The Smartest Technology In Consumer Products Isn't Only On The Shelves

Harris Fogel

Managing travel and expense spending isn’t sexy. It’s essential for your ability to take products to market…but it isn’t sexy. It just doesn’t grab the headlines in the same way artificial intelligence and machine learning (among other here-come-the-robots innovations) do.

A lot of what we hear today is about new ideas and innovations and how they’re transforming our ability to connect with consumers, or how the latest technological advancements will revolutionize the way you bring products and services to consumers.

A recent Deloitte blog, in fact, highlighted how these same disruptive technologies impact the day-to-day running of your business, pointing out use cases that range from product safety to pricing promotions. For example:

Robotic process automation is improving the traceability and visibility of the supply chain by literally watching, and then analyzing, the movement of goods.

Machine learning is impacting pricing promotions and forecasting by using algorithms to make determinations about demand.

And language technologies are constantly scanning (like the rest of us) social media to protect organizations’ brand reputation.

The magic happens behind the scenes

It’s impressive stuff, to be sure. But the technology that runs your day-to-day processes can be just as jaw-dropping — especially when it comes to managing your budget, or controlling spend, or planning for growth, or any other business function that relies on funds.

This back-office tech, specifically that which helps manage travel and expense, can have a significant impact on your employees and the customers they serve. It can help you reinvent the employee experience, for example, by giving your teams consumer-grade tools that give hours back every week — time they can use to focus on your customers.

So how do you use such high-tech innovations to fuel such seemingly low-tech processes? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

1. Natural language processing (NLP) turns receipts into expense reports, so instead of filling out paperwork, your employees can serve your customers

Employees simply snap a picture of their receipts or invoices, and NLP translates those details into usable data — essentially reading it, interpreting it, and populating it into an expense report. AI and machine learning then take over and determine what to do with that data. This not only improves the accuracy and timeliness of your expense process, but it also removes mundane tasks from your employees’ plates giving them more time to do the jobs you hired them to do.

NLP also uses AI-powered search and travel bots to provide travel advice and recommendations, tailoring travel experiences to specific employee preferences and helping make travel for work seem less like work.

2. Machine learning can figure out what employees can’t: How to automatically comply with spending policies

A subset of artificial intelligence, ML uses algorithms to process billions of bits of data and quite literally learn along the way. That means it can take both structured data and unstructured data (like a restaurant receipt) and catch what humans might miss or forget.

It can tell the difference between an iced tea and a Long Island iced tea, for example, and if a traveler forgets that alcohol isn’t covered by corporate policy, machine learning sends the transaction back to the employee before the expense is submitted. So you’re not spending money that shouldn’t be spent, and your AP team isn’t wasting time on exceptions.

Even more importantly, machine learning can be used to help you determine your traveling team members’ locations – if needed – calling on credit card data, itineraries, and other sources to help narrow down their whereabouts. This supports your Duty of Care requirement and makes it easier to reach and retrieve employees in an emergency.

Your business gets “robot” technology, and your customers get your best

It seems almost antithetical to such high-tech advancements that the ultimate result is a greater level of personal attention, but when your back-office processes are automated and effortless, you’ve got more time to look forward.

For more on how these types of technologies are impacting companies like yours, read the new SAP whitepaper “The Robots are Coming: Why you should be excited about artificial intelligence and machine learning coming to accounting and finance.”

Harris Fogel

About Harris Fogel

Harris Fogel is Global Vice President for Consumer Products leading the Industry Industry Go to Market and Solution Management teams at SAP. For over five years, Harris has taken on various leadership roles in North American Mobile Sales and the SAP Cloud Platform Center of Excellence organizations. He has also launched Quofore’s operations as President of the Americas and established the company as the leading salesforce automation solution globally in the consumer products industry. Furthermore, he is an early adopter of data, insights, and technology to drive revenue growth at Proctor & Gamble (P&G). Harris is is also a past Chairman of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) Associate Member Council and is currently President of the P&G Alumni Network’s Atlanta Chapter.