Keeping on top of employee expenses has always been a particularly demanding task faced by finance teams working within the further education sector.
This is thanks to a tricky combination of large staff numbers and complex institutional structures, with employees often working across multiple campuses and locations.
To add fuel to the fire, there are the compliance pressures for publicly-funded bodies that need to be extra vigilant with costs and to ensure that every expense is properly accounted for - no matter how small.
Traditionally, this is a task that has been handled using a paper-based approach and manual processes - forms and Excel spreadsheets are filled by hand, bundles of receipts have to be manually collected and processed.
It creates a slow and laborious process which eats into administrative time and resources. For more finance teams within further education, it’s an approach that’s no longer fit for purpose since the emergence of digital management solutions.
Making the switch
Coleg Cambria is one of the institutes to have recently made the switch over to a software system. An efficient process is important for the north Wales college as it has over 1,000 staff who are situated across six different sites.
One of the challenges they faced, alongside the inefficiencies of a paper-based approach, was the merger of a number of different colleges - each having a separate way of handling employee expenses.
Choosing Webexpenses as their expense management solution, the college is now enjoying a paperless process, providing real-time management across the campuses and reducing processing times from weeks to hours.
Kathryn Varyney, Coleg Cambria’s Payroll Officer, said:
It has freed up so much time. With us being a small payroll team with a large number of staff, two weeks of my month was being taken up with just the expenses. Now, I’m free to do other things, which is much better for us all, as a team.
Along with the efficiency improvements, there’s the increased financial visibility that a cloud-based approach delivers. Automated checks and notifications help to ensure that each and every claim is properly checked.
Boosting compliance controls
Gareth Jones, Director of Finance, said:
A key benefit for us is compliance with our expenses policy and financial regulations. We’re funded in the main by the Welsh Government, so we’re purveyors of the public purse and are accountable for how we spend that money.
A traditional paper-based approach stifles the ability to monitor expenses with so much of the focus being on administrative process. It has allowed expense management to have become notoriously susceptible to losses through errors and fraud.
By reducing the administrative burden, an automated process allows finance managers to start devoting more time to properly monitoring and managing costs with accurate real-time data to help reduce the risk of errors and fraud.
The benefits of digital management are also felt by the claimants themselves, with a fast and simple way to submit claims. A smartphone app can be used to turn any paper receipt into a digital format, allowing them to submit a claim within minutes of a cost being incurred.
For Coleg Cambria, this improved efficiency has allowed them to move to a fortnightly payment run which has significantly reduced how long it takes for an approved claim to be reimbursed.