Expense Systems to Watch
“There are a lot of smaller vendors coming
out with expense offerings,” said Gartner
Research director Chris Pang. “You’d think
it has become a commodity and big vendors have got a monopoly over the marketplace, but the truth is: There are still
a lot of young and innovative providers.”
Here’s a short list.
Expenzing tends to serve large Indian
companies and is looking to expand into
the Middle East. “Where most vendors
have a standard capability set, Expenzing is doing the reverse and asking what
people want and building it into the app,”
Spain-based Captio raised a € 1 million in
September and used the funds to update
its product in November. Pay attention to
the company’s ability to authenticate and
stamp receipts in order to comply with local tax regulations in continental Europe.
Spendesk, based in France, raised
€ 2 million in January. While most
expense systems integrate travel and
expense, Spendesk combines payment
and expense management. It provides
reloadable MasterCard virtual cards.
U.S.-based TravelBank launched in
October. It provides trip estimates that
a traveler can beat to earn rewards.
An Auditing Tool to Watch
T&E artificial intelligence auditing service
AppZen rolled out in 2015 and became
available on the Concur App Center last
summer. CEO Anant Kale has touted the
app’s ability to identify 10,000 types of
alcoholic beverages, and it scours social
media to confirm that restaurants actually
exist and that guests listed on expense
reports are real people. It also compares
those names to news reports, in search of
criminal activity, and to the U.S. Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control list of prohibited people.
time and effort it takes to review, audit and resolve expenses.
The key, according to the company, is to review line-item expenses as they
come in against policy, company data and external data and to flag them or approve them for reimbursement. Then, the manager can “devote more time to
addressing risk instead of searching for it.”
Smart Bots & Other AI Applications
Some of the most notable expense acquisitions of late involved companies that
have AI capabilities: Coupa acquired Spend360 in January 2017, and Deem
acquired Olset in November 2016. American Express Global Business Travel
acquired KDS the month prior, though KDS uses AI only on the booking side.
The rush suggests a proliferation of upcoming AI-enabled capabilities.
Several expense providers are experimenting with AI bots, more genially
known as expense assistants, to communicate with customers and facilitate expense reporting via messaging platforms and voice command.
In February, Concur announced a chatbot pilot with messaging tool Slack that
allows mutual clients to request travel itineraries, view expense report summa-ries, upload receipts and submit quick expenses by typing “@Concur” before
each command. Real-time expense reporting software Abacus launched a chatbot with Slack in June, and Abacus updated it in October to allow users to
submit expenses, which appear in a Suggested Expense list, within Slack. Also
within Slack, users can add details as needed.
Last year, Expensify started using machine learning for customer service
through its Concierge engine. Barrett admitted that customer service chatbots can be frustrating because they’re typically built with natural-language
processing while people chatting online typically use a text message dialect.
Barrett said Expensify built its chatbot for a world “where words are always
misspelled and there’s never any grammar cohesion.” If the system still doesn’t
understand, the question routes to a human—and the system remembers the
answer for next time.
Personal assistants like the voice-activated Amazon Alexa and Google Home
have become popular in the consumer world, and Coupa general manager of
expense Sunny Manivannan believes voice recognition will gain more traction
among expense technology providers this year. Coupa launched the capability in
2015 along with Traveldoo, while Oracle Fusion Expenses has had voice capability since 2012.
Meanwhile, AI is helping expense providers as they inch into travel and
related functions. The new TravelBank expense app uses AI to predict costs
before trips are booked, giving companies and their travelers more flexibility
and opportunities for savings, though the app does not provide any shopping
or booking capability.
And Expensify plans to use AI to identify multiple employees traveling to the
same location so they can organize. The company also aims to use AI for book-keeping and accounting for companies that don’t have those functions internally.
Managers may do
only cursory reviews
of expense submissions, and then audits
touch only 10% to 20%
of them, according to