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Amex and Microsoft use AI to improve the dreadful expense report

The focus these days is all on ChatGPT, but contemporary AI technologies have a variety of applications that go beyond making Bing finally useful. Utilizing AI to help with the tiresome and frustrating process of filing and auditing corporate expense reports is one new trend. Microsoft and American Express today unveiled a partnership that aims to accomplish that. The companies decided to broaden their long-standing collaboration to develop solutions that make use of AI and cloud computing from Microsoft, beginning with expense report management.

Amex claims that the initial solution will automate expense reporting and approvals by utilizing machine learning and AI.

This involves more than just learning how to categorize specific expenses, as many of the tools available today already do. Instead, the new system will use a decision engine powered by AI that is aware of the company’s travel and expense (T&E) policy and how it applies to submitted expenses. It will classify each transaction and assign a risk score based on this knowledge as well as other elements, such as the employee’s past purchases and payments.

The employee will be asked to take a picture of their receipt after using their Corporate Amex card to make this work. Depending on whether the expense is recommended for automatic approval or not, or whether it requires further review, the system will then apply one of three risk scores: red, yellow, or green. The receipt information is added to this information and sent to the company’s expense management system, which uses it to automatically generate reports that managers and auditors can use to make their own decisions. Amex claims that the AI was created in-house and that it does not use Microsoft Cloud, as opposed to Bing, which makes use of Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI.

Machine learning will help the expense management system become more intelligent over time. The algorithms governing what kinds of expenses can be automatically approved will be improved as more expenses are processed through the system.

According to American Express, Microsoft will test the solution first and integrate it with its own internal expense management system later in the year. It will gradually expand to include more Amex Corporate customers and support for additional expense management tools.

Although ChatGPT isn’t exactly ChatGPT for expense reports, if the solution works, it could save time and ease stress related to corporate expense management.
Imagine that corporate employees would only need to concentrate on the outliers that actually required further explanation, rather than spending hours manually categorizing expenses, uploading receipts, and defending the charges.

Of course, it is still unclear whether the proposed solution is actually capable of achieving this objective, as stated, or whether businesses will even make use of the technology when it is made available.

Amex isn’t the only business looking to AI to streamline the laborious procedures associated with managing expense reports. Recently, Palo Alto-based TripActions, which makes business travel software, changed its name to Navan and disclosed it would incorporate ChatGPT into its platform for related reasons. The company claimed that its new system would, among other things, simplify expense reporting through its own receipt-scanning tool and learn a user’s preferred airlines, hotels, and restaurants to build itineraries.

Of course, there are reasons to be dubious about these upcoming AI solutions.

New technologies that are intended to reduce employee labor invariably just give people “new types of work” to do, as The Atlantic recently noted. And the way ChatGPT confidently provided the incorrect response suggests that some of that additional work may involve handling false positives and false negatives.

Furthermore, businesses like SAP Concur have long been using AI. Additionally, a lot of workers would contend that Concur isn’t exactly an intuitive system.

The announcement’s timing is also questionable. Amex probably hopes to capitalize on the interest in the Microsoft-OpenAI partnership and the ChatGPT-powered Bing in order to draw more attention to its much less intriguing use case. (Unless, of course, managing expenses excite you!)

However, AI will soon affect more than just expense management, including the larger financial services and corporate travel sectors. In that regard, Amex is merely following the market’s direction rather than necessarily leading it.

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