Expense Management refers to the system and/or systems deployed by a business to process, pay, and audit employee-initiated expenses. These costs include, but are not limited to, expenses incurred for travel and entertainment. Expense management includes the policies and procedures which govern such spending, as well as the technologies and services utilized to process and analyze the data associated with it.
Software to manage the expense claim, authorization, audit and repayment processes can be obtained from organizations that provide a licensed software, implementation and support service, or alternatively, from Software as a service (SAAS) providers. SAAS providers offer on-demand Web-based applications managed by a third party to improve the productivity of expense management.
Expense management automation has two equally important aspects – the process an employee follows in order to complete an expense claim (for example logging a hotel receipt or submitting mobile phone records) and the activity accounts or finance staff undertake to process the claim within the finance system.
Typically, a manual process will involve an employee completing a paper- or spreadsheet-based expense claim which they then forward, along with the relevant tax invoices (receipts), to their manager for approval. Once the manager has approved the claim, they forward it on to the accounts department for processing. The accounts staff then key each expense item into the company’s finance system before filing the claim and receipts away.
Expense Management automation is the means by which an organization can significantly reduce transaction costs and improve management control when logging, calculating and processing corporate expenses. Independent research evaluating the use of automated expense management systems has confirmed that the cost of processing an expense claim is reduced as the level of automation increases.
As found in an Aberdeen study on expense management automation, there are three main factors that drive an organization to automate their expense management processes:
- Compliance focus: The need to reduce the current risk levels posed by non-compliance with internal policies and external tax/government regulations
- Cost reduction: The competitive pressure to reduce processing and auditing costs associated with expense reports
- Employee productivity: The organizational pressure to improve employee productivity and satisfaction
An automated solution typically provides the ability to code, approve and report on expenses. This will not only decrease the cost of processing expense claims, but can also enable an organization to have greater management control, bring transparency to expense spend and improve adherence to corporate policy.