AI Vanguard Awards: Waqas Aman, Airbus

by AppZen October 7, 2019

van·guard /ˈvanˌɡärd/ noun: a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas.

Today, we’re launching the AI Vanguard Awards, which recognizes finance professionals who lead the way for AI transformation. These rockstars consistently and effectively embody the three main criteria for the award:

  1. Significant strides in implementing AI to audit spend
  2. Establishment of best practices for AI-based auditing
  3. Exceptional contributions to the AI and finance community

This month’s award goes to Waqas Aman, Financial Systems & Compliance Manager at Airbus Americas.

Tell us about your background. How did you get to where you are today?

I hold a Master’s degree in Finance from Australian National University and I have been with Airbus for the last 5 years. I started off as a Financial Analyst and worked my way up to my current position as the Financial System Services & Compliance Manager for Airbus Americas.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I enjoy working on a wide variety of projects, not just within finance, but across other functions and different divisions like Airbus helicopters, defense, and space. I especially enjoy meeting my counterparts in various locations within Airbus Worldwide.

Due to the nature of my work (data integrity and compliance), I get to work across the finance spectrum including accounting, controlling and tax.

What do you like about working on those cross-functional projects?

Because of my finance background, I would normally be working with just the finance team. When you work cross-functionally, you see the picture from all sides then you try to solve the problem from a broader position, and not just from a finance, procurement or IT perspective.

Why do you think AI is important for spend auditing?

T&E represents a significant portion of operating costs. Airbus has thousands and thousands of expense reports submitted, which then have to be audited. Having an AI-based system that can audit 100% of those reports, automate manual process, uncover problems, and optimize decision making has been a game-changer for us.

What are some of the benefits of having AI?

Some of the major benefits are, speed of processing, accuracy and vetting of each report using the entire internet as its database, compliance, reduction in effort and cost compared to manual processing, freeing up time for more productive tasks, and highlighting improvements that could be made in our T&E and procurement policies.

What are you most proud of about this implementation?

I’m most proud of the scope of the different businesses we covered during this implementation. As of today, we have implemented AppZen in our commercial division in the U.S. as well as the helicopter division in the U.S. and Mexico and in our space division in Florida.

At the same time, I’m also very proud of the robust relationship we’ve developed with the AppZen team. We regularly exchange ideas about future improvements and participate in workshops that help bring our AI transformation to the next level.

What was your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge for us was the change management. This challenge meant that we needed to find ways to help people understand and trust AI. It meant showing them how AI and automation can reduce their efforts and save them time so they’re able to focus on more value-added activities.

What advice would you give other people taking on an AI project for their finance team?

The best advice regarding AI is to take the leap, embrace AI, trust it and promote it. We embraced the change and welcomed it and AppZen was the enabler to our AI transformation journey.

AI aside, what other innovative projects have you worked on and are proud of?

I was the project manager for implementing a robust planning and reporting tool integrated directly with our ERP system as well as our business intelligence tool. The entire process of data transfer between the system is touchless and 100% compliant. It was the pilot for the entire Airbus group and has been shortlisted as a worldwide solution. Also, I enjoyed working with the team in Mobile, Alabama, to set up the A320 final assembly line, and the latest addition to the Airbus family, the A220 aircraft from scratch!

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

I’m the former lead guitarist in a rock band called the Heathen Angels. We’re a real rock band. Like Led Zeppelin rock.

What’s your favorite AI personality?

Vicki from the TV show Small Wonder.