Spreadsheet Stress

Expense report templates: There’s a better way

Does your company still use spreadsheets to track, manage, and report employee expenses?

A recent global study found that more than a third (38%) of businesses currently use manual and paper-based administrative processes.

This manual, template or spreadsheet-based process remains a common method that’s used by finance teams across the globe to handle the out-of-office costs caused by business travel. With this method, claimants and finance teams are required to follow a series of time-consuming steps. For example, attaching paper receipts to a form before a finance team enters it into a spreadsheet, which can lead to wider issues.

Problems with manual expenses and how to fix them

The fundamental problem with spreadsheet documents is that they lack digital connectivity. They are not designed to share information across different applications, and much of the data is handled manually.

For expense management, this means that the information contained within claim a form has to be transferred by hand - a slow and error-prone task. It also means there’s no simple way to share that expenses data.

This basic lack of connectivity causes a range of problems including:

Problem 1: It's a time-consuming process

A 2019 Webexpenses report showed that over a quarter (26%) of an office worker’s time is being lost to unnecessary and outdated administrative tasks. A major contributor to this is the time that’s wasted by having to manually manage expense spreadsheets.

This is a problem that increases as a business grows, and finance teams find themselves battling against a monthly flood of claims to process. It can often take weeks or even months for an approved claim to be reimbursed.

Problem 2: They're tricky to use

Setting up anything but the most basic spreadsheet requires expert knowledge. This is why many companies will use one of the many expenses template documents that can be found online.

Trying to adapt a template to the specific needs of a business is difficult and while finance professionals may be comfortable with using a spreadsheet, many employees find them awkward and unintuitive.

Problem 3: The fragmentation of data

The information that’s contained within a spreadsheet document exists as a self-contained ‘silo’. If you have two versions of the same document and one is updated - the other becomes outdated.

This becomes a major headache when expense information is being shared across a growing business with multiple versions of out-of-sync datasets. As well as general inefficiency, there is also the risk of breaching GDPR data management regulations.

A solution: How to move beyond manual expense reports

An expense management system provides the 'missing link' for solving your expense woes. It automates the entire process and removes the need for manually entering expense data. A cloud-based approach also provides finance teams with real-time visibility and management of companywide spend.

How does it work?

Employees make a claim via the system, using either an expenses app or an online form. Once submitted for approval, the expense claim information can instantly be accessed by the finance team with no need to transfer or manually input data.

The smartphone app enables users to scan paper receipts - using OCR technology - and attach then to a claim form as digital receipts. It creates a fully paperless and automated process that can handle the demands of any workforce.

What are the benefits this expense solution provide?

Removing the traditional reliance on spreadsheets completely transforms the way that expenses can be managed. Real-time data and automated processes significantly reduce processing times and the risks of human errors for:

Fast and simple process

Using a traditional approach, it typically takes claimants 20 to 30 minutes to fill out paper forms or to complete a spreadsheet. A cloud-based approach allows this to be done in a matter of minutes, as and when business costs are incurred.

It also creates a simple and streamlined process for finance professionals with a simple and intuitive user interface. It gives more time for finance teams to properly monitor and manage costs, instead of working on tedious and time-consuming manual processes.
Improved data control

An integrated solution reduces the risks posed by fragmented and outdated expense data. All of the information that’s collected is centrally managed, whether it’s based in a single office or it’s a company that spans the globe.

A real-time process allows automated policy checks to be made with alerts triggered whenever limits are breached. The system will also search for - and flag - any duplicate claim information.

Keeping track of costs

A major problem with expense spreadsheets is how difficult it is to access and manipulate information. Data is often collated by hand from several different spreadsheets and documents.

Webexpenses provides integrated reporting tools that provide easy access to all of the detailed and accurate data that’s stored within the system. A report which could take hours to collate using a traditional approach can be created in seconds.

In summary, if your business is still having to battle with the daily headaches of expense spreadsheets then there are major gains to be made from making the switch to a cloud-based approach. A system like Webexpenses delivers all the benefits of digital connectivity - fast, simple and hassle-free management.