myCPE recently hosted a series of webinars attended by Finance and Accounting professionals from around the world. Fyle’s CEO and Co-founder, Yashwanth Madhusudan, talked about the “Evolution and Future of Expense Management” in one of myCPE’s interactive webinars, which also had live polls and QnAs that brought out some interesting results.
Here’s a quick overview of the webinar:
- The evolution of expense management
- The evolving problem of expense management
- From managing processes to process automation
- From record systems to systems that build trust
- The future of T&E
Before we proceed, a quick snapshot of who we are and what we do.
A brief overview of Fyle
Fyle is an expense management software company that has been around for over five years. We launched in the US about a year and a half ago and now work with 300 customers across 83 different countries.
We’re backed by some of the leading Venture Capital firms like Tiger Global, Steadview Capital, and Recruit Holdings. We've raised over $10 million in venture capital over the last five years.
We are a team of about 80+ people passionate about ensuring not a second of your time is spent managing business expenses.
The evolution of expense management
The webinar started with a quick live audience poll to understand how businesses currently manage their expense management.
The poll results showed that most companies still use Spreadsheets to manage expenses, as Yash notes, which was representative of his experience over multiple webinars.
The rate at which companies are adopting expense management software is increasing. However, it’s still at a stage where spreadsheets are dominating. To understand why this is the case in the age of automation, we will have to step back and look at how the expense management process itself has evolved.
The evolving problem of expense management
Expense management is not a new problem. It has been around for as long as businesses have been around. The only thing that has changed is how companies manage their expenses.
Ask any business professional to describe their experience with expense management, and you'd hear words like frustrating, time-consuming, or even boring. And, rightly so. This is just the nature of the process. However, the computerization of processes was a revolutionary experience for businesses when paper-based bookkeeping was the norm.
The era of ERP and Network Systems
With the rise of computer technology, enterprises moved from keeping physical records of books to digital ledgers/desktop-based ledgers. This required users to do the same amount of work, but just on a computer. Then came the Network Systems.
Network Systems digitized all processes. The only expectation people had from these systems was to spend less time manually completing tasks. This was the time that desktop computing came into existence and became a fascinating new experience. With desktop computing, everybody could have a computer of their own and do whatever they wanted to do on it, and for as long they wanted.
This was also when collaboration became possible with different offices to complete a specific task efficiently. Next came a little device called the iPhone that changed the entire technology landscape dominated by desktop applications until then.
The era of mobile computing
Twenty-five years ago, the experience people had with applications was limited to what they had in the enterprise. Computers were only available in enterprises then. Later, desktop computing became a thing. Next, personal computing set a higher bar for experience, and then mobile computing.
Now, what could be done on a desktop could be done on a laptop, which offered an exceptional new standard of experience. The same thing could then be done on mobile, and the experience became greater.
For over a decade, technology has seen experience as a key driver of enabling change or as a catalyst for that change. The fundamental aspect we need to keep in mind is that experience matters.
Innovation in technology with experience as a key driver
The digital disruption that businesses have witnessed in the past 6-7 months is greater than what was initially projected for the next four years. Digital disruption is more rapid now than ever.
An interesting trend to observe is the rate of change; it is only increasing.
One reason for a rapidly increasing rate of change is the diminishing border between expectations from “everyday applications” and “at-work applications.” Every time there is a new application in the market, users expect a more fantastic experience from the existing ones too. This is true for at-work applications as well. As a result of this, the acceptance rate for non-optimal experience is reducing.
In the last ten years, the last real innovation that happened was developing mobile applications that transform B2B applications into on-the-go applications using mobile apps. Now, everything that could be done on a desktop could also be done on-the-move, be it on Android or iOS. However, a user still had to do the work themselves irrespective of the device used.
One of the aspects we believe will define the future is the evolution of no-thinking applications or discipline-less applications. With these, you can truly go from having applications that help you manage a process into applications that do the work for you.
From managing processes to process automation
This shift from managing applications to automating processes, or process automation, is crucial in defining the future from a process point of view.
The poll results showed that most of the attendees said they occasionally received complaints from employees, 39% said they never received complaints, and 4% said they hated it.
Expense management is not a core job for an employee who has to spend to accomplish a business goal. The process of spending is not important to an employee; it is what he achieves with the spending that matters. When they have to sit down with heaps of receipts, the experience suffers. And as a result, compliance suffers.
“The easier it is for end-users to submit receipts and expense reports on time, the faster it is for the company to achieve compliance, visibility, and control.”
Likewise, Finance and accounting manage all company expenses. Even though business expenses are not the most important part of their job, the verification and processing of employee-initiated expenses consume a disproportionate amount of their time.
This is a classic workflow problem, where the process depends on the end-user and his/her discipline.
- Approvers/Finance has to depend on employees to abide by the company’s t&e policy and submit reports on time.
- The company has to rely on accounting/Finance to manually verify every receipt, expense, and report.
- Next, employees and Finance teams need to depend on each other’s emails/slack messages to understand status.
This process, as is clear, depends heavily on discipline from all stakeholders involved. What we hope to see in the future is processes driven by automation. Something that builds trust by automating every aspect of the process and all the personas involved.
Simplifying and streamlining processes like expense management, that trigger frustration and boredom, will increase efficiency, productivity, and most importantly, employee happiness.
From record systems to systems that build trust
Processes like expense management generate enormous amounts of data, a regulatory compliance requirement, and serve as valuable insight for policy control. These insights are seldom utilized as the amount of time and work behind arriving at the insights is enormous.
If only these insights were made available to them by a machine that uses rules and AI to sort through and make sense of the data, it would help them make data-driven decisions faster.
To achieve this, we need to shift from systems of record to systems that continually build trust.
Trust is earned in micro-events, i.e., when people start trusting the system for different things they do. Eventually, this will help humans move away from managing everything themselves by acting on the system's insights and data.
This is not just what Fyle believes. Yash recollects a report by Gartner in which they created a list of trends that will define the technology landscape for the next decade in 2019.
The top predictions were that all applications would be people-centric, which means products will be built around solving a problem for a person in a way that he/she wants.
This was further defined by hyper-automation and multi-experience. This means people wouldn't need to go to a particular place or use a specific device or application to accomplish certain tasks. They should be able to do it anywhere, from any device or application, and whenever they want.
In Gartner's top strategic technology trends for 2021, this still holds.
The future is now; today, people expect this standard of experience from at-work applications. How user expectations and the technology landscape have evolved makes it abundantly clear to put employee experience at the core of everything. Further, let's dive into what this means for the T&E Industry.
The future of T&E
Like any other software, financial software also need to keep user experience in mind. It has to be intuitive and powerful to record data accurately and use it in a context-aware manner to minimize manual work for the end-user, be it an approver, the Finance team, an auditor, or even an accountant.
Here are some trends we see defining the future of T&E software:
- Employees come first: Systems can now record and verify expenses without any human intervention, which is the main objective. The future will see systems that will do all the work for a user and in a way that users can stop thinking about the process and can trust the system to do it. This is true for all users who interact with the software.
- Driven by data: Most expense management systems, for instance, spreadsheets or RPS systems, are built to solve workflow problems. However, expense management is not just a workflow problem. It is an experience and data problem. A lot of generated data is never utilized because it becomes the job of humans to sift through that data.
As we advance, systems that can extract data at scale and derive valuable insights will dominate the EMS ecosystem.
- Context-aware: Data without context is of no use. From now on, systems that can collate data to provide information relevant to different personas will gain interest. This is because it will help reduce the need for user discipline or effort to get work done.
- Hyper-connected: Hyper-connectedness enables users to accomplish a particular task from inside their everyday applications or whatever application they prefer to use. For example, being able to fyle expenses from Slack, G-Suite, or WhatsApp creates a one-click experience for completing the process without the need to go to a particular app or device.
- Reduced manual work: This is the core reason why automation even matters - to reduce human effort. Every stage of the process generally brings along a set of challenges for the stakeholders involved. The only way to overcome them is by focusing on delivering an exceptional experience. This approach drives behavioral change, as we have seen happen over and over again.
- Real-time accessibility: Last but not least, Real-time accessibility. It is not a futuristic need; it is already a standard expectation. Relevant data and ways to do a task/process need to be made available to users in real-time, from anywhere and any device.
This is also what we’re trying to do at Fyle. We are building an expense management software that truly simplifies and automates every step of the process to make Fyle just a system running smoothly in the background. Here are a few highlights.
Enhanced User Experience
Fyle is an expense management software that delivers enterprise-grade control and a user-grade experience. It provides a refreshed experience that helps employees and Finance teams eliminate manual-work from their expense management process.
Benefits of tracking business expenses with Fyle:
↠ Achieve seamless user experience
↠ Avail no-discipline, no-training ease of use
↠ Leverage one-click processes
↠ Automate all downstream jobs
Automated Credit Card Reconciliation
Fyle reconciles card transactions, expenses, and receipts in an audit-ready fashion without the need for manual intervention.
Benefits of using Fyle for managing credit card expenses:
↠ Handle multiple cards from multiple vendors
↠ Automatically match card transactions with expenses and receipts
↠ Gain complete visibility into card spend patterns
↠ Leverage transaction reversals, bank feed integrations, Universal statement parsers, and more
Approvals built for this generation
With Fyle, finance teams remove approvers out of the equation unless something needs their attention. This means when everything is working smoothly; approvers don’t become roadblocks and slow down your reimbursement cycles.
Eliminate bottlenecks with easy approvals:
↠ Notifications on Slack and email for new expense reports
↠ Flagging of suspicious expenses for speedy approvals
↠ Reviews and Approvals without leaving G Suite.
↠ Logic-based auto-approvals
Continuous compliance, distributed control
Fyle allows you to set up granular rules based on which the system performs real-time compliance checks on expenses as the employee submits them. In case there is a violation, Fyle helps the employee fix it with policy details and actionable controls. This way, compliance is assured at every step, from the second an expense is created.
Next, this data is made available to accounting and Finance departments in real-time, who can then assess associated risks and opportunities flagged by Fyle.
Robust business rules engine keeps fraud at bay:
↠ Set up spend controls at granular levels
↠ Actionable controls without the need to log in to an app
↠ Auto-detection of duplicate and fraudulent expenses
Seamless integrations for accounting
Fyle integrates seamlessly with the software of your choice and moves all data around employees, receipts, expenses, reports, approvals, payments, cards, compliance, and audits in
and out in a highly secure, customizable format.
Data flows in and out of Fyle, effortlessly:
↠ Direct, self-serve integrations with accounting, travel, HRMs, or any other software of choice
↠ 100% secure exchange of data from a centrally connected system
↠ Open APIs for better and faster machine to machine interactions
Ensure constant compliance with automatic receipt attachment, unlimited cloud storage, and extensive searchability features, all in a ready-to-account fashion.
Find receipts, expense, and reports in a searchable cloud:
↠ Store real-time expense data around payments, receipts, and approvals
↠ Leverage digital audit trails for quick reviews of business expenses
↠ Faster auditing processes with proper documentation of all expense information
And that is not all; we’re adding new features and capabilities to Fyle every month! Check out our product updates here.
Or, if you’d like to see Fyle in action and understand how we can help you achieve your expense management goals, get in touch with a Fyle Specialist today!