Tackling Expense Chaos – An Expense Automation Buyer’s Guide
As your business grows, you'll have more employees spending more on everything from travel, supplies, and marketing services to computers and department-focused cloud software. This means more spending decisions will be in the hands of employees - and more expense reports that employees will need to create, managers will need to review and approve, and finance departments will need to review, process, and pay.
If your business is still using manual processes to create and process expense reports, all of this "more" will cost your business more employee work time and money, as these manual processes are inherently inefficient and laborious. Employees are expected to collect receipts and tape them to papers, make copies, fill out spreadsheets and Word templates, manually match credit card charges and receipts, walk around to get manager approvals, and then hand off a messy package for processing by finance. It can take hours and often gets done after hours.
If you're exploring different automation solutions to address the challenges of manual processes in your business, take a look at this handy Expense Automation Buyer's Guide to ensure you're considering all areas and asking the right questions. It will also guide you if you're looking to create a business case.
The Risk of Manual Expense Process
There's risk in manual processes too, as many managers don't have the time to audit expense reports properly, so they miss issues like incomplete documentation, mistakes, and even fraud. At the same time, manual processes make it harder for finance to track and monitor what employees are buying and when payments are due; this leads to cash flow problems and out-of-control spending.
Savvy SMBs are tackling the expense chaos head on by deploying cloud software applications that automate expense management. Studies show that travel and expense (T&E) users are saving an average of £28,000 annually and an average of £18 per expense report simply by capturing data digitally; eliminating manual, cumbersome tasks; and streamlining approvals.
But with all the cloud solutions out there today, how can you be sure you're selecting what works best for your business?
While needs will vary in some areas, there are core expense automation capabilities that every business needs - specifically, the ability to:
- Automate expense processes to save people time, ensure financial visibility, avoid risk, drive operational efficiencies, and increase data accuracy and timeliness
- Gain visibility into employee-initiated spending (so you can "see around the corner"), track processes and spend, and identify revenue and saving opportunities
- Consolidate data on expensed spend to make forward-looking, real-time strategic decisions
- Expand when you're ready to connect the dots across all employee spending - for example, by making it easy to integrate solutions for travel, accounts payable, budgeting, and more, so you can proactively manage all employee spending
To achieve this, you'll need a solution with core capabilities. For example, to streamline and automate compliance, your solution should make policy instantly available to everyone across their desktop and mobile devices. This makes it easier for employees to understand and follow the rules - and easier for financial decision-makers to enforce them consistently.
It is equally important to make sure it's truly taking the process paperless - for example, by making expense reports digital and automated to such a degree that they practically write themselves. Otherwise, you'll have wasted money on a solution while your employees continue to spend valuable time gathering, organising, and submitting receipts; accounts payable will still be tied up crunching numbers and verifying compliance; and financial decision-makers won't be able to understand and optimise cash flows.
You'll also want a solution that gives you early spend and cash flow visibility. The best solutions will provide complete, accurate visibility into every penny of business T&E spending in real time - and allow you to monitor data trends so you can even anticipate spending before it happens.
These are just a few examples of essential functionality you should look for when evaluating cloud expense automation solutions. To learn more, read, "Expense Automation Solutions: A Buyer's Guide." You'll gain insight into how to choose the right solution for your business.