How AI and ML revolutionized expense reporting

Anyone who has spent time traveling for business or working remotely knows the feeling: It’s the end of the week and you’re ready to finally log off for a well-deserved break. Instead, a scattered pile of receipts stares you in the face, each one waiting to be logged and submitted to the office.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Leveraging a cloud-based mobile expense reporting software can transform business operations and smooth out the stress caused by traditional expense reporting. This software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate some of the most tedious tasks, and also gives users access to powerful, real-time data.

The past: More work, less productivity

Outdated expense reporting processes aren’t just arduous for employees; they’re also bad for business. Despite the enormous advances in technology, the process of filing expense reports has remained largely the same – littered with pain points from beginning to end. Employees must keep track of paper receipts and mindlessly enter data into a spreadsheet; the entire process is set up to invite reporting errors and waste valuable work time. Even though smartphones have made the process somewhat less cumbersome, filing expense reports is still not mobile-friendly.

One of expense reporting’s biggest pain points is the sheer amount of time it takes for employees to keep up with and submit receipts. Especially now, given the many new demands that come from working through a global pandemic, the time spent on expense reports is time stolen from other, more essential tasks. And let’s not forget the amount of time and effort finance people spend reminding employees to submit reports in a timely manner or kicking back reports so employees can fix minor errors.

Managing the deadlines for expense reports is stressful and time consuming for everyone. More often than not, it gets in the way of the real business of the company, becoming yet another obstacle keeping employees from the things they were hired to do.

The future: Stress-free expense reporting

In a business world reliant on a global remote workforce, cloud-based, artificial intelligence-enabled mobile expense reporting can be a truly powerful tool.

Cloud-based reporting software automates the most time-consuming tasks and gives users the latest data on reports, contracts, budgets, invoices and more, producing more timely and accurate expense reports while freeing up employees to do what they do best. Rather than manually inputting each scrap of information from multiple receipts, cloud-based expense reporting automates that input.

With a cloud-based expense reporting system, all employees need to do is take a picture of a receipt as soon as they get it. The system uses machine learning to automatically complete the report with the necessary info from the picture — date, total, location, expense type, and so on. The employee can then attach a picture of the receipt and verify the expense classification. This application can also detect when a corporate card is used and remind the employee to capture images of the physical receipts.

In addition to automatic creation of reports, these systems can issue mobile notifications for unreported corporate card activities, automate corporate card bank reconciliations and streamline reimbursements to employees.

As with most cloud-based systems, these mobile solutions also offer businesses greater data security – especially those systems that allow clients to select whether their data is stored on the private or public cloud. Storing data on-premises only invites more security breaches. Along with the ease of reporting, cloud-based systems keep data more secure.

A holistic business view

Cloud-based expense reporting tools linked to your organization’s business management solution gives financial teams real-time information, all in one place and available on the go. With cloud-based expense reporting, these teams have immediate access to every expense report as it is approved and rejected, as well as big-picture views of expenses overall. This access streamlines the reimbursement process and ensures only legitimate business expenses are being reimbursed.

When your expense reporting software talks with your business management solution, your financial teams become less reactive and more focused on finding solutions. They can immediately see how much employees are spending on travel, per diem, food, vendors and other categories. Cloud-based reporting also gives teams instant insights into spending by departments and projects. This data — the who, what, when, where and how of employee expenses — is vital to managing the overall direction of your business in our ever-changing business environment. Further, by linking cloud-based expense reporting with business management solutions, accounting teams can better regulate expense policies.

A 2018 report from Paramount WorkPlace found that cloud-based expense reporting systems helped organizations increase efficiency, cost savings and employee productivity. Additionally, the streamlined expense reporting process allowed businesses to build their competitive market edge. Most organizations in the report cited manual data entry, lack of visibility into employee spending, and difficulties with enforcing corporate policies as their top challenges before introducing cloud-based solutions. According to the report, after turning to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)-integrated cloud-based expense reporting, businesses showed “quicker employee reimbursement, improved visibility into spend, increased ability to enforce travel policies, and reduced processing costs.”

The pace of change in the business world is accelerating. The organizations that stay ahead of those changes are the ones looking to leverage new tools to help their employees succeed. Cloud-based expense reporting systems come with two powerful advantages to their paper-based predecessors: efficiency and accuracy. When intelligent reporting tools are connected to business management systems, they are even more powerful. Using this new tool, employees can spend less time reporting expenses, less time fixing errors, and more time on what they do best.

Ajoy Krishnamoorthy, VP of platform strategy, Acumatica