5 ways automated expenses save time for finance teams

In Process Improvement by Webexpenses

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How much time does your organisation spend managing and processing employee expenses? If you’re using a manual approach, it’s a low-level task that’s likely to be eating up your time and resources.

A 2019 global survey by Webexpenses found that around a quarter (26%) of employees’ time is typically wasted on outdated work processes and unnecessary admin tasks.

With a manual process, it takes claimants an average of 26 minutes to build an expenses claim – and that’s not including all the subsequent admin – approvals, processing and reimbursement.

Automating an expense process tackles this wastage of time by removing the reliance on spreadsheets, paperwork and manual admin methods. This guide looks at five key ways that an automated approach helps to save time  with a focus on:

  • Mobile apps
  • Mileage tracking
  • Automated compliance
  • Petty cash management
  • Credit card receipt matching

What is expense management automation?

Expense automation refers to the use of software to automate the submission and approval of expense reports. Systems typically use a cloud-based approach with automation removing the need for many of the manual handling data tasks.

With the move to expense automation smartphone apps have become increasingly popular. They allow the user to photograph receipts, the app then digitally scans and stores all the information and populates this into the claim.

Once a claim is submitted the whole process is automated sending the user’s claim through to the approver, there’s no need for data to be keyed in or copied and pasted, this also removes the need for any spreadsheets or chasing claims to find out where they are in the process. Giving admins and users full visibility over the whole process.

This removes menial admin tasks and allows finance teams to focus on improving performance and ensuring compliance. An effective solution will also provide full Sage integration to deliver a streamlined process from submission to reimbursement.

Five ways automation saves time

Automating your approach to expenses can save time and increase efficiency, whilst removing the need for paperwork and spreadsheets. But the benefits go beyond these simple efficiencies. Here are five other key areas:

  1. Smartphone apps

The benefits of automation start from the moment a claim is made. A smartphone app connected to the base software allows an employee to capture the details from a paper receipt in seconds.

Smart OCR (optical character recognition) tech is used to scan an image and pull out all of the data needed to build a claim. It’s a simple process that removes the traditional slog of claims being made on a weekly or monthly basis.

  1. Mileage tracking

Business travel claims have always been one of the trickiest areas of expense management. With costs based on estimates, it creates a contentious area with finance teams having to judge if claims are accurate and legitimate.

An automated process removes the need for any estimates with a smartphone app used to provide precise routes and waypoints. Off-sets can be created for each employee to ensure that only ‘business-related’ travel is being reimbursed.

  1. Automated policy tracking

With an automated approach, any of your expense policies or limits can be integrated into the system. If a claim breaches any of these limits, the report is automatically flagged.

This can be used to block an out-of-policy claim or to provide the claimant with an on-screen notification or advisory. It acts as a powerful policing tool for finance teams, reducing processing times and putting the focus on suspicious claims.

  1. Petty cash management

Trying to untangle the mess caused by petty cash systems and office floats is a time-consuming slog for finance teams. An automated approach removes the need for piles of paper receipts and IOU notes.

Admins receive real-time updates whenever claims are made with all of the same checks and balances being applied as a regular expense claim. It allows multiple petty cash systems to be monitored across an organisation.

  1. Credit card receipt matching

This is a tool that significantly speeds up the reconciliation process. It works by using AI learning to automatically pair submitted expense details with corresponding credit card items.

It provides a fast and simple process for claimants and reduces admin times for finance professionals who no longer have to manually sift through bank data records to find matches.

How much time can automation save?

The cumulative effect of small efficiencies throughout the process delivers some significant time savings for both claimants and administrators. These benefits increase as an organisation grows and the number of expense reports being generated rises.

Estimates based on the case studies of organisations who have switched from manual systems to the automated solution of Webexpenses find average savings to be around 3hrs per claim, with a general 50% reduction in admin times.

A spokesperson for leading UK pet care specialist, Pets at Home, said: “We have effectively cut the time in half it takes to approve and process claims, freeing up colleagues and payroll time to better serve our customers and the business.”

Savings are experienced throughout the process with particular benefits for finance teams when it comes to reporting and auditing tasks. Instant access to accurate data means that reports that would normally take hours to compile manually can be created in seconds.

What is Webexpenses?

Webexpenses is a cloud-based software solution that automates the management, monitoring and processing of business expenses. You can find an overview of how it works and information on how Webexpenses integrates with Sage.