Is your business wasting money and leaving itself vulnerable to fraud because of the way expenses are being processed? Director spoke to SAP Concur to discuss the extent of the problem – and the benefits of a tech-led solution
Businesses are wasting time and money by failing to use automated admin systems that would help them manage their expenditure. That’s according to research from AMI-Partners, which also reveals that firms using manual processes have less information readily at hand and a higher risk of fraud than those that have adopted technological solutions.
About half of the SMEs responding to its study admitted that the manual entry of data relating to invoices, travel and expenses increased the likelihood of fraud and/or “unqualified spending” by staff.
Director recently explored this topic in a webinar held in association with SAP Concur, a leading provider of expense, travel and invoice management services. Joining us to share her expertise, Cassie Petrie, a senior director at the firm, set out the risks of the old approach and the case for adopting an automated system.
“Ultimately, it boils down to the most effective use of your resources,” she said. “Manual processes mean that teams have less time for more strategic work; less visibility in order to make informed decisions or come up with best practices; and unnecessary costs due to fraud, duplicate payments, late payments etc.”
Petrie pointed out that the average accounting and finance team spends 14 per cent of its time processing invoices, which equates to more than five hours per employee a week. If you add in the task of processing expenses, including the time it takes to check that each claim meets the company’s rules, then the hours ratchet up.
And that’s before taking into account the end users – the people logging their expenses, travel and invoices. With no way of processing the data on the road, they have to keep track of expenditure and deliver the numbers by post or in person. It can mean a long wait for reimbursement, which can in turn harm their morale.
Another big problem with manual systems is that they don’t offer their users much visibility of expenditure. This not only slows companies down, but also has a detrimental effect on decision-making, according to Petrie, who said: “When spend management is disconnected, many businesses struggle to see the bigger picture [that would have enabled them] to make better decisions and mitigate risk.”
She added that companies with a real-time view of cash flows are better equipped than those without such instant insights to avoid some of the perils of uncontrolled spending.
“The greatest risks are the intangible ones that affect your ability to see all areas of spend within your business to make smart decisions,” Petrie said. “The number-one reason why SMEs go out of business is cash flow problems.
If we asked our customers: ‘When would you like to know money is being spent?’ I’m pretty sure most would say ‘before it’s spent’ or, where that is not appropriate, ‘the moment it’s spent’. It’s about making good decisions from day to day so that, when you have a big decision, you can make that call.”
Q&A: Cassie Petrie (pictured) answered questions from the audience on upgrading to automated processing
Does automation create problems for suppliers that don’t use the same software as your firm – or, indeed, any software?
“Not at all. Invoices that are submitted are read electronically, checked and uploaded to Concur Invoice, regardless of their source. Similarly, paper invoices are sent to our processing centre, where they’re scanned, entered, checked and uploaded to the system.”
What are the advantages (if any) of continuing with manual processing? Surely there must be some benefits – otherwise, more firms would have switched by now.
“It appears on the balance sheet as a lower cost, but experience and research inform us that the investment in automated solutions reaps larger financial rewards. The benefits take the form of employee productivity, time saved and better spent on strategic planning and growth, money saved in optimal payment runs, reduced late payment fees and so on.”
Will an automated system for travel and expenses create more of a burden for employees submitting claims?
“Absolutely not. With receipt capture, employees will be able to capture the expense using their mobile camera, then create and submit claims on the go. Similarly, managers can approve them from their mobile devices.”
Can you provide any quantitative evidence of the savings made by organisations that have adopted an automated system?
“A report by IDC entitled The Business Value of Concur Invoice calculated the five-year return on investment as 505 per cent. It showed that clients were getting their money back within five months on average.
Meanwhile, the AMI-Partners report The Value of Automated Travel, Expense and Invoice Management revealed that SMEs using SAP Concur’s travel and expense solutions were achieving greater-than-average cost savings of £31,000 a year. Those using SAP Concur Invoice indicated that they were saving more than £33,000 annually.”
For more information about SAP Concur, visit concur.co.uk
Download a recording of the webinar here.