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Could accountants learn to love employee expenses?

14th Feb 2017
CEO webexpenses
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Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses, explores the benefits of moving company expenses systems from paper to digital.

Managing employee expenses has never been the most popular of accountancy tasks. In fact, it’s something that most within the business world have learned to loathe.

It’s viewed as a time-consuming chore, the cause of losses through errors and fraud, and the source of conflict and simmering discontent between employees making the claims and the finance professionals tasked with managing and monitoring them.

At least, this is the way we have traditionally thought of expenses. But what if this was completely turned on its head? If an aspect of the working world that we’re supposed to hate could be transformed into a task that’s actually…enjoyable?

It may seem a stretch but there are signs that the frosty relationship is already starting to thaw. And to explore just how entrenched our views towards expenses are, webexpenses carried out a survey.

Respondents were asked a really straightforward question: Do you ‘love’ or ‘hate’ expenses? Rather than universal loathing, one third of employees were happy to express their ‘love’.

It was notable that of those who chose ‘hate’, 75% were users of traditional paper-based expense systems. While only a snapshot, it supports previous research that links expense frustrations with paper processes.

Paper v Digital

And those old processes are rapidly being replaced as more organisations move over to digital expense management systems. These substitute slow, manual ways of working for fast and automated digital processes.

It means that a new generation of employee will have no experience of the hassle and effort involved making a monthly paper claim - filling out forms and attaching bundles of crumpled receipts.

Their experience will involve using a smartphone app to instantly convert any receipt they receive into digital form, allowing them to update their user account whenever they want.

Finance professionals are also having a completely different expense management experience. They now have the digital tools required to effectively police policies with real-time data and automated alerts.

They won’t have experienced the monthly tidal wave of paperwork to be manually processed, or the frustrations of relying on travel mileage ‘guestimates’ provided by employees.

Pain-free processes

Throughout society, we can see examples of how digital technology is helping to change our attitudes towards tasks - removing the pain-points from frustrating and difficult activities.

It’s the way that online ordering and home deliveries remove the need for the weekly slog to the supermarket. It’s the way Uber has taken the hassle out of hailing a taxing with the use of its app.

These don’t just offer a much faster and more efficient way of getting things done, but a completely different user experience. And it’s something that we’re now starting to see with digital expense management systems.

For webexpenses, that means focusing on every aspect of how the systems look and feel, removing annoyances and creating a clean user interface that people can enjoy using - from finance professionals to claimants.

So, as more companies move to digital systems, our attitudes towards expenses will continue to morph. By removing those problems and frustrations inherent with paper ways of working, we really can start to think the unthinkable when it comes to expenses - ‘love’ not ‘hate’.

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