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No one likes approving expense reports — Here are 4 ways AI can help

by Cauvery Mallangada February 21, 2020

Hate expense reports? You’re not alone. 

Here’s how we usually see the expense report approval process play out. Finance teams, inundated by thousands of reports every month, can only audit a small percentage of the reports, fall behind schedule, and worry about fraudulent reports falling through the cracks. In an attempt to minimize this leakage, the company requires managers to approve every expense report before it’s paid — although managers usually just rubber-stamp the reports (wasting everyone’s time). Meanwhile, the process is so held up by the various steps of the approvals process that employees often don’t get paid back for weeks, putting them in a tight spot and inevitably leading to frustration and resentment among the team. 

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can help. AI offers today’s organizations an unprecedented opportunity to streamline the dreaded expense report approval process. If you’re waffling on whether it’s worth it to invest in an AI solution, here are four concrete benefits we’ve seen firsthand in companies that have taken the leap with AppZen. 

1) Managers have more time to do the jobs you hired them for

Organizations usually require manager approval of expense reports in an attempt to increase employee accountability and prevent expense report fraud. But this strategy is time-consuming and ineffective. Employees who are intent on cheating the system will figure out a way to do so anyway, especially since most managers are only giving the expense reports a cursory look before passing them along. AI-powered platforms — which can understand and audit every line on every expense report, receipt, and travel document submitted by employees — provide a much more useful way to suss out any funny business, and have the added benefit of giving managers more time to devote to, you know, their real jobs. 

2) Employees get paid back faster much faster

Imagine paying employees back the very same day they submit their expense reports. The reports are ingested in seconds, and if they meet all the requirements (no out-of-policy expenses, all receipts included, the works) then they’re reimbursed instantly. Sounds impossible, right? With AI, it’s a reality. When one Fortune 50 company began using automation to audit their expense reports, they cut their auditing time from weeks to minutes — delighting employees with same-day expense reimbursement, and freeing up dozens of hours for their auditors and managers to spend time on more meaningful work. 

3) Finance teams see exactly what expenditures are impacting the bottom line

AI-powered insights provide finance teams with an at-a-glance dashboard showing who is spending money, on what — giving you the information you need to address overspending and reinforce or change policies. Are employees upgrading their travel without approval? Is the sales team spending more this year than last year on prospecting efforts, without any discernible uptick in contracts? One of the most valuable aspects of AI is its ability to help finance teams quickly differentiate between consistent spending patterns that are negatively impacting the bottom line, vs. one-off violations that aren’t worth your time to address right now. 

4) Your company can’t help but save money

Time is money, and AI saves both for your organization, thanks to a quicker process and fewer approvals. With artificial intelligence, everyone — employees, managers, and finance teams alike — spend less time worrying about reimbursement and more time thinking about strategic initiatives to move the company forward. Meanwhile, finance teams have invaluable data to help your business get smart about its spending, helping to save even more money over time. 

Like any new software, implementing an AI-powered solution requires a bit of upfront time and investment. But there’s a powerful payoff in both the short term (fewer approvals = near-instant payout and saved time for all) and the long term (more strategic spend policies = major cost savings). Plus, AI just makes everything easier, for employees, managers, and auditors alike. If you dread the typical expense report approval process as much as most people, trust us when we say: it’s worth it. To learn more about how AI can transform your spend auditing process, download our white paper

Cauvery Mallangada

Cauvery is an Implementations Manager at AppZen. She loves ensuring that any customer she helps has the best experience on their AppZen journey. She enjoys hiking and photographing the beautiful outdoors.