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The Expense of Expense Management

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By Peter Martin, Acubiz UK & Ireland

Managing expenses isn’t the most electrifying subject. Until, that is, that you realise how much time and money you’re spending on this mundane but vital process. And that money comes straight off your bottom line.

In fact, unless you have got it under control, the chances are you won’t know how many hours every one of your employees – and especially those commission-hungry road warriors – are devoting to recording and claiming the costs of their travel; whether or not any of the claims, for whatever reason, is less than accurate; and whether you are claiming the VAT reclaim which can inject cash flow back to your bottom line.

…realise how much time and money you’re spending on this mundane but vital process

Even if your employees are dutifully filling in and submitting faultlessly completed spreadsheets, your finance staff will be busy checking them, reconciling them with electronic receipts from airlines and hotels, and re-entering all the necessary information into your back-office systems such as SAP so the payments can be processed and reconciled.

And if your hardworking staff is constantly on the move travelling abroad, are you making sure you reclaim not only the VAT from UK travel, but from all those journeys and stays in other countries? Research suggests that less than one percent of all companies get that right. The VAT reclaim on international travel can be significant and contribute to a decent cash flow that one can’t ignore in today’s economic climate.

And all this is hardly the thing your business needs to concentrate on.

Claim your Pot of Gold

…start with your employee photographing his or her receipts with a smartphone and recording the necessary details “on the go”
The good news is that it’s possible to improve the management of expenses beyond recognition, by adopting a solution that automates your processes from one end to the other. And that can start with your employee photographing his or her receipts with a smartphone and recording the necessary details “on the go”.

The results can be dramatic: it’s possible to reduce the costs of processing expense claims and reimbursement by up to 75%, and to reduce the time spent entering all that data and moving it from system to system by 85%, freeing your team to do things that add value. At the same time, you can gain total visibility and control of travel spending, ensuring that all your staff complies completely with your expense policies, and making it easy to spot patterns or behaviour that might need attention.

And by making it so much simpler and more automated, you’ll reduce the error rate by up to 95%.

Cloud and Expense Management: a Match made in Heaven

Expense management and the cloud were born for each other…allowing true innovation by simplifying the entire process.

Expense management and the cloud were born for each other…allowing true innovation by simplifying the entire process.
First of all, you no longer have to choose and buy software that you then have to install and support on hardware you have to buy, with the entire headache that it brings with it. Software updates to apply; extra servers or storage in time to stop the system slowing to a crawl; add of course, all the cash up front you’d prefer to be spending on applications that bring you more customers or keep them happier – or not spend at all.

Now, you can simply subscribe to a service you can use on the web. You pay each month for the number of users you’re managing or the number of reports they’re submitting, without investment needed.

The hardware, software and all the complexities of looking after it, the responsibility for making sure there’s enough spare capacity for everyone, keeping the service running – they’re someone else’s problem.

And once your expense management is centralised and “in the cloud”, two other huge opportunities are open to you. First, your travellers can use their smart phones to capture what they spend as soon as they spend it – a photo of the receipt, a few keystrokes and the data’s already safe and in the system. No agonising over who was at that business dinner in Singapore, or what the taxi was for in Berlin or worry about a missing receipt/s.

Secondly, it’s easier to hook in to the systems your travel partners are using – credit card companies, travel agencies, hotel chains and airlines – so that all those electronic receipts can flow effortlessly in without involving your finance team. The system allows for daily data update from the credit card providers as well as travel management systems.

Covering the Ground

But that isn’t to say you don’t need to take some care over choosing who will provide this service.

If you have offices in other countries, are their local currencies, languages and legal requirements catered for, and if not, how long will take your new partner to put that right? Months or days?

Like most organizations, your combination of expense and accounting procedures and back office systems will be unique in one way or another. So to automate fully, your expense management system must be able to integrate properly with those back office systems.

And you’ll probably want some customisation to get things the way you want – although we recommend that you re-visit your expense management procedures as well: you’ll probably find you can simplify things a lot. So you need a solution that can be adapted easily to your needs, and a provider who’ll help you get the job done.

Above all, is the solution easy to use? Will your travellers need face to face training, and then still flood you with questions, or is the system easy and intuitive to use, and supported with helpful online videos of the key tasks?

Make sure you’re on the Money

How do you spot an expense management system that’s going to deliver?

Does the solution provider really understand expense management, and the specific challenges and requirement in European countries? Will they share that experience with you to help you save as much time and money as possible?

YouTube Video: YouTube.com/watch?v=8ziAIGSnZB4

Is it a true cloud, “pay as you go” solution: are you charged only monthly, and only for the users or reports you actually need to handle?

Can your employees easily capture and enter information and receipts using their smartphones?

Does the solution support all the countries you need? If not, is the service designed so that the language, currency and other localisations can be added quickly with a simple and modular set of changes that don’t affect the rest of the system?

How easily will it connect to your back office systems, and will it automate the exchange of as much data as possible, with as little fuss?

How many travel partners does it support, and how easy will it be to connect to any that you use?

How quickly will you be able to have the service up and running the way you need it, and your staff using it? Does your provider have a tried and tested implementation process? The faster it’s done, the faster you reap the benefits and the less employee time you’ll have had to invest in getting there.

Author Peter Martin: a strategic marketing expert in enterprise IT hosted services and software. His ahead of the curve thinking on Cloud computing, his ability to distil and articulate clearly the business value of complex technology has created a portfolio of services generating profits and growth. Peter Martin in his capacity as a Strategic Marketing Consultant for Acubiz UK&I tackles the key issue of “Value Creation” with cloud based expense management solutions for organisations.