By Kevin Peterson
Automation is the way of the future. Gone are the days when we had to perform menial and mundane tasks, and be inefficient in the process. Today, we have technology taking on the responsibility of these tasks, with our employees having more time for more important tasks.
There is no doubt that every business process will benefit from automation; however, some need automation more than most. Business processes which involve administrative tasks, or where employees have to more or less make data entry or other menial tasks, are great for automation compared to processes that need creativity and innovation.
One such business process which involves a number of administrative tasks is expense reporting. From booking tickets and entering those details into the expense report to managing expense reports, there are many tasks that can be automated to save time for everyone involved, and to make the process efficient and add value to the organization instead of adversely affecting the bottom line.
Here are a few reasons to automate the expense reporting process in your business.
Time is one of the major reasons you should automate your expense reporting process. With automation, you not only save a lot on employee man-hours but you also reduce the time it takes to process expense reports.
Take a few sample tasks in expense management. For one thing, the employee would have to fill in the expense report in hand, attach the expense reports, and send the completed report to his or her supervisor. The supervisor would have to painstakingly validate and verify the expenses, and only then approve the expense report. Preparation and validation are not tasks that can be done in a hurry. In reporting, all the details need to be error-proof, and validations need to weed out illegitimate expenses and misreporting, which cannot be done quickly. So, the compromise reached by most organizations is to randomize verification. So, to save time, organizations are compromising on quality, which will affect them in the form of expense fraud.
Instead, what if you could complete processing in time, and we are talking all the expense reports here, not randomly-picked ones, and not compromise on the quality of processing? This is what you gain with the automation afforded by expense software solution. You will save a lot of time in processing expense reports and putting them through the various steps in the expense management process.
Organizations often come up with detailed travel and expense management policies but do not often put as many efforts into enforcing the policy as they did in preparing it. And we cannot fault them entirely. Policy enforcement is cumbersome, and needs organizations to sometimes dedicate additional resources for the same. And employees are very creative, coming up with novel ways of skirting the rules and regulations laid out in the policy. So, is there a way to ensure complete policy enforcement without having to dedicate resources to it? This is where automation comes in. the software will help you automate T&E policy enforcement, and ensure that you will not be reimbursing illegitimate expenses.
So, how is this done? The software does this by restricting entries in the expense report. Say your organizational T&E policy states that only one particular mode of transportation is allowed, and only that mode is reimbursed. However, when you allow employees to prepare expense reports in unstandardized forms or spreadsheets, they will simply slip in other means of transport, and supply you with a bill for the same. By the time this is realized and corrected, reimbursement would have been done, or further time will be wasted. Instead, the expense report preparation form will restrict employees from entering any data that is not in line with the policy, and therefore ensure that such reporting is not done.
It’s the same with any number of other aspects of expense management. Say you have a policy where the expense report has to go through multiple levels of approvals before it can be reimbursed, but your employees have been colluding and processing reports without the necessary approvals. Such a thing will not be allowed by the software. It allows no exceptions, and if you do allow employees to have exceptions, the software will record this exception and bring this to the notice of the supervisor immediately. So, all approvals will be done right, and done in time.
One of the major reasons for automating the expense reporting process is analytics. Gone are the days when organizations had to make decisions in the dark, using the experience and gut feeling of a few decision-makers. Also gone are the days when stakeholders in the process are not really aware of the happenings. One of the necessary and influential by-products of automating the expense management process using software is that you will now have the chance to completely analyze the entire process and come up with observations and insights that can guide your decision-making to make it more relevant and effective. Also, the fact that you are using a data-driven approach towards decision-making in expense management will bring about visibility and transparency into the system, which is desirable since it allows you to control fraud and any misreporting that happens in your organization.
Analytics are also useful in unearthing any misreporting or fraudulent activities, and help organizations plan and forecast better. Budgets can now be more meaningful, and implementations become better since you can easily understand where the gaps in the process are, and how to plug them. One great thing about the software is that you can also automate analytics, which means you are now more knowledgeable without expending any effort. Say the approving professional wants to know how many reports on average he or she needs to process in a given amount of time so as to complete their tasks, or the finance professional wants to know whether expense reports were processed right or not, or any other piece of information, analytics can provide them for you. And since analytics can be made accessible to all the stakeholders, you can also democratize decision-making.
Better Service Delivery
In organizations, employees understand and imbibe quite well the qualities of customer service that they need to display to their customers. However, not many of these employees look to extend the same to their internal customers. In some ways, the organizational culture also decides this aspect of service delivery. When you have to collaborate with others to complete a process effectively, would you rather not work with them in a way that helps them, instead of just completing your tasks haphazardly and leaving them to unravel the mess?
Unfortunately, the prevalent conditions in many organizations force employees to cover their backsides, and not think much about delivering excellent service to their internal customers. Also, the practices and systems they use won’t help. For the most part, forced collaboration happens, with people wanting to way their hands off tasks instead of ensuring that they have been done to the satisfaction of the next stakeholder.
With the expense software solution, tasks can be handed over from one stakeholder to another in a manner that is helpful to both of them, and since there is more effective collaboration among them, process productivity and performance will also improve. They can accord one another excellent service and make working together a pleasure instead of a strain.
Automation of the expense reporting process using expense management software can help organizations in many ways, and all of these are reasons to use the software. It really transforms the way expenses are reported and reimbursed in organizations, and brings in desirable elements such as visibility, speed, productivity, and improved service delivery into the process, and help keep away the undesirable aspects of expense management like misreporting, fraud, delays, and so on.
Another major benefit of the software is its accountability in keeping the stakeholders informed. Normally, people don’t bother to alert the next stakeholders that it is time for their part of the processing. They expect people to know without any intimation, which will often lead to communication gaps that delay the process. However, with the software, this communication aspect is completely covered. From notifications to alerts to reminders, the software will effectively keep all the stakeholders in communication and ensure that the process is running smoothly.
Photo credit: Printed receipts and calculator from Gajus/Shutterstock