4 ways to control spend at scale using automation.
4 ways to control spend at scale using automation.
AI has limitless potential, but its benefits are already proven.
AI is on track to play a big role in every business over the coming months and years. Among all the applications of AI across an organization, there are perhaps few more impactful than those for managing expenses and controlling spend at scale.
According to a survey of 100 respondents from companies headquartered in the U.S. and Canada, 71% say artificial intelligence is a top priority for optimizing spend management results going forward, and 79% consider automation and digitization of processes the most significant spend management trends at their companies.
AI can be applied advantageously to expense management workflows in several ways — but when the potential feels limitless, finance leaders need to know where to focus the applications practically and securely today. To drive efficiency, savings, and productivity, it’s best for finance leaders to focus first on leveraging the proven, accessible applications of AI in expense management in four key areas:
1. Expense policy compliance automation to save money and time
2. Accounting automation to close the books faster and more accurately
3. Analysis and insights to improve decision-making
4. Conversational agents to perform tasks and answer questions
Below, we’ll go into more depth about each of these key best practices:
Automate policy compliance and reporting.
It’s no secret that expenses are a pain: reconciling them can be a difficult and time-consuming process, employees hate submitting receipts, and managers waste hours of their day simply reviewing and approving them. All of this makes compliance a constant uphill battle for everyone, particularly controllers and finance leaders whose time is limited, valuable, and better spent on more strategic tasks.
The traditional model of “command-and-control” can’t remain the standard in an advancing world — it’s simply too inefficient and, more importantly, impossible to apply evenly across distributed teams in different (sometimes global) locations. Fortunately, AI is stepping up where old and outdated models of compliance automation are falling down.
With AI, several steps across the entire expense process from card swipe to month-end close can be automated, including:
Auto-filled receipts and memos
Fast and more accurate categorization
Smarter suggestions for a premium travel experience
Automated expense reviews and flagged exceptions
Instant insights to accelerate decision-making
Close the books faster with accounting automation.
AI-powered finance technology lets controllers and accountants do more with less, which is welcome news given the ongoing accountant shortage. By automating repetitive and time-consuming accounting tasks, such as invoice processing, expense categorization, and reconciliation, AI can help accountants save hours and stay focused on value-added activities like financial analysis and strategy development. Furthermore, because AI-powered accounting automation maps expenses to the general ledger and syncs everything with your ERP system, closing the books can happen in real time instead of a few weeks.
Get real-time analysis and insights with the help of AI.
Beyond automatically attaching receipts and invoice processing, AI creates greater business value by offering smart features that suggest, benchmark, and surface insights into company-wide spend.
Artificial intelligence can take inputs about how your employees are spending to provide smart suggestions for things like budget selection and approvals, as well as automatically guide employees for improved accuracy in expense reporting. It can take those same inputs and flag anomalous transactions, including expensive purchases or expenses that exceed per-diem limits, as well as notify you when it detects high month-to-month increases by user, department, merchant, or category so you can address issues. AI can also learn your company’s spend patterns and use them to perform deep analysis to benchmark performance and compare current business activities to similar companies in your industry.
Combined, such AI-led functionalities help finance leaders and managers streamline routine tasks, understand performance trends, and unlock new business opportunities.
Let conversational agents and AI assistants unburden your teams.
Conversational agents are large language models (LLM) with personas that allow them to plan and execute work without human involvement. With a suite of agents, they can each specialize in certain areas to help finance teams achieve their goals. For example, agents can include:
Expense assistant can help with manual tasks related to memos, receipts, budgets, and policies to reduce overall time spent on expense management while increasing policy compliance.
Accounting assistant serves rule suggestions to help accounting teams automate their GL coding and shorten the tail end of transactions that need manual attention.
Finance assistant helps finance teams understand trends, anomalies, and optimizations. It currently flags anomalous transactions like expensive purchases and month-to-month spend increases for action.
Automate your way to long-term success.
AI has enormous potential to transform every spend management workflow for greater compliance, accuracy, and speed — and it's just getting started. But it’s also important to remember that these technologies are complements to human effort. AI, machine learning, and LLMs may be incredibly powerful tools, and they are certainly critical to the future of accounting, but they’re not replacements for skilled and hardworking accountants. Workers will be best served by embracing these tools, so that they can instead focus on higher-value tasks. Furthermore, those who learn how to work the software will become even more strategic.
Finally, it’s helpful to keep in mind that these tips are best practices, not the only practices. As AI and ML continue to evolve, so will your interactions with them — and so will business’ abilities to harness them. And Brex will be right alongside you, helping to push AI to its full potential in expense management.
*The metrics provided are from July 2023 and for illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results, which may vary.