Why automated expense management systems save time and money

The importance of supporting CFOs and finance leaders

Picture: SSG Robert Stewart, U.S. Army (Flickr).

Picture: SSG Robert Stewart, U.S. Army (Flickr).

Finance directors and CFOs are increasingly expected to take on everything from growth planning and risk management to pricing strategies and compliance. The breadth of responsibilities is only going to grow. This could potentially lead to burn-outs unless businesses automate some of these processes.

Almost three quarters of CEOs from high-performing companies believe that the CFO’s role will grow in importance more than any other C-suite role (Forbes, January 2015). Businesses must streamline and automate time-intensive processes, like managing expenses and supplier invoices, so that CFOs can instead focus on tasks that are critical to strategy and the bottom-line.

Relieving finance leaders from administrative workloads starts with empowering employees to manage things like expenses more effectively.

Employees are increasingly responsible for their own corporate purchases, such as flights and car hire. The growing trend towards decentralised businesses spending places greater trust that employees will complete processes honestly, accurately, and within a reasonable time-frame. When expense processes are inefficient, manual, and labour-intensive, employees tend find ways to quickly process their claims out-of-policy. This reduces a finance leader’s visibility into financial data, and can make it more difficult to detect errors and compliance issues.

Employees expect travel, expense, and invoice systems to be as simple, smart, and user-friendly as the mobile apps and tools they use every day. When organisations give them systems that match these expectations, they can start to get a better handle on the budget.

Businesses with an integrated travel and expense system require an average of 47 per cent less staff time for processing travel and expense claims. Automated travel and expense management processes eliminate paperwork and let employees easily make claims on their smartphone. They can automatically import data from paper receipts and credit cards to reduce manual data entry and the potential for mistakes.

Intelligent tools and intuitive apps that automate employees’ expense, invoice, and travel processes make it easy for them spend within policy. This can help ensure purchases comply with company policy and tax regulations. Research has found that businesses using an end-to-end travel and expense solution enjoy 44 per cent better compliance.

Systems that let employees make their own travel bookings in the ways they prefer can also capture that data and help finance leaders keep on top of the company travel program. This travel data can be integrated into other datasets to help grow a more well-rounded view of the business as a whole, and give the CFO a better understanding of where cost reductions can be made. They can also capture negotiated rates and discounts with suppliers, and highlight the most economic options for employees, helping to reduce costs and give the finance leader greater control of the budget.

Modern finance leaders shouldn’t be bogged down in administrative, reactive processes. They should have complete visibility into the business’s financial data so they can make strategic decisions to improve the bottom line. Considering the scrutiny finance data has to stand up to, both regulatory and internal, finance leaders need to be confident that their numbers add up. Automated expense management systems ensure that the data finance leaders rely on in consolidated, accurate and current to help them manage the bottom line and drive savings across the business.

Matt Goss is Managing Director, ANZ, Concur

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