recognition (OCR) and three-way match: two high-end tools for boosting transparency and ensuring compliance.
OCR is technology that can converts written or printed documents into data. When bolstered by machine learning, OCR can go beyond receipts to read boarding passes, cell phone bills, and other key documents. This speeds payment requests and ensures a higher level of accuracy in reporting.
Three-way match, meanwhile, offers a powerful means to stream together key pieces of information, such as a vendor's invoice, purchase order, and receiving documentation. It allows you to match vendor’s invoices with purchase orders and received services before the invoices are processed and paid.
With three-way matching, you can alleviate late payments and duplicate payments; mitigate against unauthorized, unapproved, or fraudulent payments; and guard against theft and embezzlement.
Meeting the higher bar
Officials in the public sector and education must meet a higher bar of responsibility around travel, expense, and invoice management. SAP Concur offers modernized tools to meet that unique obligation.
“When organizations are publicly funded, their audits are made public too. When there are issues of noncompliance, you are going to see those in the headlines. You’ll see it in the news,” says Sam Van De Laarschot, Senior Product Marketing Manager at SAP Concur. No one in the public trust wants to draw negative media attention or risk tarnishing their reputation because of perceived fiscal laxity. In short: The stakes are too high to get this wrong.
SAP Concur delivers a high level of automation backed by machine learning and supported by specialized tools, including OCR and three-way matching. It’s a modernized approach that helps those in the public sector and higher education fulfill their mandate.