Five reasons expense management needs to move beyond spreadsheets

Any business that uses Excel spreadsheets to manage their employee expenses could be reasonably described as having a ‘digital’ system.

But it’s now 40 years since ‘electronic’ spreadsheets first started to be used by our finance departments and, despite their age, they remain one of the most commonplace tools used to handle expense reimbursements.

A 2017 global survey, commissioned by webexpenses, involving more than 4,000 office workers found that two-thirds of businesses are still using traditional expense management methods - typically, a combination of paperwork and spreadsheets.

But it’s misleading to think of these as truly digital systems when they lack the kind of data connectivity that’s ubiquitous in today’s online world. The information within each Excel spreadsheet is effectively ‘siloed’, it’s locked within the document.

It means that data can’t be easily shared across an organization. It’s to remove this communications barrier that more companies are moving across to expense management systems such as webexpenses.

These combine cloud-based software with real-time processes to provide full data connectivity, allowing information to be seamlessly access and shared throughout any business, irrespective of size or shape.

Here’s a look at the benefits of a cloud-based approach over spreadsheets:

A faster way to work

The lack of connectivity provided by spreadsheets creates painfully slow management processes as information has to be manually transferred between documents.

A cloud-based setup removes this delay with a central finance team having instant access to all reimbursement data that’s entered into the system. Expenses that could take days or weeks to process using a traditional approach can be handled within a matter of minutes or hours.

Replaces manual tasks with automated processes

An Excel spreadsheet is essentially a static document. While macros can be used to automate basic tasks, doing so is prohibitively complex for the vast majority of users.

Automation, however, is integrated into webexpenses with spending information being generated, collated and stored without any need for manual processing. By removing repetitive and tedious data entry tasks, finance professionals can focus on properly managing and monitoring out-of-office costs.

Improves compliance and fraud protection

The ability to automate tasks allows a cloud-based system to shield a company against the risks of error and fraud in ways that aren’t possible with traditional methods.

Finance teams can set spending limits which will automatically trigger alerts whenever a limit is breached by a submitted claim. It allows issues to be instantly identified and addressed. The system can also automatically monitor for duplicate costs - a commonplace user error that’s difficult to spot when using spreadsheets.

Transforms management visibility

The lack of data connectivity when using spreadsheets makes any kind of financial reporting a slow and painstaking task as information is pulled together from a multitude of different documents.

A cloud-based system provides instant access to accurate data on every aspect of reimbursements. Webexpenses features integrated reporting tools which allows data to be easily accessed and manipulated.

It shines a light on an those areas of business costs that has often remained in the murky shadows. It allows processes to be constantly streamlined and for any issues to identified before they’re allowed to become costly problems.

Happier and less stressed employees

The traditional monthly task of having to transfer details from a bundle of crumpled receipts and into an Excel spreadsheet is one office task that most employees dread. It’s time consuming, tedious and it can take weeks before the costs they’re owed are paid back to them. A cloud-based system makes it simple.

An expenses app allows paper receipts to be scanned and converted into digital claims using ACR (Automatic Character Recognition) technology. A paper receipt can be turned into a digital claim in around 20 seconds.

So if you’re one of those companies whose ‘digital’ system still relies on spreadsheets and manual processing, it’s time to move on. Uncontrolled business costs are a legacy of outdated management methods which are no longer fit for purpose for any company in today’s competitive environment.

Webexpenses provides a smarter and safer way to manage employee expenses. Find out for yourself by requesting a free demo.