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This article was published on November 9, 2017

How AI can save businesses from costly mistakes in expense reports

How AI can save businesses from costly mistakes in expense reports
Lucas Miller
Story by

Lucas Miller

Founder, Echelon Copy

Lucas Miller is the founder of Echelon Copy, a digital media agency headquartered in Orem, Utah that helps brands improve their online prese Lucas Miller is the founder of Echelon Copy, a digital media agency headquartered in Orem, Utah that helps brands improve their online presence.

Of the many tasks required to keep a business running smoothly, few can be more time-consuming — and potentially problematic — than filling out, filing and auditing expense reports. These and other auditing tasks are essential for keeping your finances in the black, but tracking receipts and getting everything properly filed is often easier said than done.

While managing expense reports isn’t easy, the rising trend of business automation is starting to make a significant impact in this area as well. With advances in automation and artificial intelligence, an increasing number of companies have been able to streamline their accounting needs.

But what does this next step in business automation mean for you? Let’s take a closer look.

Automation and changing practices

First, it helps to understand just how the artificial intelligence behind this latest automation trend improves on the old-fashioned practices. Expense tracking has always been a headache for companies, especially for business travelers who need to hang on to countless receipts.

Manual reporting is costly, time-consuming, and prone to error and oversight (especially when compliance is involved). Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, allows your team to automatically track and record expenses. For example, a business traveler could simply snap a picture of their receipt with their smartphone — the data is then automatically recorded by a relevant app and filed as part of a reimbursement form.

Compliance information is also programmed into the software so that auditors don’t need to sift through countless data points themselves to flag potential issues. Modern software even allows users to customize compliance features based on their company’s unique policies, while also accounting for tax-related data points. AI scans reports automatically to identify waste, fraud and other issues.

Automation ultimately allows companies to save time and money on these mundane, yet important tasks. One study found that switching from manual reporting to an automated system saved companies an average of 62% on expense report filing.

By creating a clear picture of a company’s financial data, AI provides accounting managers and auditors the opportunity to conduct more efficient reviews of their financial information. They can devote more time to investigating the reasons behind certain financial issues (and discovering their solutions), rather than manually sifting through pages of reports.

What is available today?

The benefits of embracing automation are clear, but many companies are unsure which apps or software installations would best suit their needs. The following tools are among the more popular methods for automating your expense reporting:

  • ExpensAble: ExpensAble places major emphasis on the enforcement of your company’s policies. This popular software tool allows managers to set spending limits, establish approval and routing rules and even designate preferred vendors. Account managers receive immediate notification of policy violations, while also enjoying the ability to quickly review and approve submitted reports. This provides management the ability to control company spending, while employees are able to receive reimbursements more quickly. Best of all, in-depth reporting lets you take a closer look at your spending to examine potential areas of concern.
  • Coupa: Designed to meet the needs of both midsize businesses and major corporations, Coupa uses a cloud-based system to eliminate wasteful spending and improve compliance in everything from inventory and procurement to invoicing and expense reporting. Coupa’s expense reporting platform makes use of a mobile app that includes helpful features such as vendor detection and an automatic mileage calculator. This makes it easy for traveling employees to create line items for their expense report. Other features, such as benchmark reports and fraud detection, allow you to identify how you compare to your competition.

  • AppZen: The artificial intelligence tools used to power AppZen provide real-time expense reporting to validate expenses. AppZen looks at receipts, tickets and more to take care of key auditing tasks, such as verifying merchants, eliminating duplicate reports and checking for fraud. This process creates a “risk score” for each report, alerting auditing teams of suspicious expense reports so they don’t need to worry about the rest. For further convenience, AppZen integrates with popular ERP tools such as NetSuite and Concur.

Looking to the future

So how will this rise in expense reporting automation affect the business landscape? In the long run, the adoption of AI has the potential to make expense reporting more streamlined and efficient than ever before by helping accountants and business auditors save time and reduce costly human error.

This might seem like a trivial problem, but research published by the Global Travel Business Association estimates that 19% of all expense reports filed for overnight hotel stays contain some error that requires correction – and thus costs more money. According to the research, companies spend on average hundreds of thousands of euros yearly finding and correcting these reports.

By taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, auditors and accountants will be able to focus more of their energy on the tasks that matter most, instead of worrying about keeping track of mundane items.

Ultimately, the adoption of the latest in automation technology has the potential to create greater opportunities in this field than ever before. If you haven’t already incorporated automated expense reporting tools into your business, don’t get left behind. The sooner you make use of this software, the more efficient your company will become.

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