By Rachel Ware 01.31.18

Artificial intelligence (AI) has recently received a lot of ink regarding the impact the technology will have on the workplace and the jobs we do.

I work in an industry where AI is already driving noticeable change. It is revolutionizing the role of business travel managers and how they operate both on the front-end and the back-end of the business.

A Venture Beat article shares some very interesting insights on the front-end impact of AI for travel managers and the travel industry more generally. From better informed booking to an app on your smartphone that lets you take photos of your receipts and automatically creates your expense report, AI is making business travel more pleasant for employees.

So, what does AI have in store for corporate travel managers?

First, take a collective deep breath; your job is not going away. Today, T&E managers typically spend 80% of their time trying to find policy compliance issues—the needle in the haystack—and 20% dealing with them. But it is physically impossible for travel managers to review every transaction. They rely on a 20% to 25% subset of transactions to catch potential misuse, waste and fraud.  Despite having teams of analysts manually sifting through expense reports, companies usually find little hidden fraud or waste this way.

AI changes this. By automating the detection of T&E and purchase card policy violations, errors and fraud, AI can expand the scope to 100% of transactions and do this more efficiently and accurately than any human could when auditing corporate travel programs. This means travel managers can spend the bulk of their time correcting issues instead of finding them. They can focus on the things the machines can’t do—the human element.  AI can also help travel managers identify ways to improve T&E processes and policies.

For instance, an AI-based audit system may uncover a pattern of misuse, such as travelers using ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. The system automatically alerts the T&E manager to these transactions because the company does not have a policy that allows for Uber usage. The T&E manager reviews the transactions and discovers that travelers using Uber spend 30% less on ground transportation than those using taxis. This spurs a decision only humans can make – should the company change policy to allow for the more convenient and cost-effective ride-hailing solutions? The travel manager is best suited to answer this question, not the machine. But the question may not even be on the table without AI.

Like earlier waves of technology advancements, AI is expanding into enterprise functions like T&E and purchase card auditing, risk management and compliance. Companies that leverage AI technologies, like Oversight’s Insights On Demand™, are able to reduce annual T&E spending by 2% to 5% and improve employee compliance by up to 70% – all with at least 50% less effort than typical methods.  

For me, the ability to drastically cut out the potential waste, misuse and fraud from your travel program, by welcoming AI into your enterprise, far outweighs any FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) around AI technology.

Rachel Ware is Business Development Manager at Oversight Systems.

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