Artificial Intelligence: The Answer to More Effective Business Compliance

Date:   Wednesday , June 12, 2019

Headquartered in California, AppZen patented AI technology combines computer vision, deep learning, and NLP to understand the full context of expenses, and cross-checks them in real-time against thousands of external and social sources to determine if they are legitimate and accurate.

For many industries, falling in with established rules and regulations is an ongoing and frequently painful process, especially when it involves jumping through bureaucratic hoops that are both outdated and slow-to-change. Meanwhile, the need to maintain cost-effective internal compliance in everything - from procurement procedures to employee expense policies - without bogging down productivity presents its own set of challenges.

While the demand to meet new or existing regulations within an organization isn\'t likely to change, the methods for accomplishing this task are doing just that. Technology in general, and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, are providing solutions designed to help the compliance function take a more active role in business. And automating procedures like those found in many back-office processes, can both reduce operational risk and boost profitability, as overhead decreases and efficiency improves.

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Exploiting the Compliance Potential of AI

From a technology point of view, automated ERP systems provide an effective way for companies to streamline the delivery of information to key decision makers. This is a great start, since faster and better informed decisions lie at the heart of compliance, but on its own it\'s not enough. Decision makers will always be busy, and despite better data delivery systems, the time needed to review and research the enormous volumes of information changing hands simply isn\'t there. More often than not, requests for approval get glossed over and audits are performed randomly, if at all.

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As the new \'superpower\' for compliance, artificial intelligence is where the true potential for automating and auditing internal documentation lies. Rather than throwing more people at the process and inheriting higher costs for very little return as a result, AI auditors allow companies to employ the equivalent of an entire army of personnel that\'s ultimately capable of performing review, research, and decision-making tasks faster and more accurately than any human auditor can.

Innovative companies like AppZen are in the process of vastly improving today\'s corporate compliance function by combining AI with the very best of natural language processing (NLP) technologies to arrive at robotic programs that fully comprehend both the meaning and the context of written text, whether paper or digital. What this highly specific and incredibly accurate branch of deep analytics means for the back office is that the review of everything, from contracts to expense reports, can be combined with the virtually instantaneous research of data from external sources to identify potential problems.

Programs That Learn

With an innate ability to learn, NLP programs ascertain patterns in human language to understand information from various sources in seconds. They can then use what they learn to flag anything that might warrant a closer look, empowering those human individuals responsible for making the decisions that directly impact ongoing compliance measures. Rather than do away with the need for human workers, this technology ensures that skilled professionals are able to spend their time where it counts, and stay focused on making the most of their valuable knowledge and expertise.

When it comes to intelligent AI-driven solutions for processes like the auditing of T&E expense reports, the compliance benefits are unrivalled at both the internal corporate, and the external industry levels. Sophisticated NLP software can be programmed with comprehension capabilities so extensive that AI auditors can detect and recognize company logos on receipts, rather than just names, as well as such veiled details as fuel surcharge penalties on car rental invoices.

Robotic auditors will double-check that a restaurant really exists, and that amounts being claimed for reimbursement are in line with typical spend amounts there. They\'ll also hone in on non-compliant upgrades on hotels and airfares, as well as alcohol expenses that fall outside a company\'s policy parameters. Automated auditors can learn to recognize both alcoholic brands along with the individual names of thousands of alcoholic beverages.

The Benefits of Real Time Risk Reduction

On a grander scale, artificial intelligence is helping companies avoid committing unintentional violations where laws like the Federal Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are concerned. A busy sales executive charged with the responsibility of pre-approving foreign entertainment expenses designed to drum up new business for example, could put their company in a compromised position if they were to inadvertently gloss over such an approval without taking the time to thoroughly research the situation.

Being pressed for time, the human executive might miss what an AI auditor would uncover in no time at all: that one of the influential business prospects on the guest list for a high-profile event is actually a politically exposed person. In this scenario, the AI auditor would not only prevent the company from engaging in a business relationship that could result in FCPA violations, it would also accomplish the task in real time with no loss of productivity.

Given the fast pace and highly competitive nature of today\'s corporate environment, it\'s no surprise that expense report fraud and the potential for non-compliance have been running rampant, with most companies possessing neither adequate time nor budget to audit more than a sixth of their submitted expense reports. Thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence solutions, the compliance function is about to become more manageable and a whole lot more affordable.