Worried that artificial intelligence is going to take your job? You’re probably worrying too much.

“AI doesn’t replace employees, it augments them,” says A.G. Lambert, SVP of product strategy at SAP Concur. “When you remove the tedium of a job, it frees you to focus on the human side of your work.”

Automated assistants are already reducing the tedium of paperwork, and they’re growing into more collaborative roles as guides and advisors. They’re improving every day, using machine learning to identify patterns and glean information from businesses around the world. 

Here’s how current and emerging software applications are helping three typical office workers become more efficient and productive. 

Meet Vincent, accounts payable specialist.

Vincent has historically spent too much of each day keying in data and fielding emails from vendors about payments. 

Luckily for him, help has arrived in the form of ingenious tech. And more is on the way.

Today, Vincent can take advantage of apps that put to work optical character recognition and machine learning to automatically “read” and enter invoices into the payment system as well as match invoice and purchase order information. With paper invoices eliminated, he’s processing faster and collecting more early-payment discounts.

In the near future, Vincent’s automated invoice assistant will become a fraud detection sleuth. Having “studied” vendor behavior across hundreds or thousands of companies, that assistant will warn Vincent about vendors who have demonstrated risky or fraudulent payment practices. It will also identify mistakes or signs of fraud, such as duplicate charges for the same work.

Vincent is also in charge of auditing expense reports. It’s a tedious task and he has time to review only a fraction of them. Now he uses an AI-assisted program that automatically reviews every report. In many cases the automated auditor will flag problems to the submitting employee, so he or she can revise and resubmit the report if needed. That saves everyone time.

Having been relieved of inputting data and chasing paper, Vincent can turn his attention to a dashboard that reveals payables and payments trends at a glance. Now he can focus on strategies that improve his company’s bottom line. Maybe he’ll find a novel way to improve the company’s cash management, for instance.

 

Meet Janet, manager at the firm.

Janet is a born leader—which is precisely why running travel policies and budgets is her least favorite part of her job. Important as it is, it’s sheer rote-work.

What’s worse is that, as manager of her department’s travel policy, she’s tired of being the “bad cop.” 

That said, paperless expense reporting and mobile report approval are already making her job easier. Her employees are automatically monitored and informed of violations of expense policy, relieving her of at least one “bad cop” duty.

Her employees also now use a bot that answers their questions about travel policy while they’re on the road, so she doesn’t have to field late-night emails.

Before too long, things will get even easier. Intelligent assistants will proactively inform her employees of expense policy violations, or advise them toward making better spending decisions, even while they’re on the road. In response, the employee will change his or her behavior in real time, making a different spending decision or putting a charge on a personal card. This will ensure that spending policy gets implemented more consistently. It will also reduce the time Janet has to spend reviewing her colleagues’ expense reports—and having awkward conversations with them about items she’s flagged.

“We think of [AI] as moving through a three-step process,” says Lambert. He explains that software tools can already measure past occurrences—such as spending in different categories. Now they’re starting to predict what is likely to occur down the road. They’re even providing advice on how to do things better. 

For example, Janet already has a tool that tracks departmental spending (including pending payments) and will ping her smartphone if spending has reached a risky threshold. It can even make simple recommendations, such as to cancel booked travel if it will bust the quarterly budget, and it will automatically generate a list of upcoming trips that the company may want to call off. Soon, however, the assistant will also be able to predict whether Janet will in fact go over her budget—and by how much—based on her department’s past spending patterns as well as on spending patterns at similar organizations.

Soon, Janet will have access to a smart automated advisor for her travel and expense policies. Her current tool can already tell her how her spending compares with that of the rest of the organization and what the most common policy exceptions are. But in the future her AI assistant will make recommendations to maximize savings and employee happiness based on “studies” of employee satisfaction and of travel costs and policies at other companies.

“Janet,” it might tell her, “you’re spending 35% more on travel than comparable companies that are traveling to Atlanta. We suggest expanding the number of preferred hotels in Atlanta from two to five.”

Right now, Janet feels uncomfortable enforcing her company’s rigid $50-a-day travel expense rule. Soon she’ll receive insights that will help her make, in Lambert’s words, “much more flexible and nuanced” discriminations in overseeing expensing policy.

“With our insights about what other companies are doing—refined based on location, industry and other variables—you could say, ‘I want my employees not to be above the 75th percentile of spending,’ and adjust dynamically with that,” Lambert says.

Using these technologies, Janet would no longer be the enforcer. Instead, she and her employees would use AI assistants for guidance on purchasing and budgeting decisions in a way that both fulfills the employees’ needs and fits the company’s budget.



 

Meet Sarah, the company's seasoned CFO.

At Sarah’s firm—as at many others—travel and entertainment expenses represent one of the largest discretionary costs after payroll. That doesn’t even take into account the administrative costs of handling those expenses. Throughout her company, Sarah has deployed tools that reduce the hassles of processing expenses while improving expense policy design and implementation.

And employees like Vincent and Janet are giving her the credit for it. 

“If you can improve the productivity of really everybody at your office—everyone who’s ever traveled, filled in an expense report or handled an invoice—those people are going to thank you,” says Mike Koetting, chief product strategy officer at SAP Concur. “If, in addition, you can contribute to improved margins and free people up to be more strategic in their jobs, that gives you the opportunity to be a hero in your organization.”

Cash flow is vitally important for Sarah’s company. Even a small cash flow problem could land the firm in hot water with lenders; a big one could threaten its existence. Sarah’s dashboard gives her good visibility into how travel and entertainment expenses and other payables fit into overall cash flow. It also gives real-time feedback on which company departments are doing a better job managing their budgets, giving Sarah better control and predicting her future cash needs.

Someday soon, Sarah’s automated assistant will be able to indicate how her spending in different categories compares with that of best-in-class companies in the same industry. In fact, the assistant will do real-time benchmarking of her company’s performance in a variety of key performance indicators, a feature that machine learning makes possible.

Now, instead of spending her time in the backward-looking business of running cash-flow audits, Sarah is looking forward at how her company can do better in the future. And instead of wasting her time with paperwork, she’s part of executive discussions to determine whether their company should buy an intriguing new startup.



AI-driven tools are already reducing office tedium. As they get smarter, they’re also starting to help employees and their managers make smarter decisions that can improve the performance of a company as a whole.

Text by Richard Sine

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“AI doesn’t replace employees, it augments them,” says A.G. Lambert, SVP of product strategy at SAP Concur. “When you remove the tedium of a job, it frees you to focus on the human side of your work.”

Automated assistants are already reducing the tedium of paperwork, and they’re growing into more collaborative roles as guides and advisors. They’re improving every day, using machine learning to identify patterns and glean information from businesses around the world. 

Here’s how current and emerging software applications are helping three typical office workers become more efficient and productive. 

Meet Vincent, accounts payable specialist.

Vincent has historically spent too much of each day keying in data and fielding emails from vendors about payments. 

Luckily for him, help has arrived in the form of ingenious tech. And more is on the way.

Today, Vincent can take advantage of apps that put to work optical character recognition and machine learning to automatically “read” and enter invoices into the payment system as well as match invoice and purchase order information. With paper invoices eliminated, he’s processing faster and collecting more early-payment discounts.

In the near future, Vincent’s automated invoice assistant will become a fraud detection sleuth. Having “studied” vendor behavior across hundreds or thousands of companies, that assistant will warn Vincent about vendors who have demonstrated risky or fraudulent payment practices. It will also identify mistakes or signs of fraud, such as duplicate charges for the same work.

Vincent is also in charge of auditing expense reports. It’s a tedious task and he has time to review only a fraction of them. Now he uses an AI-assisted program that automatically reviews every report. In many cases the automated auditor will flag problems to the submitting employee, so he or she can revise and resubmit the report if needed. That saves everyone time.

Having been relieved of inputting data and chasing paper, Vincent can turn his attention to a dashboard that reveals payables and payments trends at a glance. Now he can focus on strategies that improve his company’s bottom line. Maybe he’ll find a novel way to improve the company’s cash management, for instance.

 

Meet Janet, manager at the firm.

Janet is a born leader—which is precisely why running travel policies and budgets is her least favorite part of her job. Important as it is, it’s sheer rote-work.

What’s worse is that, as manager of her department’s travel policy, she’s tired of being the “bad cop.” 

That said, paperless expense reporting and mobile report approval are already making her job easier. Her employees are automatically monitored and informed of violations of expense policy, relieving her of at least one “bad cop” duty.

Her employees also now use a bot that answers their questions about travel policy while they’re on the road, so she doesn’t have to field late-night emails.

Before too long, things will get even easier. Intelligent assistants will proactively inform her employees of expense policy violations, or advise them toward making better spending decisions, even while they’re on the road. In response, the employee will change his or her behavior in real time, making a different spending decision or putting a charge on a personal card. This will ensure that spending policy gets implemented more consistently. It will also reduce the time Janet has to spend reviewing her colleagues’ expense reports—and having awkward conversations with them about items she’s flagged.

“We think of [AI] as moving through a three-step process,” says Lambert. He explains that software tools can already measure past occurrences—such as spending in different categories. Now they’re starting to predict what is likely to occur down the road. They’re even providing advice on how to do things better. 

For example, Janet already has a tool that tracks departmental spending (including pending payments) and will ping her smartphone if spending has reached a risky threshold. It can even make simple recommendations, such as to cancel booked travel if it will bust the quarterly budget, and it will automatically generate a list of upcoming trips that the company may want to call off. Soon, however, the assistant will also be able to predict whether Janet will in fact go over her budget—and by how much—based on her department’s past spending patterns as well as on spending patterns at similar organizations.

Soon, Janet will have access to a smart automated advisor for her travel and expense policies. Her current tool can already tell her how her spending compares with that of the rest of the organization and what the most common policy exceptions are. But in the future her AI assistant will make recommendations to maximize savings and employee happiness based on “studies” of employee satisfaction and of travel costs and policies at other companies.

“Janet,” it might tell her, “you’re spending 35% more on travel than comparable companies that are traveling to Atlanta. We suggest expanding the number of preferred hotels in Atlanta from two to five.”

Right now, Janet feels uncomfortable enforcing her company’s rigid $50-a-day travel expense rule. Soon she’ll receive insights that will help her make, in Lambert’s words, “much more flexible and nuanced” discriminations in overseeing expensing policy.

“With our insights about what other companies are doing—refined based on location, industry and other variables—you could say, ‘I want my employees not to be above the 75th percentile of spending,’ and adjust dynamically with that,” Lambert says.

Using these technologies, Janet would no longer be the enforcer. Instead, she and her employees would use AI assistants for guidance on purchasing and budgeting decisions in a way that both fulfills the employees’ needs and fits the company’s budget.



 

Meet Sarah, the company's seasoned CFO.

At Sarah’s firm—as at many others—travel and entertainment expenses represent one of the largest discretionary costs after payroll. That doesn’t even take into account the administrative costs of handling those expenses. Throughout her company, Sarah has deployed tools that reduce the hassles of processing expenses while improving expense policy design and implementation.

And employees like Vincent and Janet are giving her the credit for it. 

“If you can improve the productivity of really everybody at your office—everyone who’s ever traveled, filled in an expense report or handled an invoice—those people are going to thank you,” says Mike Koetting, chief product strategy officer at SAP Concur. “If, in addition, you can contribute to improved margins and free people up to be more strategic in their jobs, that gives you the opportunity to be a hero in your organization.”

Cash flow is vitally important for Sarah’s company. Even a small cash flow problem could land the firm in hot water with lenders; a big one could threaten its existence. Sarah’s dashboard gives her good visibility into how travel and entertainment expenses and other payables fit into overall cash flow. It also gives real-time feedback on which company departments are doing a better job managing their budgets, giving Sarah better control and predicting her future cash needs.

Someday soon, Sarah’s automated assistant will be able to indicate how her spending in different categories compares with that of best-in-class companies in the same industry. In fact, the assistant will do real-time benchmarking of her company’s performance in a variety of key performance indicators, a feature that machine learning makes possible.

Now, instead of spending her time in the backward-looking business of running cash-flow audits, Sarah is looking forward at how her company can do better in the future. And instead of wasting her time with paperwork, she’s part of executive discussions to determine whether their company should buy an intriguing new startup.



AI-driven tools are already reducing office tedium. As they get smarter, they’re also starting to help employees and their managers make smarter decisions that can improve the performance of a company as a whole.

Text by Richard Sine

SAP®

Concur®

is the world’s leading provider of integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions, driven by a relentless pursuit to simplify and aut...