Put your hand up if you like doing data entry. Thought not. Yet like finance teams up and down the country, data entry takes up a significant proportion of your time. Not only is manual data entry no one’s favourite task, it poses problems for the business too.
For example, repetitiveness leads to boredom which leads to a loss of concentration and inevitable errors. Plus, the time could be better spent elsewhere – the average finance employee spends over five hours a week processing invoices. And finally, you want creative, empowered staff who add value, but they have a workload made up of tedious tasks.
The solution to manual data entry is automation, which is powered by machine learning. It’s the innovation that is transforming finance processes.
What is Machine Learning?
Think of machine learning as a subset of artificial intelligence. It uses algorithms to process vast volumes of data and learn from the results. In other words, it’s using trial and error to learn in the way humans do, just on a bigger and faster scale.
How Do We Use Machine Learning at SAP Concur?
At SAP Concur, we have been using machine learning to do things for our customers that could not be done in any other way. We use a set of technologies, which we call SAP Leonardo, to access millions of aggregated and anonymised data points daily. To give you an idea of scale, take a look at just one day last year when SAP Concur technologies...
- Booked 202,000+ trips
- Processed 568,000+ expense claims
- Saw 69,000+ expense claims submitted via the SAP Concur mobile app
- Had 1.1 million receipts uploaded via the mobile app
Despite the power of the technology, at its heart there is still human input. The machine learning algorithm determines what's right and what’s wrong over time, but it needs feedback from human teachers to. As Dr. Zbigniew Jerzak, head of the SAP ML Deep Learning Center of Excellence, says: “If your algorithm is right 100% of the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
What Does the Power of Machine Learning Look Like in Practice?
It is machine learning that means SAP Concur takes the receipt you photograph and automatically turns it into a properly coded expense claim, complete with the date of the transaction, the supplier and the currency used. But that’s just the start.
It helps with compliance too. Let’s say an employee is expensing a dinner but forgot or didn’t know that the company expense policy doesn’t cover alcohol. A machine learning algorithm can recognise the names of common drinks (Long Island Iced Tea vs Iced Tea, for example) or question the high cost of the beverage, bouncing it back to the employee before it's submitted. The employee saves face, while the finance team saves time and gains peace of mind.
Look Forward to the Future
There is no doubt that automation, whether it’s machine learning or artificial intelligence, is going to impact on our working life. McKinsey & Company believes almost half of today’s jobs will be affected to some degree by automation, but fewer than 5% will be fully replaced.
But rather than fearing the robots, we should embrace them. Because innovations such as machine learning have the power to free us from tedious tasks and unlock new opportunities for more strategic work that helps both your employees and your business get ahead.
To find out more about SAP Leonardo or the technologies fuelling machine learning, take a look at our eBook, The Robots Are Coming!