Manual expense reporting blues

The challenges of manual expense reporting and management

After a business trip, it’s rare to hear any employee state they can’t wait to file their expense report. Let’s face it: Having to compile and scan receipts, manually enter and itemize expenses, and hope you assigned incurred charges to the right expense type is neither easy nor efficient. Manual expense reporting often results in keying errors, slow reimbursements, and delayed expense visibility.

Many industry experts, like Amadeus, Skift, and BCD Travel, believe traveler empowerment will be a key trend in business travel post-pandemic.1 As restrictions on business travel begin to loosen, giving your travelers the means to manage their trips themselves will be critical in alleviating some of the frustration inherent in business travel.

It’s no question that it takes a considerable amount of time to complete an expense report. If the adage that time is money is true, then the opportunity cost of manual expense reporting could significantly cost your organization. Consider the following issues with manual expense reporting:

Creates more work for everyone involved. From entering and itemizing expenses to organizing and submitting receipts, the process is slow and tedious. And if an employee travels frequently, the pain is multiplied. Not only are manual expense reports a chore for the traveler to complete, they cause additional work for those who need to process them. It takes considerable time to review expenses and cross check them with company policy. If there’s an issue or decline, often the submitter’s manager must intervene.

Diminishes spending visibility. It’s hard to provide a complete, accurate spending picture using spreadsheets. Without access to consolidated, correct, real-time data, any kind of analysis or forecasting is difficult. As a result, your organization might miss opportunities to negotiate volume discounts with key suppliers or align expense management strategies with organizational goals.

Manual expense reporting also makes it difficult to enforce your organization’s travel and expense policies. A lack of visibility into all transactions makes it hard to view spending patterns and recognize nonadherence, as well as possible fraudulent behavior.

Results in high processing costs. The expense reporting process differs from organization to organization. But one thing is certain: The cost to manually process an expense report is often significant. Add in the additional time it takes to correct an expense report with errors and the cost per report can skyrocket. To calculate what your manual expense process costs you, SAP Concur devised the following formula that looks at the total number of hours spent on expense reports processed in a year:2

     Hours multiplied by wage
     Divided by reports per year
     Equals cost per report

Increases the approval and reimbursement timeline. Manual processes, by their very nature, are often inefficient and time-consuming. Any misstep in the expense reporting process could cause significant delays with approval and reimbursement. For example, entering one item incorrectly or forgetting to attach one receipt could invalidate the entire report. The report is then returned to the submitter, fixed, and resubmitted increasing the processing time.

Likewise, a request to approve an expense report could become lost in a manager’s inbox or missed entirely if the approving manager is out of the office or on vacation, thus extending the timeline even further.

Automation takes the hassle out of expense report management, which means no more singing the blues.

Now is the time to invest in technologies to help automate expense reporting. Though it may seem costly at first, in the long run, automation is less expensive and more efficient. Not only do processing costs drop significantly, but the ability to identify and address fraudulent expense reports increases considerably.

Automation also streamlines manual processes, expediting the timeline from submission to reimbursement. It also reduces errors and improves expense policy adherence, which means you don’t have to correct and resubmit the same expense report repeatedly.

You’ll also get insights into your travel and entertainment spend that you can use to make more informed spending decisions. The ability to view accurate data in real time can help uncover trends and patterns that you can use to negotiate better cost savings with your vendors.

Finally, automation gives your employees the gift of time. Less time creating and processing expense reports means more time for value-added activities. Automation takes the hassle out of expense report management, which means no more singing the blues.


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