Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could handle your corporate expense management like you managed your piggy bank as a child? All you had to do was keep your pennies carefully counted and write down the last time you splurged on cotton candy.
Unfortunately, as you grow, things got a little too complicated for the pink porcelain piggy to handle. Now we have voluminous spreadsheets with endless columns of data to make sense of how employees are spending company money.
The spreadsheet saga
The thing is, spreadsheets actually do very little to ease expense management. You can record data, create fancy-looking formulae, and present impressive charts, but that’s about it. It doesn’t allow you to manage approvals, reimbursements, and other processes as workflows.
Spreadsheets can’t automate your expense management processes either. There’s no way to automatically transition from one task to another within a process. While data is collected, it remains stagnant until there is human intervention. There’s no provision to notify a performer to take action. It’s also impossible to gain insight into process performance in order to improve it.
So how does one make expense management more effortless and efficient?
Simple–adopt a cloud-based workflow automation software.
The state of expense management
In a study conducted by Forrester in 2016 surveying small and medium businesses (SMBs) across the world, 56% companies reported expense management as being the biggest challenge for their finance departments.
In another survey conducted by Levvel Research in 2018 in North America, respondents reported the following pain points in expense management before adopting automation:
- Manual entry and routing of expense reports (62%)
- Lack of visibility into spend data (42%)
- Inability to enforce travel policies (29%)
- Lost expense reports (24%)
- Lengthy expense approval system and reimbursement cycles (23%)
All of these challenges can be overcome with the use of workflow automation.
The Forrester study reported the following benefits experienced from automating expense management:
- Reduced time spent executing the process
- Reduced spending on employee expenses
- Fewer complications and errors
The verdict? Spreadsheets are woefully inadequate. Growing organizations need automated expense management processes for optimum efficiency.
Challenges of manual expense management
When a process is completely dependent on human effort, there are bound to be inadvertent errors. With manual processes, it becomes difficult to fix and prevent these errors from taking place.
Workflow automation allows real-time monitoring of processes so that errors can be checked quickly. Analytics and reporting can provide the insight necessary to reduce the chances of errors recurring.
With manual expense management, it is cumbersome and time-consuming to recheck every detail of a task for accuracy. Fraudulent practices are all too common amidst chaos.
Expense frauds are entirely avoidable with automated expense management processes. Workflows are designed to allow maximum transparency in processes. Data security is enabled through features like conditional access where sensitive information is available only to relevant employees.
Both paper-based and digital processes are often rife with approval delays. When tasks transition from one performer to the next, they often get overlooked or set aside delaying the process unnecessarily.
When approvals are automated, each person gets a customized notification prompting them to complete their part in the process. Progress dashboards also make it easy to identify bottlenecks and resolve them before too much time is lost.
Difficulty enforcing policies
Expense management policies are hard to enforce in manual processes. There isn’t a lot of transparency. Non-compliant tasks might be discovered later, causing auditing nightmares.
In automated expense workflows, transparency is high and compliance can be checked while the process is in progress. The records of process data can prove useful as audit trails to demonstrate compliance with regulations.
With businesses being spread across geographies and employees traveling extensively for work, manual processes can cause hurdles due to limited access.
Cloud-based expense management tools allow access on the go with mobile apps. A central database makes it possible to approve claims, submit bills, and more from any location or device.