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Learn to love your expenses

27th Jun 2016
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The only way we can truly love expenses is by embracing greater automation of the expenses process, writes Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses

Can anyone truly say they love submitting their expenses? And can any FDs and CFOs say they enjoy managing their organisation’s expenses system? Research suggests outdated systems result in employees putting off claiming back expenses, leading to frustration and backlogs in finance departments.  

According to a recent online poll we conducted, over half of people (54%) admit to hating doing their expenses. What’s more, the poll revealed that as many as 67% of employees are still reliant on outdated manual processes when it comes to claiming expenses. As a result, FDs and CFOs can be left with peaks and troughs of payments to process, making it difficult to efficiently manage workflow. Trawling through piles of paper and receipts is not only frustrating; it’s also time consuming for employees and their finance departments.

Over a quarter (26%) of office workers told us they wish they had better IT systems in place at work, with 48% saying that this would dramatically improve their overall efficiency. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of our respondents told us that having better IT would help them to manage financial tasks, like processing expenses, much more effectively. This is a challenge to FDs and CFOs – how can they introduce more up-to-date technologies to make the expense management process better for everyone involved?

I find it surprising that so many organisations are functioning with an outdated analogue model when it comes to internal processes. I believe a switch to a more digital model has dual benefits.

Firstly, it’s clear there is a desire among employees of all levels and areas of business to start engaging more with digital processing – not only does it make their lives easier, it gives them back time in their day to concentrate on more strategic business goals. In fact, our research reveals that 16% of office workers feel that the technology they use at home is much more advanced than what they are using at work.

It’s also clear that there is a growing expectation that our use of technology should be the same in our domestic and working environments. As I see it, a failure to bridge this gap will eventually lead to a frustrated workforce – particularly with generations of digital natives now swelling the ranks of organisations across the UK.

Secondly, the adoption of a more digital outlook isn’t just about making staff happier and more efficient, it also makes good financial business sense. We’re not entering the digital age. We’re already in the midst of an ever-expanding digital eco system. As a result, FDs and CFOs should feel empowered to use fundamental tools that automate simple processes like expenses and bring their business into the modern, digital age.

Having a digital process in place enables finance teams to take back control of the claims process. When it comes to how much people over-claim, our research found that a quarter of employees (25%) admit to claiming a figure of over £250, with 22% over-claiming between £50-£100, and one in five (20%) owning up to over-claiming between £10-£50. This amount of over-claiming not only has an impact on the company with the amount of money lost, but inevitably impacts the FDs and CFOs in charge of looking after the company’s books and makes the task of assessing employee’s expenses claims even more arduous. Automation creates in-built policy alerts that reduces over-claiming as out of policy claims gets flagged immediately.

Our research also told us that 85% of employees have admitted over-claiming their expenses in the last year.  A move to a digital process not only means finance teams gain real-time analysis of who is expensing what, and how much they are claiming back; it allows them to better police and report by being able to focus in on potentially fraudulent behaviour at the touch of a button.

Sophisticated reporting suites within automated software provide real-time visibility of company spend so FDs and CFOs know exactly where expenses expenditure is going. For instance, Admiral Insurance has now made the switch from paper to digital expenses management and found the reporting availability has revolutionised the way the team works. It has made the whole process much more efficient, for instance eradicating the need for manual forms which can get lost in the post or internal mail, and making it much quicker and simpler to draw on specific information by customised reports.  

However, it’s not just about identifying rogue claims. Automation of internal processes like expenses through automated systems like webexpenses, brings benefits at the macro level too. For instance, if a finance department has the ability to automate day-to-day micro processes, this in turn allows them the time to focus on some of the other more strategic areas of their role – thus helping to boost an organisation’s bottom line immensely.

By embracing the automation that digital technology brings, organisations can expect a plethora of benefits. Increasing staff happiness and productivity, reducing business costs, and having the information to steer a business are all immediate advantages that can be gained through greater digital engagement. 


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