The benefits of automating expense management are so compelling that I sometimes struggle to understand why any business is still tethered to outdated, paper-and-spreadsheet based processes in this day and age. Perhaps it’s because expenses are a mind-numbing, recurring task that is distributed pretty evenly across the organisation, making it a low-level irritation for everyone but a pressing priority for no-one. Or maybe it’s because few have quantified the individually small but cumulatively significant losses incurred through inadequate spend control and compliance failures.
So I decided to Google “automated expense management” and quickly spotted an obvious hurdle: the sheer number of options available is bewildering. Growing businesses and time-pressed finance functions just don’t have the time to research and evaluate them all in sufficient detail. So here’s a checklist of key factors that should help narrow down the field considerably and identify a functional match with your goals:
1. Automation and streamlining – check that the solution eliminates guesswork and human error with built-in tools such as mileage verification and linked exchange rates, keeps things moving with alerts and notifications, and can “learn” expense terms and titles to reduce data entry
2. Mobile capability – remote access via a mobile device and the ability to “snap” and upload receipts is a must-have for employees on the go, while built-in collaboration tools will make it easier for the finance team to resolve any queries or issues, wherever the claimant may be
3. Ease of use – thanks to smart phones and consumer apps, employees now have the same expectations of an “it just works” user experience from enterprise apps, so the interface should be intuitive enough to jump straight in without formal training
4. Integration – dismiss any standalone solution; the software needs to be able to integrate with your back-end finance package to eliminate the effort and errors of data re-entry, and support a seamless, end-to-end expense management workflow
5. Visibility and reporting – it should be easy to tell at a glance who’s claiming, how often and how much, identify any unusual patterns among individuals or departments, and drill down into the root causes of unauthorized spend
6. Policy and compliance – the solution should use business rules and controls to ensure calculations are consistent, claims fall within accepted parameters and are properly evidenced, while permitting users to annotate any irregular claims to assist the approver
7. Scale and security – your IT department will need to satisfy itself that the solution is flexible enough to adapt to changing workforce needs and, if opting for a hosted solution instead of a traditional on-premise license model, that the provider’s data center and networks are secure
Before you whip out your company credit card, remember that your starting point for any expense automation initiative should be to ensure that your corporate expenses policy is clear, robust and unambiguous, as this will form the framework for the business rules against which each claim will be validated. And lastly, ensure clear communication of the benefits and roll-out to all vested parties – Finance, IT, Compliance and end users.
You can find out more about evaluating and selecting an automated expense management solution in this white paper from Access aCloud.
About the Author:
Having worked with the Access Group as the MD of dhc for the past 17 years we are now part of Access and I am working within the Sales team with responsibility for the new Business Intelligence software Access Insight which has recently been brought into the Access portfolio and the Access cloud suite of products Access aCloud.