Automating the process of expense reporting can reduce reporting errors significantly, while at the same time, exposes potential areas of risks and improve employee productivity. A key player in the cloud-based travel-and-expense solution space, SAP Concur believes that cloud-based automation tools translate into greater transparency and reduce expense claim processing time by automatically populating expense claim transactions. Not only that the company delivers real-time data for visibility into employee spend.
In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Neeraj Dotel, Managing Director, India and SAARC SAP Concur, discusses the how the company’s cloud-based solutions are helping enterprises across the world safely carry out all business transactions related to travel and expense management. He also discusses the company’s plans for the India market.
CXOToday: How is digital transformation disrupting travel related sectors?
Neeraj Dotel: Digital transformation has implications in nearly every industry from media, healthcare, retail, technology and manufacturing and travel is no exception. For example, moving to the cloud upgrades an enterprise’s old system of manual paper-based receipts and expense claims. When an employee books a trip, the costs and details can be automatically imported into an expense claim ready for sign off on their return. This efficiency makes everyone’s life easier, saves time and increase productivity.
Newer concepts such as automation, connectivity, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Smart Manufacturing have become a way of life for the modern enterprise. For instance, AI can have simple use cases like recommending products based on individual tastes and preferences to customers who want a product, but don’t know how to go about searching for it, or know its very existence. Other complicated scenarios include drones used for rescue operations, intelligent machines for creating a map of the world to enable self-driven cars and so on and so forth.
At the core, AI is about solving complex problems, automating mundane tasks, and bringing simplicity for organizations and people. It’s important to look at AI and see how it affects people and how it can be used constructively. We have more data than ever now and with increased smartphone adoption, we’re sitting on heaps of unstructured data. AI is the most important phenomenon to be able to deconstruct this data and drive business efficiencies.
CXOToday: How are you using technology at SAP Concur to innovate and grow?
Neeraj Dotel: The rapid pace of technology is faster than ever, which can be overwhelming for a business to keep up with. We’re focused on saving time, reducing operating budgets and anticipating issues for our customers. Our goal is to deliver precisely what our customers need before they know they need it.
We continue to push ourselves and our partners to invent the ideas that keep our customers ahead of technology and trends that help them stay ahead of their spending. We believe advanced technologies and big data will redefine the travel, expense and invoice industry. We are pioneering innovation that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data insights.
We leverage our 53.5 million users’ behaviors and pinpoint trends. We use this data to refine our product strategy, leading to product enhancements that meet the requirements of modern businesses. We use advanced technologies to meet and anticipate our customer needs. For Example, Concur Invoice uses SAP Leonardo to extract data from invoice images and classify data, helping customers process more invoices and increase accuracy, while reducing time and operational costs. Similarly, Concur Expense uses machine learning technologies in conjunction with Office 365 to create expense report entries directly from an emailed receipt that hits their inbox.
Concur Expense on Outlook uses machine learning to automatically turn photos of receipts into an expense reports for end users. Another tool, TripIt gives users a beautiful mobile experience by instantly organizing emails from travel bookings and Concur Mobile uses machine learning to provide better hotel recommendations, based on hotels previously booked by the user, as well as coworker. Among other technologies, our free virtual travel planning assistant, Hello Hipmunk, uses Natural Language Processing and AI-powered travel search to provide travel advice and recommendations via a travel bot.
CXOToday: How is travel, expense and invoice management getting changed with the advent of technologies like AI-ML? How is SAP Concur contributing to those changes?
Neeraj Dotel: The travel, expense and invoice industry is rapidly evolving with advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. While these advanced technologies are helping businesses save time, simplify tasks, and deliver richer, more personalized experiences today than ever before, the best is yet to come.
We are at the forefront of this technological revolution, championing innovation and driving unprecedented change across the industry by incubating new technologies in Concur Labs, collaborating with innovative tech companies, and acquiring cutting-edge consumer apps like Hipmunk to deliver more value to business customers. As a result, we’re continually working to anticipate the challenges they’ll face tomorrow and in the years ahead.
We have a long history of using machine learning to add intelligence to applications and eliminate manual processes. We use machine learning (ML) to make everything from travel booking to expense auditing smarter, more automated, and easier for employees. ML presents exciting opportunities for us to do more on behalf of our users.
When you book travel with SAP Concur, your itinerary is automatically added to your expense report which can be submitted at the end of your trip. We also have intelligent tools built with machine learning so that receipts are added to your expense report right from your inbox. And we are working on many more innovations to get us to a point where the expense report truly will write itself.
This is just the beginning of how machine learning will impact the world of travel and expense management. There’s a broad spectrum of tools and capabilities to investigate, and this is only the beginning of what machine learning and AI may bring. We’re looking at what’s emerging, relevant, and possible as new technologies, like Alexa for business, to come to market.
CXOToday: How do you think technologies such as AI-ML are transforming how consumers plan to travel while offering companies a cut in operating costs?
Neeraj Dotel: Technology is surpassing business travelers where they are and forecasting their next move. Predictive analytics will transform the traveler experience by anticipating, recommending and booking optimal travel itineraries based on past experiences, calendars, user profiles and preferred loyalty programs.
Advanced technologies will take the travel experiences even further with customized room temperature, amenities and entertainment preferences ready upon arrival. On top of that, virtual concierges will offer 24/7 assistance to book dinner reservations, reschedule meeting spaces and request rides.
Disruptive technological tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are at an evolutionary tipping point and reaching new levels of maturity. They are transforming how consumers plan to travel while offering companies a cut in operating costs.
With machine learning, companies can help ensure employees secure the travel vendors they want while increasing traveler satisfaction, maintenance of compliance and cost savings. Such advancements allow travelers and companies to make smarter travel decisions. Machine learning and AI is becoming ubiquitous as it turns static travel policies into dynamic policies while building an incentive component that works for both the company and the traveler.
Artificial intelligence is changing the rules for the travel industry and the ability to predict the behavior of travelers is unlocking new revenue opportunities for travel players. Without a doubt, exciting times are ahead and AI will be at the forefront of this revolution.