Amazon Leans Into Generative AI to Manage Its Finances

Anna Oneal
March 28, 2023
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Amazon is really diving into the use of generative AI within their finance teams, moving beyond just testing and experimenting with the technology. They initially used rules-based systems, which are one of the earliest AI forms, and then enhanced them with machine learning. Now, generative AI is assisting their finance employees with more complex analyses.

The finance teams at Amazon are using generative AI in various areas such as fraud detection, contract review, financial forecasting, personal productivity, interpretation of rules and regulations, and tax-related tasks. These implementations are aimed at reducing costs, boosting efficiencies, and increasing accuracy, though they are still in various stages of experimentation and implementation.

Dave George, the vice president of finance technology at Amazon, emphasizes the importance of speeding up experimentation with the technology while ensuring controlled deployment. The company's broader shift towards AI innovations is also driven by the capabilities of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has been a significant contributor to their recent surge in sales.

Amazon has seen a substantial increase in its capital expenditures, largely due to investments in technology infrastructure and generative AI efforts. For instance, they spent $13.9 billion in cash capital expenditures in the first quarter, a 6% increase from the previous year. AWS alone contributed 17.5% of Amazon's $143.31 billion revenue for the quarter, up from 16.8% of $127.36 billion the previous year.

In terms of value creation, the finance industry has shifted from merely being fascinated by generative AI to seriously focusing on its application and generating value. Amazon's tax compliance team, for example, uses a generative AI tool to validate inbound invoices for value-added taxes, automating the process that was previously done manually.

Generative AI is also helping Amazon with contract reviews by using reference data, policies, and previous contract history to suggest changes and streamline human review. Additionally, AI models trained on vast datasets of financial transactions help detect and prevent fraud, identifying patterns and irregularities that humans might miss.

Mark D. McDonald from Gartner points out that AI can help finance teams make complex data queries, which can improve efficiency in data retrieval. However, finance has been slower to adopt generative AI compared to other business areas like sales and marketing because finance tasks are more rooted in numerical analysis.

Generative AI offers a significant opportunity to enhance personal productivity, allowing employees to expand their skills and focus on more critical thinking tasks. However, there are valid concerns about the impact on job security, which Amazon acknowledges. They aim to find a balance where both corporate benefits and positive human experiences can be achieved.

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Anna Oneal

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