Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
Long gone are the days when business travel and expenses revolved around paper-based systems and human travel agents. Today’s technology allows companies to take advantage of everything from mobile apps to self-service web applications for booking travel, processing expense claims, and driving overall efficiency.
But while these advanced functions have significantly cut the time and costs associated with processing T&E expenses, and have gone a long way toward promoting better policy compliance, they still leave the system vulnerable to abuse.
Circumventing the system
Whether it’s a disallowed business-class travel booking, or a meal expense that exceeds pre-set limits, compliance is built into modern T&E systems as a series of rules that result in warnings whenever an employee breaks with policy. This is fairly effective for conditioning personnel and making them aware of regulations, but it’s not too difficult for clever employees to find ways around the system.
Circumvention practices often include:
When good people do bad things
Generally speaking, when we think about “bad behavior” like this, we associate it with a certain type of character. In other words, we tend to believe that only bad people do bad things. But the fact is that fraudulent behavior is very common, and in some cases, employees aren’t even aware that they’ve done something wrong.
Research into basic human psychology, like that described in the article Why Good People Do Bad Things, reveals that not only are most of us capable of behaving unethically, we actually do it all the time.
So why is fraudulent behavior going largely undetected and unresolved in the corporate world? For the simple reason that it’s usually just too expensive and time-consuming for T&E departments to go over every employee expense report with a fine-tooth comb. Throwing more people at the problem only increases costs, and rarely justifies the extra expense, so the waste, noncompliance, and unethical practices continue.
Taking control with AI
Today’s artificial intelligence is offering businesses a way out of this conundrum. AI allows companies to detect opportunistic behaviors that lead to T&E policy noncompliance because automated technologies like machine learning, computer vision, and Natural Language Processing (NLP) make it possible to regularly spot anomalies in employee expense reports.
Sophisticated models track spending and analyze hundreds of attributes involving dates and costs for attendees, merchants, and travel destinations, in order to detect both patterns and anomalies. AI applications quickly and efficiently spot violations that would normally be too difficult for human auditors to detect, allowing consistently noncompliant employees to be weeded out from those who occasionally indulge in questionable behavior, or who simply make innocent mistakes.
The best part about AI technology like this is that it can learn from its analysis of very large amounts of transactional data. In fact, the more data they process, the more effective these systems become. And the analytics derived from their regular use is giving companies insights into spending patterns and opening up new pathways to reducing costs and improving efficiency.
Business T&E is on the cusp of disruption. The next wave of cost savings and efficiency gains won’t be the result of a better looking mobile app or a more user-friendly website, but will be based on data science technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. AI is strategically poised to bring actionable intelligence and automation to every step of T&E compliance.
Anant Kale,Co-Founder and CEO
As CEO of AppZen, Anant is responsible for the development the company's vision, building the team and execution. Anant has more than 15 years of experience in developing complex software. Prior to AppZen, he served as Vice President of Applications at Fujitsu America, where he was responsible for strategy, product management and delivery of Fujitsu's mission critical applications and infrastructure for enterprise, mobile and commerce. Anant earned an MBA from the University of Mumbai in Finance and Engineering.