Growth and Optimization
Digging Into Essentials of Automated Expense Management
Nearly half of finance leaders worldwide say fraud and risk management are their biggest risk and compliance challenges.
The same number – 44% – say they cannot make informed decisions involving cash flow, budgeting, and forecasting because they lack timely financial information. The absence of that data can turn what should be moments of decisiveness into moments of uncertainty each time you spend a dollar.
So those findings from a study SAP® Concur® commissioned with Analysys Mason1 might hit home. And leave you a bit unsettled at a time when finance leaders are increasingly asked to step up and deliver the strategic insights that fuel growth and power companies forward.
The last few years certainly helped hone the skills to manage change. The question, though, is how to move beyond just reacting to challenges – putting out fires – to seizing the opportunities they provide. After all, with the pandemic, hybrid work, and now inflation, change isn’t likely to slow down.
A costly paper trail
Missing receipts. Time-consuming expense reports. Purchases that don’t meet policy. Unclaimed VAT and other taxes. Heightened fraud risks. Frustrated employees on the finance team and across the company. A general feeling of, “I know we have that data somewhere but …”
Many companies, no matter their size, may have already adopted some automated solutions that target certain aspects of expense management, such as apps that let employees digitally capture receipts. But if you haven’t fully automated expense management, you may not realize that there are still many manual processes costing your business time and money. As a result, finance leaders and their teams often spend their time working with manual or partially automated processes and systems that don’t communicate well with one another.
An expense management solution can help mitigate the risks of fraud and noncompliance, improve productivity and profitability, and increase employee satisfaction. You, the finance team, and company managers will be able to readily access timely information and help guide decisions. Moments of uncertainty can become moments of clarity that allow the business to identify and take full advantage of opportunities.
Best practices and how to achieve them
Your company may have adopted targeted technology solutions – like mobile apps to scan receipts – but still lack a comprehensive solution to automated expense management that eliminates distracting manual tasks and provides timely information and answers.
A comprehensive solution like Concur Expense helps seamlessly cover the steps of the spending process from purchase to payment.
Expenses automatically enter the system from such sources as photos of receipts, corporate cards or preferred-supplier purchases. Mileage is tracked and submitted via a mobile app, reducing the risk of error or bad behavior.
Employees can complete and submit expense reports on the go and any out-of-policy purchases are flagged automatically. Managers can approve reports quickly, since they can see if the spending is out of policy to determine whether the purchase is justified.
With automation and intelligent technology accurately capturing purchases, the finance team can focus on flagging spending exceptions and trigger follow-up. An auditing service can double-check for policy exceptions while also verifying receipts to reclaim VAT or other taxes.
Having submitted expense reports via an easier-to use process than in the past, employees are now closer to what they most want: reimbursement. With the technology, they can easily check on the status of their report and payment – without the bother of a phone call to finance.
Most important, during all those steps, up-to-date spending data is accessible in and moving through the company’s finance systems, including their accounting system or ERP. Finance and leadership alike have an accurate picture of company spending, and advanced analytics and reporting dashboards provide the insights they need to make decisions. Time and information lags are reduced
Fallacies and facts
You’re likely to run into some recurring arguments against automated expense management solutions. You might even share some of the concerns. Here’s some reasons to rethink them.
- It’s only for big companies. Cloud-based solutions actually require few IT resources or infrastructure.
- Manual processes don’t take long. Even if well organized, employees struggle with spreadsheets and paper reports. Their time is better spent on the value-added tasks that matter most to your business.
- It’s too expensive. Spreadsheets and manual processes consume productivity. Our study estimates a T&E solution saves 13 hours weekly for each finance or accounting team member.
- Our finance team will be redundant. In reality, team members will be free focus on more essential projects and initiatives that support growth and profitability.
Satisfied customers, satisfied employees
SAP Concur customers attest to the advantages of automating expense management. One reports they spend 65% less time processing expense reports. Another says, “Concur Expense has been transformational … allowing us to focus on service as opposed to back-office administration.”
Your finance team knows all too well about the drudgery and time wasted by manual processes and disconnected information, because they live it. So, too, do the employees and leadership they serve. Consider giving them the time – and the solution – to be more productive, creative and strategic.
As a result, your company can be well on its way to fulfilling the potential uncovered by another finding of our study: 72% of businesses believe digital transformation is key to their growth2.
1,2 Analysys Mason 2022, Travel, Expense, and Vendor Invoice Management Study