Managing Expenses – Make it Easy, Make it Work
By Andy Watson
SVP and GM, Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, SAP Concur
Date: 5th June 2020
Getting staff to properly populate their travel requests and expense claims is one of CFOs’ toughest asks. But user-oriented technology can help. CFOs will know that getting users to follow finance and administrative procedures, while it sounds simple, isn’t simple most of the time. The reason is often that those rules are convoluted, and in many cases, they are still manual and possibly paper-based.
The solution is actually, well, simple. Make those procedures user friendly, digital and intuitive to carry out, and you will have many more people on board. And with the advanced technologies available today, that is totally achievable.
My many years of experience as a finance professional and ex-CFO tells me that for many initiatives, ease-of-use is often a big determinant of whether it ultimately sees traction. In fact, if you can make the user experience easy, you can drive compliance. And for finance professionals, being compliant is a huge deal.
Enterprise technology today is highly advanced, and is capable of helping you achieve much more than you can imagine, if you know how to leverage it.
Making user experience a breeze with technology.
Manual intervention is still rife in many APAC companies’ financial processes today. The trouble with such an approach is that it is time-consuming and prone to errors and fraud.
Automation with the right technology can increase operational accuracy and speed. Besides allowing firms to be responsive to changing market dynamics, regulations and business needs, it gives accurate, timely and actionable information to the finance team.
Such capabilities allow staff to focus on more valuable and fulfilling work. Organisational decision-makers, on the other hand, can use the data to further enrich business performance and strategic actions. On the CFOs and finance managers’ end, they can establish compliant, accountable spending habits without impeding user convenience. Not putting roadblocks in users’ way drive acceptance, which in turn mean you will have an easier time meeting your compliance targets.
Specifically in the business travel and expense management arena, there is much potential to use technology – from automated destination information to mobile-supported expense reporting, itinerary management, safety tracking, and payment. Tapping into technology in these areas can reduce the risk of travel spend processes while increasing employee satisfaction and engagement.
Combining intelligent innovations – such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and chatbots – with cloud and mobile technologies enables the finance organisation to achieve four fundamental capabilities for compliant and efficient travel spend:
- Automate end-to-end finance processes by increasing efficiency and reducing costs;
- Detect and prevent non-compliant activities by processing and analysing big data to pinpoint unusual spending patterns;
- Predict future spend scenarios accurately by deriving knowledge from historical information; and
- Provide context-sensitive, proactive support by boosting the productivity of the finance organization with digital assistants
Already, with AI-enhanced tools, expense reports are far less burdensome than they were even five years ago. Employees can now scan and upload receipts with their phones, and have their travel information pulled into reports from booking sites, corporate cards and email messages. Managers can review reports by mobile device, then approve them with one button click.
As machine learning advances, expense management systems will evolve at an even faster pace, transforming the way business is done. It won’t be long before machine learning algorithms can draw from myriad external data sources to quickly fill in missing details such as vendor location and expense type, writing the entries expense report itself. Smart watch add-ons that send expenses to reports via verbal command; as well as smartphone apps that pull mileage from a car’s odometer into an expense report, aren’t far away either.
With today’s advanced technologies, there’s no reason for business travellers to become unplugged from the finance organisation. Ensuring that traveller needs are met with accountability and compliance while minimising their hassle and providing transparency is now entirely possible.