Digital expense claims no longer a daydream for mid-market

Cutting the amount of time workers spend on administrative tasks can mean big benefits for a business’ bottom line. Yet for SMEs, honing processes like expense claims often have to take a back seat to building the business. Or do they?

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Imagine having all the joy of racking up expenses without the pain of a time-consuming claims process. Thanks to services like expensemanager, that’s now a reality.

While the quest for the paperless office began at the big end of town, cloud-based services like Australia’s expensemanager are putting digital receipts and other workflow improvements within reach of local small and medium businesses.

The hassles of dealing with paper receipts and processing work expenses are a universal business problem, but Expense Manager targets a gap in the Australian mid-market where expense management platforms have traditionally been out of reach. Small and medium businesses are some of the fastest adopters of the cloud, but expense management has often been put in the “too hard” or “too expensive” basket, says expensemanager Founder and Director Sharon Nouh.

An idea whose time has come

Often gaining business against larger rivals, expensemanager doesn’t only win over growing small businesses that find shuffling paper receipts too time-consuming, but also caters to businesses with more than 100 employees who have struggled to find the time to address this pain point, or are revisiting it after finding expense management platforms too expensive in the past.

Processing expenses manually is a pain that most companies have experienced, especially if staff regularly claim travel and entertainment expenses, but these businesses are often slow to do anything about it, Nouh says.

“Meanwhile, staff are expected to write explanatory notes on credit card statements, attach the paper receipts and then send all that paperwork on a convoluted journey around the business,” she adds. “Along the way someone has to approve it, perhaps sending it back for clarification, and then it eventually lands on the desk of accounts payable – who invariably find more problems and send it back again.”

“These details are eventually keyed into the finance system and then weeks later the money comes through, by which time they’ve probably had to pay the credit card. All that hassle might be acceptable if you’re dealing with a handful of staff, but once you hit 15 or 20 people you really start to feel the pain.”

Streamlined processes generate savings

Despite this, Nouh says senior management in many businesses tend to focus more on making money than addressing the cost of doing business and the impact of manual processes on their bottom line. Rather than coming from the top, interest in an expense management platform is typically driven by the Chief Financial Officer or finance team – who tend to be too time-poor to put the wheels in motion.

In order to improve its value proposition, the expensemanager platform also lets businesses generate purchase orders and process incoming invoices. Combining these features with expense management in the one business system makes Expense Manager an attractive proposition for businesses looking to embrace cloud services – especially as it can be tightly integrated with financial packages and enterprise resource planning platforms such as MYOB Advanced.

“These days most suppliers send their invoices via email as PDF attachments, but then businesses print these invoices out and generate more paperwork to pass around the office, creating extra work for themselves,” Nouh says.

“While large enterprises might insist that their suppliers send that data directly into their finance system, that’s not always practical in the mid-market. We can automate this process without requiring suppliers to change their workflow, they simply keep sending their PDFs which are automatically scanned into the system and even matched up with corresponding purchase orders to expedite the process.”

The future is digital

While expensemanager supports advanced workflows and business processes to meet the needs of growing businesses, the aim is to completely automate where possible. Even the ability to scan paper receipts with a smartphone is considered too much of a hassle by some users, which is why expensemanager is partnering with major travel-related service providers to support digital receipts that are automatically imported into the system.

expensemanager has agreements with some leading travel management companies, including Sabre and GM Cabs, to make payment and reimbursement as seamless as possible for both the staff racking up the expenses and their employers.

“The ability for users to simply snap a photo of a receipt with their mobile app has certainly been a key driver for our service,” Nouh says, “but you wouldn’t believe how many managers in organisations don’t even want to do that. They’ll bring the receipts back to the office, hand them to their executive assistant and expect them to take the photo.”

“Digital receipts let us get that data directly from the merchants and for us this is definitely the way of the future; making expense management as seamless as possible so people can forget about paperwork and get on with their day.”