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.
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. Your corporate cardholders ignore your expense policy
Even with corporate cardholders being required to account for all spend, it’s difficult to prevent them from making out-of-policy purchases, such as excessive spend on meals or booking travel through non-approved channels. An effective solution for preventing this is to directly incorporate your organization’s expense policy into your cards. Administrators can set spend limits on a granular level on a wide variety of parameters - transaction limits, merchant or vendor restrictions, and even time or day limits. By stopping out-of-policy spend before it happens, expense administrators will never have to confront cardholders about excessive spend.
2. 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 its 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.
3. The card reconciliation process is painful
Manually cross-checking each purchase on a corporate credit card statement with the corresponding expense submission is a mind-numbing process, but it doesn’t need to happen. Cards can be integrated into the expense solution to provide real time alerts via text message to the user’s phone, each time it’s used. The cardholder can be prompted to capture an image of the receipt, which is then automatically matched with the card data. This ensures that every expense item is submitted to finance with a corresponding line on the card statement - no manual intervention required.
4. The system isn’t as smart as it’s made out to be
The majority of business expenses are straightforward to submit and approve. But it’s the ones that are away from the norm that can strain your system if it’s not sophisticated enough - especially for international expenses. Issues like the per diem for your German team members can really throw a wrench into the works.
5. 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.
6. It’s not as global as your organization needs it to be
While international travel is still some time away for most of us, that doesn’t mean that many organizations still have employees around the world who need to submit expenses. Those employees need to have the same high quality experience as your team members based at HQ. Things you need to consider for your international team include: is the interface available in everyone’s language? Does the solution maintain updated VAT rules in the markets where you do business? Does receipt scanning work just as well in all the countries you need to use it?
7. Working from home has added a new level of pain to expenses
With employees around the world working from home for the foreseeable future, many employees are submitting reimbursable expenses for the first time, as they are typically office-based. They may also only have one or two expenses per month, or even per quarter. These employees don’t need the same sophisticated solution as your frequent users, so why pay for the same level of functionality? Does your vendor offer a “lite” solution, which offers a simple, real-time workflow for expense submission and approval.
8. Your team still submits their business expenses at the weekend
Doing expenses shouldn’t have to be something that your team members put off until the weekend, whether they are traveling during the week or not. An expense solution should have just as much functionality - and be just as easy to use - on a phone as a computer. This means that receipts should be simple to enter on a phone, regardless of whether they are paper receipts for meals or online purchase HTML receipts. A smart solution should be able to automatically read these receipts, extract and map the data, and create an expense item in just a few seconds, so your employees can simply drag and drop them into an expense report and send it off - all in the palm of their hand.
9. Your expense solution vendor treats you as a number on a balance sheet, not a customer
Even the most sophisticated expense management software isn’t just a set-it-and-forget-it solution. Business processes evolve, M&A activities occur, and travel management providers change. All of these could cause significant impacts to workflows within the expense solution, and will require additional configuration work, which can be a significant task for your team. There’s only one thing worse than trying to figure it out yourself - and that’s paying an obscene hourly rate to them to set everything up. Look for a partner that offers a full suite of managed services to guide you through these changes - throughout your relationship.
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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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.