The disruption caused by COVID-19 has made businesses review every aspect of their operations.
A global study by PwC found 78% of CEOs predicting the pandemic will lead to a permanent shift towards remote working within their company. With this ‘new normal’, anyways of working designed around the traditional office-based approach face change.
Expense management is a prime example of this.
It’s one of the few remaining areas of business administration where manual and paper-based processes are still commonly found. With lockdown, finance teams were unable to access the offices where expense claims and receipts were sent and stored.
The businesses best placed to manage the admin disruption were those that have already completed the digital transformation, using automated services and remote-friendly management tools.
User data from Webexpenses, a cloud-based expense management solution, shows how digital connectivity helped businesses to successfully ‘weather the storm’ and keep financial processes flowing throughout the pandemic.
The story of 2020
Many businesses halted or reduced activities as they had to quickly switch over to a remote workforce. But by September, as businesses started to get back up and running, so did their expense processes with a 145% increase in claims.
Businesses are now looking forward to continued and ongoing growth, the general trend in expense data from the summer months has shown a steady return to normal business administration, with minimal performance loss.
The challenges of the past year have highlighted the benefits of flexible and remote-friendly tools such as expense management. Let’s take a look at the five lessons learnt:
Managing expenses across a hybrid workforce
Workers have faced a stressful period of disruption. But with cloud-based administration, one worry they shouldn’t have is reimbursement of any business costs they incur.
Having a simple and effective expense process has been particularly important to support employees through the transition to remote working. This has included covering those additional costs incurred for home office equipment and bills.
As restrictions are lifted, businesses will have to adapt to ‘hybrid’ ways of working. While some employees will return to an office and others remain at home, there will also be many combining the two.
Digital expense management allows businesses to adapt to the ‘new normals’. A fully paperless process removes any reliance on having a physical office because all the expense data is accessible online.
Gaining efficiency through automation
Whilst businesses fight to survive they cannot afford to have employees wasting time on manual process and administrative tasks. If a business has an inefficient workforce, they will not achieve their goals.
Digital expense management automates the entire process from claim through to approval and reimbursement. With cutting-edge AI technology, expense claims are automatically created from reading receipt information, reducing the time it takes to build each claim. Mileage claims are instantly calculated from an integrated map to ensure exact journey accuracy and remove the opportunity for mileage fraud.
With technology doing the hard work, teams are freed up from needless manual processes and can focus on doing their job.
Revising existing expense policies
Expense policies need to be reviewed and refreshed to ensure they reflect the post-COVID-19 working environment. They should provide clear guidance for office, home and hybrid working.
This includes making sure that a policy covers new categories of employee expenses such as those relating to home offices equipment and bills. With cloud-management, these changes can be easily implemented with automated checks to ensure compliance.
It makes accurate tracking of expense claims essential. To determine if an expense is legitimate, finance teams need real-time data showing exactly where and when the cost was incurred.
With a cloud-based approach, it makes no difference where a finance professional is located – whether it’s working from home, office or both. Real-time data and integrated reporting tools mean finance teams have everything they need to efficiently monitor and process claims while maintaining tight control of costs.
Finding effective ways to track performance is particularly important during turbulent times. Having access to accurate data allows you to quickly identify any issues and adapt processes before they become costly problems.
A good expense management solution will provide integrated reporting tools that can be used to identify and track expense related KPIs. With data managed in real-time, these tools are equally effective when used on a regional, national or global scale.
Integrating expense management
An effective expense management solution needs to be a seamless part of a data wider management ‘ecosystem’. Achieving this means reviewing the tools, software and services to make sure they can ‘talk’ to each other.
It’s to achieve this connectivity and control that many businesses use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) services. These systems help to connect data activities across a business, bringing together accountancy, procurement and customer relationship management.
How Webexpenses integrates with NetSuite
For NetSuite users, Webexpenses offers a simple way to automate the entire expenses process – from OCR receipt scanning to claim building and approvals. All of the expense data can be shared with NetSuite in a single click for a fast and seamless payment process. See the related demo in the NoBlue’s Webinar Series.
Find out more about expense management with Webexpenses click here.
Data from: Webexpenses and PWC.