Hitting the moving target of travel expenses, from the cloud
Managing the complexities of a mobile workforce is challenging. Ever since the first portable computers hit the market back in the early 1980s, the business traveler has provided one of the most significant needs for full oversight and management of expenses.
Until just a few years ago, staff returning to base would drop piles of paper receipts, plane tickets, and restaurant bills on the Finance Department’s in-tray for manual processing by the unlucky staff tasked with combing through the minutiae of expenses.
Ironically, with the widespread and portable nature of technology, the nature of the complexities has changed but has not been alleviated. Alongside paper records, there are now cardless payments, electronic transfers, travel agency account reckoning, and much more besides.
Thankfully, software platforms now exist that can remove much of this complexity, adding significant value besides. Mobile technology connected to cloud solutions allows travelers to have a consolidated view onto all their outgoings, plus the same platform can be used by staff up the chain for approval of incoming expenses.
This type of feature saves time, drives efficiency and lowers overheads in general. Here at Tech Wire Asia, we’re looking at three suppliers of travel, expense and invoice management platforms that can make the processes of managing a highly mobile workforce simpler, less time-consuming, and much less prone to errors.
The solutions we feature below offer significant add-ons, too. By integrating expenses into the entirety of the Finance function, travel management can be centralized, and this creates possibilities in early payment discounts through invoice payment timings, group discounts, and double (and triple) checking of invoices, expenses, POs, and goods received.
Interchangeability of data and interfacing with other systems is a crucial component of any expense, travel and invoice management solution. In today’s interconnected, digital world, no software platform can viably exist in isolation: that creates inefficient data silos, and in practical terms, the need for double and triple entry of data by staff. The travel management ecosystem must integrate fully with other systems, like NetSuite, SAP, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Sage or any enterprise resource planning platform that drives the business. Automated data interchange means that today’s travel management solutions reduce the time spent on administration, with the right data, in the proper format, ending up in the correct repositories.
By using the solutions of the type we feature below, companies of any size will find that they can better achieve data and security compliance, as information is digitized and better managed. And the self-same conglomeration of travel and expense data gives companies key insights into employee spend, patterns of expenditure and overarching information that will surface possibilities for greater efficiency drives.
From the employee’s point of view, too, travel and expenses management solutions make the laborious business of travel much more comfortable, both during and after a period on the road. A mobile, centralized point where software can gather, control and manage expenses from multiple sources reduces fatigue and stress. Instead of pockets full of paper receipts, tickets, and bills, digitized information can flow seamlessly from the traveler’s cellphone to centralized systems, where quick and accurate payments can be expedited.
While the employer will wish to reduce fraud, by the same token, employees need reassurance that invoices they need to create, and out-of-pocket expenses made will all need to be swiftly and painlessly reconciled. This is a two-way agreement, entered by both parties: the following solutions cement this relationship, and provide massive advantages to all concerned.
SAP Concur’s suite of applications helps companies and organizations of any size connect the different strands of expenses, invoices and spend & travel management to produce a single platform that saves time for administrators, Finance, and business travelers alike.
Expenses and invoices are presented and can be approved on-the-go via the SAP Concur mobile app, allowing access to the powerful, cloud-based platform from the office, or out on the road. The same platform can be used by expense and invoice approvers, ensuring a seamless and timely payment mechanism to continue, according to predefined policy – and all in a compliance-safe, secure environment.
Accounts Payable get a total solution as users deploy Concur Invoice, Concur Travel and Concur Expense, with electronically captured and processed paper invoices and receipts (using the OCR capability built into the platform) normalized into digital records from, for example, travel platforms and supply chain portals.
With automatic verification of information in invoices with goods received, and POs issued, items like orphaned expenses, mismatched invoices, and erroneous figures become a rarity. Exceptions are flagged for specific attention only when the powerful, automated processes of the Concur platform require human intervention, so every penny of spending in all forms is tracked, managed and can act as a repository from where insights can be surfaced. To read more about SAP Concur, click here.
The Australian Basware’s solutions extend right across the finance function of many businesses across the world, from automating manual processes, right through to reporting facilities. Its platform addresses the problem of inconsistencies in POs against invoices, and erroneous expense claims. Additionally, Basware offers extra facilities and value to the finance department, and therefore to the enterprise.
The company owns a proprietary AI (artificial intelligence) engine, which is deployed for all its clients, allowing streamlining of processes like invoice & PO capture, the automation of data entry between finance systems and ERP platforms, and, for expense management, approval, discrepancy and resolution processes.
The company’s expense reconciliation algorithms cope with highly complex delegated authority matrices, meaning the query and approval processes are smoother, even when complex issues are presented by staff.
AI-powered automated report generation can be configured according to time or emerging conditions, and all the platform’s improvements have been proven to lower resource-loads and, therefore, lower costs. Quantifying such gains could be considered troublesome, but what’s undeniable is that Basware’s offerings form an integral part of turning the finance department from being a net loss operation towards the positive, in internal auditing terms.
Coupa’s cloud-based financial management platform is referred to by its customers as BSM; business spend management. That’s indicative of the offering, which does indeed cover off most of the financial function of even the largest, most complex enterprise. Procurement, POs, full procure-to-pay coverage, supplier management and broader (ERP) system integration all come as part of the company’s SaaS platform.
What differentiates Coupa in the eyes of many of its users is its usability: the interface is one which does not require a whole new way of working. Looking and feeling in many aspects like an Excel sheet, the platform shouts its familiarity to anyone who’s worked in Finance for more than a few weeks!
While that sort of concern may seem trivial, it’s user-uptake that often determines whether investing departments can generate ROI on any new software deployment. Put simply, if it’s difficult to use, staff won’t use it, and therefore, any money spent on any platform (however powerful under the hood) is effectively wasted.
Coupa also leverages “community intelligence” from its network of users and is committed to providing VaaS (value as a service) – another self-penned acronym – to its clients.
*Some of the companies featured on this editorial are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia
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