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Shaping the Future of Finance with Generative AI


Expand the scope of your finance transformation with the new AppZen Platform

by Uri Kogan January 20, 2020

The CFO Squeeze

CFOs face never-ending pressure to cut costs, fund revenue growth, and maintain financial controls. And at the same time, they need to run an efficient and effective finance organization to minimize risk, ensure compliance with regulations and corporate policies, provide strategic advice to the business, and minimize the bureaucratic burden on employees.

It’s not surprising, then, that the finance function was a digital transformation pioneer long before the term was even coined. William Burroughs invented the adding machine in 1880. In recent decades, successive waves of innovation have helped finance leaders increase their teams’ productivity from ERP to BI and analytics, SaaS tools for billing and invoicing, and robotic process automation to automate processes like data entry.

Despite this, walk into any room full of CFOs, Controllers, or AP managers today and ask them:

  • Is your workload reasonable?
  • Are you able to focus more on decisions, strategy, and dealing with exceptions, rather than managing a ton of mundane, repetitive processes?
  • Do you have a handle on all the risks in your business?

You won’t see a lot of heads nodding.

Reality is still drudgery

Unfortunately, time-consuming, manual, and error-prone operating procedures still dominate finance and accounting teams’ time. Existing technologies haven’t helped: these processes are too complex, and require too much domain understanding and business context. The result? Operational inefficiencies, expensive compliance issues and money left on the table.

Here are some examples of processes that have resisted automation to date:

  • Ensuring invoices match complex contractual discount provisions
  • Scoring the risk of payments and suppliers before payment
  • Expense reviews of unique corporate policies
  • Assuring spend is accurate and appropriate before payment

This might sound dispiriting but, at AppZen, we’re building the AI platform for modern finance. Our mission is to help finance leaders and their teams get work done more efficiently, improve compliance with policy and regulations, and take unnecessary cost and working capital out of the business.

AI-based solutions expand the scope of finance transformation

We know that finance teams are hungry for these innovations. Deloitte’s top prediction for the finance function in 2025 is an operational finance factory of zero-touch transactions, where “people will do more human work including exception-based and insight-driven activities,” going from “human middleware” and “being the app” to “using the app”. And McKinsey found that AI can dramatically extend the finance activities that can be automated.

Our view is that modern finance teams deserve AI-based solutions that do the heavy lifting for them, so they can save human review for exceptions. We believe finance teams want to focus their attention on issues that need resolution, investigation, or nuanced decision making. And they want to stop spending 90% of their time just looking for problems.

It’s a lot like airport security: imagine how much easier the process would be, and how much less time you’d need to spend at the airport, if you could automate getting through security and reserve staff only for review of suspicious bags or people.

Helping organizations automate complex, expert-driven, manual processes

AppZen pioneered AI-based spend auditing for finance teams, and has helped over 1,650 enterprises to date. But today, we’re changing the game again.

Today, we’re announcing the general availability of enhancements to the AppZen Platform for Finance. For the first time, AppZen Platform customers can automate their custom spend policies, controls, and risk levels.

Managing IT purchasing policies and exceptions at scale

Let’s look more closely at IT purchasing policies to explain the power of the AppZen Platform. Companies commonly centralize corporate IT spend for equipment like phones, monitors, headphones, and software purchases.

These controls help ensure that company purchases:

  • Have been approved by the right people
  • Take advantage of negotiated discounts
  • Don’t introduce undue security concerns
  • Are properly accounted for, and capitalized if necessary.

But like with most rules, companies would like to make exceptions: certain employees and departments like field teams often get permission to make purchases directly, for convenience.

Companies have always struggled to manage these policies – and the unique exceptions their business demands – efficiently and at scale. Since they haven’t been able to, they usually either clamp down completely on purchases, or create frustrating bureaucratic processes of multiple reviews and manual checks.

With the new AppZen Platform, companies no longer have to choose between two lousy options. Instead, they can monitor and control these complex process in real-time with custom compliance models that look at all possible transactions: T&E expense, maverick spend, corporate and p-cards, as well as POs and invoices.

By looking at every expense report receipt, every PDF invoice, and every credit card transaction, companies  can identify IT-related purchases and the roles of the purchasers in the organization. AppZen then flags transactions that aren’t in policy for review in real time.

Example: how AppZen helps ACME Corp*

ACME Corp is a multi-billion dollar retailer. The CFO is focused on controlling spend, improving efficiency, ensuring compliance, and providing an effortless employee experience. ACME’s IT purchase policy requires central IT procurement, but has a few exceptions. Senior executives are entirely exempt, and field teams can spend up to $50. Finance monitors purchases by exempt staff to prevent abuse.

The AppZen Platform makes it possible, for the first time ever, to implement and automate custom policies like this one by integrating with ACME’s systems: Workday for HR, Coupa for Procure-2-Pay, Concur for Travel & Expense, and SAP for ERP. AppZen uses these custom compliance models, along with its standard out-of-the-box compliance models, to provide unified compliance and operational oversight across 100% of ACME’s spend.

Ready to transform your business spend?

Here are a few ways to learn more about how we can help:

  • Learn more about the AppZen Platform.
  • Already a customer? Reach out to your Customer Success Manager.
  • Concur Detect by AppZen customer, or not a customer yet? Request a demo.

* For those of you who aren’t fans of old Saturday morning cartoons, this is an illustrative example.

Uri Kogan

Vice President of Product Marketing