How to break the Expense Reporting voodoo

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    How to break the Expense Reporting voodoo

    At many business enterprises, Travel expense reporting system is a religion unto itself, especially if they boast of a fairly well-staffed sales and marketing organization. There are strict do’s and don’ts and one is expected to use a myriad formats and processes to reach Nirvana. As with religion, there are rewards only for the faithful and the system is fiercely guarded by enthusiastic zealots (the establishment, if you will). It doesn’t matter if you have just signed a jumbo sales deal, you’d better use “that” Form, index your receipts and clip them correctly, if you don’t want to lose money or some hair on your pate, or both.

    Yes, Expense reports are a great leveler.

    It doesn’t matter if you occupy the corner suite or you’re the one whom people nod at, when slipping by to the rest room. You just follow the system and hope it works quick enough for your liking. In hard core sales organizations like the one yours truly started his career at, a full working day was assigned to only prepare and submit expense reports (thankfully it used to be Saturdays, when we worked only until lunch). A sales person was always expected to be on the field, Monday through Friday and would be at the office every Saturday to only file visit reports & expense statements. Yeah, Expense reporting was a big deal then and probably is, even today, even though manual Forms and templates have given way to Excel spreadsheets, email and may be, ERP based online processes.

    For a typical sales executive or business traveler, it is most often a frustrating experience.

    They need to carefully preserve the receipts & invoices for expenses that are accumulated daily. This is quite a distraction especially when they are grappling with client meetings and making good their visit schedules. Many a time, receipts do get mutilated or worse, misplaced and remain untraced, leading to issues with expense reports. These good Samaritans often forego claim for such expenses and end up struggling to chin up while suffering some heartburn. A pity, as they can’t even lay claim to having contributed to the bottom line of the organization!

    Moreover, even in a supposedly online system, you get the impression that filing your Income Tax returns pales pathetically when compared to the challenges of entering expense data. There is a maze of expense heads and attendant rules or eligibility criteria that one has to carefully maneuver through, to be able to make an expense report worth his claim. It sure tests your memory and ability to think clearly, when all you wanted was to get it out of the way, post-haste.

    Workflows in Traditional Expense reporting are so slow that it would put the pace of a snail in the shade.

    First-off, executives would have to be connected online in order to access legacy computer systems and report expenses online. This greatly reduces the window available to submit expense reports while on a trip and slows down the periodicity of reporting. The need to scan Invoices and receipts again makes it imperative that access to systems and office resources are available readily, which is typically not the case. The same hurdles present themselves for the Expense report approver too and hence the process gets doubly delayed owing to queuing. In spite of having assiduously courted ERP and other online systems, many organizations continue to lean on an offline process when it comes to accepting receipts/invoices to record expenses in their legacy systems. This likely has more to do with their adopted work culture, but nevertheless, does put the brakes on reimbursements for business expenses. Sales executives thus, legitimately wonder why business systems are two-faced. On the one hand, most business workflows are automated and online (eg., order fulfilment and sales reporting), while the enablers to such key processes (travel expense reimbursements) are mired in archaic procedures and appear so dis-connected from the organizations’ progressive aspirations. Keeping the wheel of expense reimbursement turning smoothly is so key to sales executives’ performance because it impacts their ability to meet the sales plan. In the past, I have come across many instances when a sales person’s forthcoming travel plans are in jeopardy because their Expense reports of previous business trips are still hanging without a dispensation. The circuit breaker in the system automatically prevents new travel requests from being approved, effectively grounding the sales person. If this does not pique a sales executive, then what will! It is not surprising then that some of the more common disagreements between a sales person and his supervisor or manager, tend to be connected with Travel reports & Expense reports.

    The pain caused by traditional Expense reporting systems could be summarized as follows:

    • Data entry process is lengthy and non-user friendly, leading to errors and time squeeze

    • Risk of losing or mutilating expense receipts & invoices

    • Lack of real time visibility of approval status and hence delayed actions

    • Long lag in booking expenses puts constraints on Finance section in managing cash & reporting

    • Too many steps involved that lengthen the process – scan, email, photocopy, courier

    • Affects morale as all stakeholders are forced to run with a non-optimized process

    With neither travelers nor Finance section finding much solace in such systems, it is only natural that companies address their concerns in more imaginative ways. It really calls for company managements to consumerize business IT solutions rather than just duplicate existing processes with an online version.

    Mobile apps provide a very smart option to positively transform Expense reporting in businesses.

    As smartphone usage and network infrastructure continue to improve by leaps and bounds, more and more companies are leveraging this ecosystem to bring about sweeping benefits to business processes. Expense reporting by its very nature needs to support executives on the move and what better way to facilitate that, than with a mobile app. User-friendly UI screens with intuitive navigation, offer the perfect setting for a field executive to whip out his phone and tap a few keys to enter his lunch expense, just as the restaurant waiter presents the check to him at the table! He could even trash the receipt or simply ignore it as it’s picture was clicked by his phone’s camera and a single tap had ensured that it was well on its way, as attachment, with the expense report. The Approver who is also traveling, is notified on his phone immediately and doesn’t waste any time to take appropriate action. All along, both the traveler and Finance section representative, can keep a tab on the status of the Expense report. This truly is a welcome tool for Finance to be able to plan and manage cash and greatly aids timely submission of financial reports.

    An Expense reporting mobile app surely makes life easy for all stakeholders:

    • It allows instant submission of reports and frees up their time for more productive work

    • Reduces back and forth communication and attendant issues

    • Ensures transparency in the process and improves morale of employees

    • Shortens processing time and cuts down documentation needs

    • Timely reporting, Faster reimbursements, Nimble MIS…win-win for all

    If this sounds interesting, you may want to check out ezxpense, an Expense Reporting app from KNS Technologies. KNS technologies is a fast growing IT consulting company that specializes, in Business process automation, CRM, Marketing automation, Data integration & Analytics. You may reach us at and our consultant will be very happy to help you.

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