Around 80% of our upcoming innovations will be in business AI: Srivatsan Santhanam of SAP Labs India

Around 80% of our upcoming innovations will be in business AI: Srivatsan Santhanam of SAP Labs India

In the dynamic realm of business technology, companies are leveraging smart automation solutions to navigate challenges efficiently. SAP Concur, a leading player in this arena, offers SaaS solutions for travel and expense management, seamlessly integrating with SAP's on-premise solutions. 

In an exclusive interview with TechCircle, Srivatsan Santhanam, Vice President Spend Engineering at SAP Labs India, sheds light on how SAP Concur is revolutionizing enterprise operations. With a strong focus on smart automation and a mobile-first approach, Concur aims to streamline processes and elevate user experiences. The discussion covers Concur's strategies for addressing data inconsistencies, customizing solutions for diverse business needs, and staying ahead of emerging trends in automation. Additionally, Srivatsan provides insights into the pivotal role of generative AI in shaping the future of smart automation solutions, offering a sneak peek into SAP Concur's tech roadmap and upcoming innovations. Edited Excerpts:  
Can you provide an overview of how SAP Concur assists enterprises? What kind of services do you offer? 

Concur is a comprehensive travel and expense management solution, categorized under spend management. It encompasses four main pillars: travel, expense, invoice, and payment management. Born in the cloud and now an AWS native solution, Concur ensures fast onboarding, efficient management, and user-friendly operations. 


The mobile-first approach prioritizes consumer-grade experiences, reflected in high ratings for iOS and Android apps. Concur focuses on automation, utilizing machine learning to streamline processes. For instance, receipt itemization is handled effortlessly through features like automatic expense filings and policy compliance checks. 

Policy compliance is a key feature, automating checks on organizational rules and regulations. From expense limits to vendor restrictions, Concur's AI and ML solutions ensure seamless audit compliance and fraud detection. The platform boasts extensive integrations, connecting with corporate cards and major travel providers for real-time reporting and analytics. 

Concur's real-time capabilities empower enterprises with pre-spend management functionality, offering rich analytics for informed decision-making. In summary, Concur stands out as a user-friendly, cloud-native solution, providing efficient and automated travel and expense management for enterprises. 
How do these smart automation features you mentioned enhance the overall customer experience for enterprises? 


First, it saves time for end users. No need to stress about sorting and filing policy expenses, everything is in one place. Sustainability is key, no more printing and storing receipts in paper bags. E-receipts are compliant with government institutions, providing peace of mind. 

For enterprise users, it brings peace of mind on legal and policy fronts. No worries about being on the wrong side of the law or company policies. The solution ensures spending aligns with legal and company-approved transactions, eliminating concerns about validity. 

On the audit front, the time-consuming task of checking for fraudulent transactions is streamlined. With AI and ML solutions, we achieve 100% accuracy, with only 1% of transactions requiring human intervention. This not only saves auditors' time but also allows companies to focus on random audits to ensure process compliance. 


In a world of millions of transactions, ethics are crucial. Our solution ensures that stakeholder happiness is maintained by upholding high organizational ethics. Peace of mind is at the forefront, knowing that all transactions flow in a compliant way. 
How do you handle the challenge of data inconsistency when integrating numerous features to assist enterprises? 

Data inconsistencies fall into three categories: missing data, inaccurate data entered by users, and incomplete data. We use machine learning algorithms to detect willful deviations, such as incorrect GSDI numbers or vendor codes. For real-time geo-blocking, we integrate IP level network trafficking and geo-blocking solutions. 

To tackle inconsistent data, we employ business AI services to enrich and suggest corrections in real time. For example, if a vendor name is entered inconsistently, our system provides suggestions to ensure accuracy. 


Dealing with missing data is a significant challenge. While proposing solutions may be 70% accurate, we rely on workflow automation. These workflows prompt users to complete information in real time via mobile, ensuring efficient data handling and compliance with audit trail requirements for enterprise applications. 
How do you ensure that the automated solutions you provide are customized to meet the specific needs of different businesses, ensuring a personalized experience for each? 

Cloud applications require customization and configuration for optimal performance. Our approach ensures minimal configuration for faster time-to-market, using standardized templates tailored to business processes. Customization is key for personalized experiences, with hyper-personalization and hyper-localization being our focus. 

Hyper-localization ensures compliance by adapting to specific geographical nuances. For instance, in Tokyo, where there are diverse metro networks, our system allows seamless use of metro cards within the city limits, automatically transitioning to a prepaid card outside the area. This ensures travelers only incur expenses relevant to their location. 


Hyper-personalization simplifies user experience, eliminating the need for extensive training. Our Concur application offers guided usage and customizable themes, icons, and features tailored to individual preferences. This ensures a seamless and personalized experience for all users. 
Have you noticed any specific trends or demands in automation from businesses as you cater to them? 

We focus on three key areas of demand. Firstly, we offer SAP Joule AI, a generative AI for natural language interaction in workflows. Our conversational AI, similar to a chat-based GPT, ensures efficient and secure communication within the enterprise, using compliant LM models exclusive to each enterprise. 

Secondly, our Scale Learning Models (SLM) play a crucial role. For instance, when scanning and itemizing expenses, SLM allows instant categorization without the need for extensive training, ensuring 100% accuracy. 


The third area addresses the growing need for recommendation engines. We enable users to make independent decisions, share real-time experiences, and co-create itineraries seamlessly. Importantly, our AI provides recommendations with a scoring system, emphasizing user decision-making while explaining the consequences. 

Ultimately, our commitment to providing explainable functionality ensures users understand the reasoning behind system calculations, fostering trust and peace of mind. In these three areas, natural language interaction, SLM functionality, and advanced recommendation engines, Conquer leads the way in shaping a progressive enterprise customer experience. 
Can you share how generative AI and AI will shape future smart automation solutions for businesses, considering your focus on AI and MLMs in response to industry demands? 

Artificial Intelligence or Generative AI is here to stay. It's making life easier for applications focused on our citizens. Those who don't adapt will lag behind. By leveraging generative AI, you save significantly on optimization. The key question is, how will you reinvest those savings to enhance efficiency? Enterprises that channel these savings back into their processes will redefine the business landscape. 

Generative AI brings ethical considerations to the forefront. Balancing process optimization with data privacy, avoiding biases, and adhering to legal frameworks is crucial. We prioritize the highest ethical standards by obtaining user approval for data usage and compliance with evolving regulations. 

Talent shortage is a challenge in the AI world, emphasizing the need for individuals to upskill. Generative AI accelerates the pace of relevance, and viewing it as a tool for personal growth rather than a job threat is essential. Enterprises must manage change effectively, identifying new roles and adapting to the evolving landscape. 

In conclusion, embracing and strategically utilizing generative AI is not just about technology; it's about maximizing benefits, addressing ethical concerns, complying with regulations, and investing in talent development. 
What's next on your tech roadmap? Any new features or innovations in the pipeline? 

In our portfolio, we're already focusing on our business roadmap and products. We aim to prioritize user and business benefits in travel expenses, invoicing, payments, and security, particularly with UPI payments. Around 80% of our upcoming innovations will be in business AI. We believe in solving problems effectively, making business AI crucial in our field. We're launching numerous product capabilities, with Conquer Fusion being an event to watch out for in March and April. We're committed to investing heavily in this space, not just in automation, but also in smart, recommendation-based solutions for enterprises. 

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