Guest blog by partner Certify
4th May 2020 | 4 min read
Winning CFO Approval for Expense Management Automation
With disruption always present, an organisation’s ability to adapt is no longer a competitive advantage—it’s an absolute necessity. According to an analysis by Bain & Company, companies that invest in technology during or immediately following economic downturns can emerge stronger. The challenge becomes identifying which process will have the most significant impact company-wide.
Technology is one influential lever to increase adaptability. The right software can help to break down silos across complex, multi-entity organisations while improving efficiency and control. With a far-reaching process like expense management, the benefits are almost immediate. There’s also an unexpected employee benefit with automation: the freedom to focus on strategic work. Work that is nearly impossible to automate.
Yet, data from Certify’s 2019 Travel and Expense Management report highlights the disconnect. Nearly half (43%) of organisations surveyed process their expenses manually. And in a world where “the new normal” is a moving target, technologic immaturity is a greater risk than any external threat. CFOs must develop strategies to support growth while managing financial complexity and keeping costs within budget.
Having helped CFOs from around the globe transform their business processes, Certify outlines five key benefits automation brings.
1. Make machines do the heavy lifting
Automation reduces costs at every step of the T&E process. User-friendly tools help to simplify everything from capturing receipts and creating reports, to ensuring compliance and timely reimbursements. They also eliminate hard costs like printing and storage, offering nearly immediate cost savings compared to a manual expense management process. These same features are part of the reason ROI from expense automation skyrockets.
Configurable workflows keep administration to a minimum. Digital routing of reports for approval based on criteria like vendor, amount, and more allows managers to review only the reports which need individual attention.
The technology also tracks all actions automatically for an air-tight audit trail for every expense report. Along with peace of mind, the improved efficiency empowers your team to work on higher-value activities.
2. Let employees focus on adding strategic value
While expense reporting is vital to monitor, it’s rarely the highlight of anyone’s day. When an employee could be focusing on work that will help achieve your organisation’s strategic goals, it’s imperative to keep processes efficient.
Aberdeen Group reports that automating expense processing increases employee productivity by 29% through the mobile report creation, digital receipt capture, and integration with other finance systems. Smart expense solutions accurately calculate VAT and mileage reclaim rates automatically that comply with HMRC guidelines.
Because the solutions are easy to use and accessible, policy compliance and report submission improves at the report level. Errors also decrease with the use of automated solutions.
The increased accuracy has compounding benefits as the data moves into accounting or ERP platforms. The lack of double-entry and associated errors provides finance with the accurate and timely data they need to be strategic.
3. Give finance data they can act on
Having instant access to expense data is necessary for your finance team to be proactive. With a manual expense process, finance lacks access to up-to-date and accurate spending data. They’re often spending more time chasing down documentation for incomplete reports instead of guiding growth.
However, an accessible, dedicated expense system that is connected with other financial software helps CFOs control corporate spending.
These same process improvements can also improve how employees perceive the finance. Faster reimbursement and automated policy control elevate the team from “Expense Police” to helpful consultants.
4. Support your CFO’s strategic vision
Finance is moving away from being financial scorekeepers to data scientists and consultants. CFOs today need to adapt to seemingly unprecedented change quickly. Without easy access to cash flow data, the CFO is limited by incomplete—and potentially inaccurate—expense information.
Automated expense solutions provide comprehensive reporting and visibility into company-wide spending. Instant accessibility empowers CFOs to quickly measure expenditure and observe trends as they relate to achieving organisational objectives.
Managers and administrators can also benefit from data accessibility. Expense visibility allows them to identify spending trends, nearly in real time. They can then make adjustments to spending culture for individuals and even entire departments. Or utilise the data to consolidate vendors or negotiate discounts for upfront savings.
5. Regain peace of mind
CFOs are vigilant protectors of the general ledger. Fines, penalties, and overall reputational damage have increased the CFOs focus on improving compliance and reducing risk. Audits no longer need to be conducted manually at the end of every quarter or fiscal year. Instead, finance can audit any cross-section of expense reports for potential fraud, policy compliance, and VAT reclaims with only a few clicks.
Automated solutions erase the worry caused by manual expense reporting processes. OCR technology eliminates errors and increases the speed and accuracy of expense reporting. Built-in compliance controls ensure that every expense is within policy and properly coded before routing for approval.
Additionally, every expense report is securely stored online with every piece of documentation attached. This makes it easy to identify historical trends, along with benchmarking data for approvals, exceptions, and reimbursement times. There’s no arguing on the reason why an expense is approved or denied, as every report has a complete audit trail.
Change is the only constant
Digital readiness will make or break many companies. As the world of work continues to shift, having systems in place to continue controlling costs will be a requirement, instead of a strategic advantage.
The need for flexibility is especially real for organisations during this era of instability. The benefits shared above are strong enough on their own. Yet together, they offer a comprehensive argument for automating expense management that a CFO will want to learn.
If you’d like help with building a case for automation that will get your CFO’s attention, contact Certify's team or speak to your Datel Account Manager to help you get the support you need.
You can also join our session with Datel's Tony Coombes and Certify's Paul Crawley on Thursday 7th May 2020, 10:15am: Discover a better way to manage expenses.
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