When people think of ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI), people quickly think of all sorts of amazing science fiction scenarios that still seem very far away. But in fact, this technology has been used for travel and expense management for several years now, often without the user noticing.
For many people, it is still difficult to understand exactly what artificial intelligence is, how to define it, and what it can. A survey by SAP Concur in 2022 shows that as many as 39 percent of financial and business travel managers in Europe fear that AI will make their jobs redundant. Another quarter are unsure of this. At first glance, that fear may not be so far out; after all, technology is already capable of performing certain tasks very quickly and accurately.
Pierre-Emmanuel Tetaz, EMEA SVP & General Manager at SAP Concur puts this concern in perspective: “I do not see artificial intelligence leading to a reduction in jobs in business travel and cost management at the moment. Like the use of truffle pigs: they help the truffle farmer to do his job and increase his success, but they do not do anything superfluous.It is the same in travel and expense management.There are already many effective, AI-based solutions that support experts in important issues such as f such as VAT refunds or error correction of expense reporting, which leads to better results and frees the relevant experts to focus on more important and less repetitive tasks. “
If we further compare truffle pigs with artificial intelligence, these 5 similarities stand out:
- Both truffle pigs and artificial intelligence are highly specialized experts in their fields who possess skills far superior to humans, especially when it comes to precision. And they often achieve results that exceed human capabilities – no matter how well-educated people are.
- Both ‘solutions’ support users in finding something valuable: In the case of truffle pigs, it is obvious: They are trained in locating valuable and rare truffles. In the case of travel and expense management, the AI is programmed to accurately and quickly identify financial savings opportunities, such as VAT refund options or erroneous expense reports that lead to unnecessary extra expenses.
- The keywords ‘training’ and ‘programming’ provide further similarities: Both solutions depend on human guidance and direction to function optimally. The truffle farmer trains his pigs, determines the search area and arranges for further processing and marketing of the found truffles. In the world of finance and business travel, managers are irreplaceable because they define the scope of AI and use the results and insights gained to optimize procedures and processes in the company and draw strategically important conclusions.
- There are also similarities when it comes to risk management: Truffle pigs pick the right truffles so people can eat safely, while AI-based travel and expense management solutions improve compliance and thus reduce the risk of fines. Some providers even take responsibility for any errors in their AI-based solutions.
- Neither truffle pigs nor AI-based travel and expense management solutions put their users out of work. On the contrary, they save their users the often tedious and repetitive search for truffles or the endless search for missing receipts, freeing up time for more demanding and important tasks.
“Even though you may not think so at first glance, artificial intelligence and truffle pigs certainly have a few things in common. With adequate training, both ‘experts’ are able to help people, find something valuable, increase security and save us’ people a lot. “This way, the amazing science fiction scenarios that seem far away can already be realized, even if it usually happens without the end user noticing. Next time, enjoy a delicious truffle paste or another truffle dish!”, says Tetaz.