Expense management automation is key to managing financial process

Computer user Outdated legacy technology is one of the core causes of inefficient expense, travel, and invoice recording.

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These manual processes are clunky, time-consuming, vulnerable to human error, and lacks visibility across company spend. As employees, are incurring travel expenses in more than one way, it has become imperative for companies to rethink its business strategy to thrive in these changing times.

Automating financial processes is an important part of a strategic plan and research shows both SMBs and enterprises see expense management automation as an important part of their strategy. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP Concur indicates that nearly two-thirds of the SMB financial leaders surveyed picked “managing expenses/cash flow” as their top financial challenge.

Take a look at these other key reasons to automate expense and travel processes:

Simplify Processes and Save Money

While new invoice management tools can’t lower bills themselves, they can optimize processes in ways that will cut costs. Automation will ensure those bills are accounted for and paid on time, saving businesses from late fees, reducing the time spent on managing invoices, and allowing firms to focus valuable time on other tasks.

Beyond time savings, businesses need visibility into what is being paid, to whom, and from what budgets. Inadequate visibility into expenses is a key challenge for better managing the expense, travel, and invoice processes. This type of reporting is critical for understanding where and when spend happens with enough time to influence it.

Cloud-Based Tools Increase Productivity, Adoption, and Satisfaction

In today’s world, employees expect that the technological advances they enjoy in their personal lives will carry over to their work lives. Instead, they face fragmented, manual expense and payment processes that are inefficient and time-consuming. As a result, both managers and employees in the Forrester survey ranked manual processes as one of the top pain points when it comes to recording and tracking expenses.

By fully automating expenses, travel, and invoice systems with cloud-based solutions and tools which are available both on desktop and on mobile devices, businesses can reduce employee frustration, encourage adoption, and increase compliance. Likewise, automated tools to track and record expenses on the go can help them make more responsible towards utilizing company finances and give managers the visibility into any potentially fraudulent spending or inflating expenses. All of this translates into money saved as well.

A Unified Solution Benefits Everyone

An automated expense, travel, and invoice management process improve employees’ experiences and reduce over-spending. This can be accomplished by full alignment of IT and finance, which then allows both departments to accomplish their own goals.

Indeed, we think the results of the Forrester survey demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach. 75% percent of companies with a unified strategy reported high satisfaction with travel and expense tools, compared to just 35% without a unified strategy.

Aligning the goals of the finance and IT teams has a profound effect on the overall travel, expense, and invoice management process.

Solutions Need to be User-Friendly

The Forrester study reveals that new investments in expense and travel systems only pay off, if those systems are employees friendly. Thereby, workers are more likely to buy in. This implies certain capabilities, including a mobile app so that users can submit and approve claims from anywhere, a way to automate T&E and vendor invoicing on a single solution, which leads to faster reimbursement times to increase employee retention.

Solutions need to be Business-Ready

User friendliness is only half the picture. Forrester found seamless integration with the HR and finance function critical and the technology that companies are thinking about here is adoption to the cloud. More than three-quarters of the SMB companies surveyed are either using now or plan to use cloud based apps. That’s because they can roll out important systems faster, like expense, travel, and invoice management. Among the things they’re looking for systems to be able to affect are “accurate reporting through data consolidation and analytics” and “improved visibility into and access to data.” In these areas, the paper simply can’t compete with, or compare to, digital and cloud systems.

These improvements in the tools for handling expense and travel add up to less time spent on expense reporting, lower spending, and fewer complications and errors. And what business, large or small, couldn’t use all that?

By Neeraj Dotel, managing director, India and SAARC SAP Concur