It’s not too long ago that the panacea to everyone’s expense problems was “get expense management automation software.” Anything was a quantum leap from having to staple or tape your receipts to a spreadsheet, then hand it into your accounting team, and then wait a pay cycle (or two) for them to be reviewed, and then go up the approval chain, and then finally to the payroll team who would often cut you a paper check... that you often had to take to the bank or ATM to deposit.
As expense automation solution adoption has grown among companies of all sizes, it’s no longer the case that anything is better than nothing. Companies such as Google and Salesforce have demonstrated that business apps should be simple, elegant, robust and, well, just work. They shouldn’t be a drag to use, whether you submit a couple of expenses every few months, or you’re constantly creating and approving expense reports.
Wondering if you could be doing better with your expense management system? Here are nine signs that maybe it’s time to start shopping around for a new solution:
1. Trying to do your expenses on your smartphone makes you want to cry
Most people who submit business expenses are on the road a lot, and spend far more time on their smartphones than their laptops. Your expense management solution needs to be mobile, just as easy to use and have the same rich functionality regardless of whether you’re on your smartphone or your laptop. Fiddly interfaces that aren’t designed for mobile use, or apps that only allow you to do half of what you actually need to do certainly aren’t “productivity” tools. If you have to get to your laptop to easily submit your expenses or approve others’, your software is more like an anchor weighing you down.
2.Approving expenses is all-or-nothing
Nothing’s worse than a delayed reimbursement – especially if it’s over one small line item in your expenses. The ability to approve or reject specific line items means that a question about the billing code for a $50 office supplies expense won't hold up your reimbursement for a $1,500 flight to Australia, and you won’t be left having to play banker to your employer.
3. Your business travelers are tired of an ugly, cumbersome interface
You don’t access the web through Netscape Navigator, so why should your expense management solution look like it was designed for it? Your expense management solution should be beautiful, straightforward and designed to work perfectly, whether you’re on a laptop on the corporate network, a tablet on a convention center’s molasses-slow Wi-Fi, or a smartphone on a 3G network.
4. You changed your business processes to fit rigid software
Business software needs to make your life easier, not more complex. This means that your vendors need to offer a flexible solution (and be flexible themselves), in order to configure things that match your specific needs, now, and in the future. Do your organization’s expense approval workflows need to change because the software is unbending, or can fields not be configured so that they work for your organization? Maybe it’s time to look for a solution that fits your needs, not the other way around.
5. You go abroad, but your expense system stays home
Just because your expense system allows you to submit in multiple currencies doesn’t make it global. Are you left wondering if your expenses are compliant with local tax regulations, or does your solution automatically work these out for you? Country / jurisdiction baselines for taxes should also include specific expense types for personal vehicle reimbursement, per diem, and fringe benefit tax, as examples. A truly global expense solution means language, currency, support, and experience. Your expense report can’t be held up at the border.
6. You’re tired of getting nickel and dimed
One of the big benefits that expense software vendors tout is advanced features such as the OCR, custom ad-hoc reporting, and importing travel itineraries. What many of them don’t say, however, is that many of these cool features comes with an extra price tag, instead of being part of your monthly subscription fee. You may also find that, even though you have a cloud solution, the concept of “free upgrades” is lost on your vendor. Look for a SaaS expense management solution that gives you access to the latest tools to make your life easier, without charging you for everything.
7. Your expense solution can’t handle complex per diems
Can your expense management solution provide full per diem functionality across the globe, including access to both statutory rates in specific regions, plus the ability to select other third party rates such as the Mercer values? If so, are users presented with a simple and easy-to-use per diem wizard, that will track the location, dates and time of the trip to ensure the correct rates and tax amounts are applied?
8. You’re locked into one vendor’s solutions, whether you like it or not
Your vendor talks about “one-stop-shops,” “interoperability” and “holistic solutions” to show why you should only use their software. However, when you can’t tie into your existing ERP system, corporate card program, travel management company and online booking tool, trying to integrate different organizations’ technology is a huge headache as well. Maybe you started growing and some divisions use one system while you use another. Or the company you acquired brought their own system to the party and you want to standardize both your expense policy and expense management system.
You want an expense management solution that’s agnostic to these integrations because, guess what, your vendors will change.
9. You put off doing your expenses
Expense reports should be very straightforward to create, submit and approve. Whether you’re on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, the process should be no more difficult than sending an image of the receipt to your expense system, dragging it to your report, selecting the budget code, and done. If it’s any harder than this, maybe it’s time to move to the modern expense report age.
If you’ve answered “yes” to some of these, maybe you should start looking for a solution that works for you, not against you.
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