Does this sound familiar? You travel to a remote workplace for several days, then a week or two after you get home, you start to fill out your expense reports, so necessary for billing or documentation, only to find half your receipts somehow got recycled? Or does a client or a group of employees bring you boxes full of receipts and half–completed spreadsheets at the end of the year or the quarter? It’s a recipe for frustration, because you know all of that means extra effort, expense, uncertainty and time.
Private practice, corporation, or government…
…all accounting professionals will face one of these expense situations sooner or later. CPAs in private practice know their own expense reports are crucial for accurate billing back to their clients. All three groups have faced the reality, or at least the threat of haystacks of receipts and spreadsheets. Some times of the year you get so busy with the pile that you’ve hardly got time to raise your head and ask “Is there a better way?”
The way it often is
In a recent AccountingWeb blog post, CPA Cathy Iconis posed that question well. She talks about how the accountant becomes the “company nag.” Iconis notes that “employees tend to hate it when they are questioned about their spending, so the process is never easy.” Besides missing receipts, she talks about the way that “with a lot of those Excel expense reports…after entering each line, the total doesn’t match the summary page.” It’s a story of incomplete documentation, extended back-and-forth question and answer threads, huge amounts of time and a foggy view into cash flow. And it’s happening lots of places:
Aberdeen group research finds that 57% of companies cite poor visibility into T&E spending and compliance as their top business pressure.
A number of analysts suggest that automating expense reports, in the cloud, saves both time and money, and it is easy to see why. Systems that allow travelers to snap pictures of their receipts and upload them into the software end the paper chase, saving time and money. The direct connection between receipt and report eliminates data entry errors, saving even more time and money. Recent Aberdeen research shows that “expense automation can decrease the cost of every expense transaction by 55% or more.” Aberdeen also found that “organizations that have leveraged cloud expense management technology have experienced 28% lower expense approval times” and “27% lower employee expense report creation times.” And that leads to the happiness factor. 2014 IDC research found that “filing of expense reports and reimbursing employees within days instead of weeks had significant impact on employee satisfaction.”
The other big advantage of automated, cloud-based expense reports lies in visibility. You can only get control of your cash flow if you can see what people are spending, as it happens. If someone waits until the very last moment to fill out his or her expense reports, those expenses can be invisible to you for weeks at a time. People can go over budget without your knowledge or theirs, and you could be on the hook for late payment fees. If you don’t have the answers a regulator demands, you could be facing compliance issues. 51% of top executives surveyed told Aberdeen that “poor visibility into travel and expense spending, compliance, supplies etc. was (a) leading management concern.”  Informed decision making means:
- You can identify cost-saving opportunities with frequently used suppliers
- Spending stays within policy
- Real-time data improves forecasting and cash flow projections
- Spending aligns with performance to help prioritize budgeting
If there was one thing available that would reduce costs and processing times, eliminate data entry errors, improve policy compliance, give you the visibility you need to get the big picture of cash flow to help you forecast and budget and even make people happier, would it be worth a look? Better expense reports, automated in the cloud might just be that one thing. If you’d like to know more about how automated, cloud-based expense reports could make your life better, take a test drive, or click on Concur to learn more.
 Aberdeen Group, The T&E Expense Report That Writes Itself: How Close Are We?, April 2015
 Aberdeen Group, T&E Expense Management: The Best-in-Class Pillars of Next-Generation Expense Management, March 2012
 Aberdeen Group, Expense Management for a New Decade, March 2011
 IDC: Concur Fusion 2014, Transparency and Mobility drive the Perfect Trip, March 2014
 Aberdeen Group, Managing the T&E Lifecycle: Integrating Processes, Driving Performance, April 2013