According to GBTA (Global Business Travel Association), annual corporate travel spending will reach $1.4 trillion by 2024.
Businesses often create and enforce a travel and expense policy to manage and regulate these expenses. These policies usually also include the entire travel expense management process, from expense reporting to approval and employee reimbursements.
Goals for streamlining T&E processes:
- Expenses are within the estimated budget
- Curb overspending and unnecessary expenses
- All travel-related bookings are taken care of
- Error-free submission, approval, and reimbursement of claims
- Accurate financial reporting
- Potential partnership with vendors
This article looks at how businesses can better their travel and expense management process and how a travel and expense management software may help you achieve your T&E goals.
Let’s get into the details.
It’s time to move out of the manual travel and expense management process
Using pen and paper or spreadsheets to manage business expenses may seem like a cost-saving and viable option for smaller businesses, as validating and managing spend may not come across as a huge ordeal.
But as a business grows and scales, employees will double down on business trips and incur more expenses on behalf of the organization. As a result, the volume of expense reports and expenses will increase, making managing business expenses using traditional means harder.
Here are some of the disadvantages of using conventional methods to manage your business expenses:
- Takes up precious work hours
Traditional means of expense reporting, tracking, and managing can be time-consuming and laborious for both employees and Finance teams.
- Employees have to keep track of their business receipts as they make expenses and record them in their expense reports.
- Once they fill out all the details in the form, they have to attach the receipt and send it for review to their manager and Finance teams.
- If any part of the expense report needs clarification, it is sent back to the employee for review or revision. If the supervisor approves the expense report, the expense report is forwarded to the Finance team for a final audit and payment.
- Once the Finance team verifies the expense data, the receipts are stored for tax and accounting purposes, and the expense report is authorized for reimbursement.
There is a lot of manual data entry and verification involved in the process described above that can cost your Finance team and employees crucial productive hours.
- Open doors for errors and potential fraud
The expense management process involves several stages, and each one can introduce new opportunities for errors or delays. While it’s true that everyone makes mistakes, in expense management, even the most minor errors are far from trivial.
A company can lose money due to exaggerated claims, duplicate bills, mischaracterized expenses, or falsified claims. Unfortunately, it becomes far too easy to commit expense report fraud in a manual expense management setup, whether it’s intentional or simply an accident. These errors can potentially amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted, hurting your financial bottom line in the long run.
- Unclear T&E policies and poor enforcement
When an organization has a clear, easy-to-understand, and strongly enforced expense reimbursement policy, there are less likely to be errors, fraud, or delay in reimbursement cycles. Additionally, T&E compliance can result in Finance teams spending less time verifying and correcting expense report errors and more time doing valuable tasks.
But suppose you have unclear policies in place. In that case, employees may have trouble understanding what categories fall under reimbursable expenses, leading them to often assume what's written in the guidelines. As a result, employees may report out-of-policy expenses. A loosely enforced policy can also tempt employees to take advantage and file for multiple claims or fictitious expenses. These minor expense fraud can potentially add up and eventually affect the company.
- Delay in the reimbursement process
Slow reimbursements may seem harmless; however, they hurt your company more than you realize.
A traditional expense management process has numerous manual tasks for both employees and the Finance team to complete. Roadblocks in these tasks can cause delays in expense report submissions, reviews, approvals, and finally, even reimbursements. Additionally, continued delays will ultimately get employees frustrated and averse to making any business-related expenses.
Slow reimbursements in the workplace can ultimately strain employees' relationships with the company and diminish their perception of the organization. As a result, employees may feel uncared for and that the expense reimbursement policy favors the company and not their time or skills.
- No visibility into spend trends and patterns
CFOs and management must have access to accurate data to ensure that decisions taken are guaranteed to impact the organization positively. But it can be challenging to effectively track employee spending trends and patterns with a manual process.
Manual expense reporting is highly error-prone, which can contribute to inaccurate data, compromise the quality of expense data, or delays in financial reports.
In addition, with no real-time visibility into employee business expenses, managers and Finance teams are left in the dark about company expenditures. All these factors can result in employers or management making ill-informed decisions based on assumptions and limited data.
Decide what your business needs
It becomes crucial for businesses to look for new-age expense management solutions to help employees and Finance teams and not slow them down. Every company has unique needs, and so does yours. Thus, it becomes incredibly crucial for business owners and leadership teams to first understand their business needs before going out in the market to make a pick.
Here are some questions you need to ask before taking the next step:
- What are the minimum features required by your business?
- How many claimants and approvers do you have?
- Is everyone based in one office or multiple sites in one country?
- Do you require a multi-entity capability to integrate offices overseas?
- Do you reimburse in different currencies around the world?
- Do you want your current expense management software to integrate with your existing accounting or ERP software?
- Do users need to interact with the system on the move?
- Do you recharge expense items to clients or projects?
- Do you want to reclaim domestic or overseas VAT?
- When would you like the new system in place?
With answers to the above questions, you can start skimming through our expense management software feature list and then zero in on the ones you would benefit your business.
Should you go for a SaaS or on-premise solution?
What are the benefits of switching to a travel and expense management software?
Switching to a travel and expense management software helps companies simplify their T&E operations, boost financial and employee productivity, and improve their financial bottom line by streamlining the process:
They can easily submit their business expense reports and corresponding documentation, like receipts, directly into the software. They can do this from their cell phones, computers, or tablets. This can eliminate the need to fill out paper expense forms and hang on to paper receipts.
Additionally, as the number of employees working from home is increasing, modern collaboration tools can enhance the experience of remote teams.
For Finance teams:
- The expense software can enable real-time policy checks on expense reports submitted by employees. The robust policy engine can flag an expense immediately if found to violate an expense policy. This feature can also ensure no fake claims or duplicate entries pass by.
- They can get a unified view of all their expense data and get real-time insights into their financial operations.
- The software's centralized dashboard can make it easier to understand and analyze expense data and establish future expense budgets.
- The software's analytics can help management dive into details. They can identify top spenders, categories with the most expenses, and more. This can help Finance teams identify areas that need to tighten spending controls for cost savings and strengthen the bottom line.
Some ideal features of a travel and expense management software
The solution you choose should undoubtedly be able to solve the core business problem here. In addition, it should enable your business to do a lot more with expense data, providing analytics and insights to control your business expenses.
An Expense management solution ideally can be broken down into broad modules, and the characteristics of an ideal module would be:
The expense tracking software should be intuitive, employee-friendly, easy-to-use and should drive compliance from the start, relieving employees and Finance teams from repetitive tasks.
It should be able to track expense receipts in multiple ways. For example, it should be able to click and scan a receipt and automatically extract crucial information from it. In addition, the information captured should be audit-ready, paperless, and require minimum manual input.
Employees should be able to upload their receipts via text message, Gmail, Outlook, etc. The solution should also capture these expense data with minimum friction and support different types of expenses - ranging from paper receipts, email invoices, mileage tracking, and more.
- Understand the nuances of set policies and the hierarchy for approvals and workflows.
- Check for policy violations, duplications, and other financial leaks within your reporting system.
- Allow multiple user levels, authorities, and roles for different employees.
- Match transactions with claims in case of credit card matching.
- Categorize expenses into organization-default segments using tags and categories.
- The solution should provide analytics around spend data being captured - team-wise, employee-wise, organization-wise, project-wise, and so on.
- Allow for vendor insights to enable volume negotiations and vendor localization.
- Should allow easy movement of data across formats - PDF, XLS, and more.
- Should be able to communicate with your existing accounting and HRMS systems - Integrate with Xero, QuickBooks, NetSuite, and more. An open API for custom integrations can be an added advantage.
- Usability and support
- An expense management software should aim to make the exercise seamless. The end-user experience should be purely automated and intuitive.
- The vendor should be able to support any queries or breakdowns 24x7. Financial data is highly critical, and proactive customer support would be essential.
Finally, what's your expense management pick?
Take a quick peek at some of our features!
- Offline mode: Create and store expenses even when you’re not connected to the internet.
- Mobile reporting: Create and submit expenses and expense reports on the go.
- Per Diem: Advanced Per Diem for multiple rates, currencies, and employee groups.
- Mileage tracking: Google Maps powered recurring mileage rates for different vehicle types.
- Automatic card expense reconciliations: Automatic reconciliation of corporate card transactions, expenses, and receipts.
- Direct bank feeds: Integration with card providers to ensure real-time and clean transaction feeds.
- Custom workflows: Create and automate any kind of complex expense approval workflows
- Audit trails: Access detailed audit logs with all the changes on an expense or report level.
- Fraud detection: Catch duplicate expenses, expenses with suspicious merchants, or holidays/weekend receipts.
- ACH payments (US only): Reimburse expenses or pay your employees directly from Fyle.
- Bulk payments: Make bulk deposits to multiple employee accounts at the same time.
Discover more about the new standard in expense management by scheduling a demo call with us today!