6 Benefits of Automating AP, Travel, and Expense Processes for Small Universities and Community Colleges

Managing accounts payable and travel and expense (T&E) spending is crucial to the sustainability of any college or university, but it can be especially difficult for smaller universities and community colleges. Generally, these smaller institutions waste significant time and resources with manual processes, leading to a lack of visibility into their spending data – data that’s crucial to make strategic decisions. Here are six benefits of having a fully automated travel, expense, and invoice processes.  

Automating spend management for higher ed

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1. Eliminate paper

Invoice, travel, and expense management at many smaller institutions and community colleges continues to be heavily paper based. With all of the copying, auditing, scanning, and hounding your staff for crumpled paper receipts, it makes sense that paper is a naturally inefficient, error-prone process. On top of that, the amount of manpower required is overwhelmingly high: a recent Kelton study found that higher education organizations using manual or legacy systems are spending over five additional hours processing each expense report and over two additional hours processing each invoice than those colleges and universities using fully automated systems.

The good news is that automation can eliminate all paper. Invoice and expense data is entered directly into an automated system and imaged receipts are matched to those transactions. Reports are then routed automatically for approvals and reimbursements, making data easily accessible for proactive budget planning and better vendor negotiations.


2. Decrease reimbursement times

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could easily eliminate the inquiries such as, “Where is my money?” Automation helps to significantly decrease reimbursement times, for your faculty and staff, by eliminating the need for manual re-keying and reducing the need for additional human intervention in the process. In fact, one community college reduced reimbursement wait times from one month to one day after approval after implementing an automated T&E solution.


3. Gain visibility into actionable data

Automated, accurate data provide answers for those questions like, “How much did we spend on T&E last month?” and “What do we owe this vendor?” With automation, these types of questions can be answered within minutes rather than weeks or months.  

Plus, when you bring all of your spending data together in one place, it’s easier to plan for what’s next. You can eliminate much of the guesswork you currently encounter in budgeting and planning – in both the short and long term – by reviewing travel, expense, and AP trends in the data you’ve collected. You might even uncover potential opportunities to invest more in programs for your school.


4. Increase adoption/compliance via user-friendly tools

Change can be scary and difficult, especially for smaller institutions where time and resources are already strained. However, with travel and spend automation, you can expect the user experience to be – do we dare say? – delightful. Of course, having the best technology in the world means nothing if the staff doesn’t use it – a particularly elevated risk in a non-mandate culture. Introducing easy-to-use, mobile tools your faculty and staff will want to use will encourage the right choices. Plus, the days of interoffice mailings, overflowing envelopes with stacks of taped receipts and manual entry into expense reports will be over forever. What’s not to like about that?


5. Support traveling faculty, staff, and students

Beyond cost reduction, there’s one, far more priceless benefit to putting a comprehensive travel and spend management system in place – the safety of your faculty, staff, and students. Knowing where and when your users are traveling and spending, at any moment, can help you fulfil your Duty of Care obligations. To ensure the safety of those under your charge at a moment’s notice, you need a single access point for all traveler information, as well as contact information and home addresses. If an incident occurs, university leaders can get in touch with travelers quickly, assess the situation, and determine next steps to get them back safely. In this case, investing in a comprehensive T&E solution to give you visibility into this critical data not only saves costs, but could potentially save lives. That’s a value proposition that’s hard to ignore.


6. Reduce fraud, waste, and abuse

Employees misusing the T&E and AP processes for personal gain are an unfortunate reality. A 2018 survey conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) revealed that 18 percent of fraudulent activities in higher education are due to expense reimbursement schemes. Additionally, the median loss due to occupational fraud for the industry is $68,000.

And whether or not mistakes are intentional, they do happen. Without a streamlined solution and process, you are counting on users to do both “what’s right” and make no mistakes in all situations. By automating, you now have a vast access of data to fully understand the decisions your faculty and staff are making on behalf of the institution.


Are you ready to free yourself from the mistakes and inefficiency of manual travel and spend management? Learn more about how automation can transform your campus.

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