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How to Choose and Implement an Expense Management System

Take control of your business expenses

The way we’re able to manage our employee expenses has been transformed. Organizations are no longer reliant on the old paper-based expense management processes: slow, costly and inefficient. We now have a new generation of digital tools which allow our finance teams to easily process, manage, and control employee expenses. By moving to an EMS, organizations are able to significantly reduce costs, improve efficiency, and enhance compliance. An effective system can save you up to 30% in T&E processing costs. It’s for these reasons that organizations are increasingly making the switch from their old ways of handling expenses and over to an EMS. But making this move isn’t always easy.

Mastering the digital expense maze

The real-world benefits experienced when moving to a digital system often find themselves weighed up against the perceived uncertainty and risk of making the change.It’s not helped by the fact that searching for details on expenses management systems can often lead you into a bewildering maze of technical jargon and marketing blurb. So the purpose of this guide is to tackle this challenge – to give you a simple and no-nonsense guide on how to make that move. We will focus on two key areas:

  • Choosing the right system
  • Implementing the system
  • Follow the link for a detailed, no nonsense guide to how expense management software works.

    Part 1: Choosing an expense management solution

    The main challenge we face when looking for the right EMS solution is the fact that each and every business is different. Companies have different structures, scales, and set-ups which create a specific set of expenses management requirements. The first step when choosing a system is, therefore, to identify what the exact operational requirements of your organization are.

    How do you manage your expenses and which features are best suited to meeting your needs?

    Here’s a checklist to help focus on those areas of your organization which impact most on the way you will want to use an EMS service.

    Requirements checklist

  • How many claimants and approvers do you have?
  • Is everyone based in one office or in multiple sites in one country?
  • Do you require multi-entity capability to integrate with oversea offices?
  • Do you reimburse in different currencies around the world?
  • Do you want to integrate with existing accounting or ERP software?
  • Are users going to carry out expense report activity from an office?
  • Do users need to interact with the system on the move?
  • Do you have offices using petty cash systems?
  • Do you recharge expense items to clients or projects?
  • Does your business use corporate credit cards?
  • What Management Information reporting do you require?
  • What are your storage and security needs?
  • Features checklist

    There are a number of expenses management systems in the marketplace. Most systems will offer a similar set of core features to help process, manage and control employee expenses.

    The most popular features include:

  • Input expenses through a smartphone app
  • Record journey route and mileage via app
  • Manage and monitor expenses via app
  • Manage expenses via credit card integration
  • Input expenses in multiple locations and currencies
  • Customizable compliance alerts and checks
  • Pre-trip approval, to avoid out-of-policy expenses
  • Attach digital receipts to expenses reports
  • Track your carbon footprint
  • API for easy integration
  • Real-time reporting on company spend
  • Duplication checking
  • By cross referencing your organization’s requirements against the features on offer, you can get a good feel for which system is best aligned to your needs. While this can help guide your decision process, it’s wise not to make it the deciding factor.The advantages offered by any specific features needs to be weighed against the software’s general robustness, usability and ease of use. Extra features are of limited value unless an EMS can be relied on for the basic tasks of managing and processing expenses.

    Hands-on experience

    An effective expenses management system is a business tool which will be used on a day-to-day basis throughout your organization. It’s vital, therefore, to get as much first-hand experience as possible prior to making any commitment. The best way of doing this is with a ‘test run’ – most providers will allow you to use the software for a trial period. Demonstrations can also be arranged to see the software being used in a live situation.

    Customer support and training

    Customer support will help implement your system and look after you and your employees should any issues arise; or should you want to add new users or features. Contact customer support before you start with any pre-sales questions to see what responses you get and how quickly the support team responds. Can your users call the supplier directly or will your finance team need to manage these inquiries? Take a look into any case studies and ask to speak to existing customers at referral sites.

    You know your users better than any supplier; what method of training would work for your organization? Typically the options available are face-to-face training, train the trainer, online webinars, training videos, user guides, support sites, and forums.Make sure your supplier knows what training is required and find out what support and backup material they can provide to best meet your needs.

    New developments

    Technology is a fast-changing world with new formats and features constantly appearing. It’s important, therefore, to make sure your provider has a clear development roadmap and is enhancing and updating the product you will be using. A good provider will make sure you don’t get left behind.

    Mobile working

    To maximize the benefits of technology, a supplier needs to provide effective ways for employees to manage their expenses via handheld devices. A smartphone app allows users to instantly convert paper receipts into a digital form, fundamentally changing the way an organization is able to handle costs.

    Carbon Footprint

    An important feature provided by some suppliers is real-time carbon tracking, this allows users to input claims and see their carbon footprint from each journey. This creates awareness and delivers data to measure and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. With carbon reduction milestones looming, why pay more tax than you have to?

    Compliance tools

    The ability to effectively monitor and manage employee compliance is a powerful feature offered by some EMS software. Systems can be configured to provide employees with point of entry reminders to prompt them to confirm required compliance procedures.

    Flexible advantage

    Business agility is an important attribute for businesses looking to adapt and respond to rapidly changing market conditions. It is important that the systems that support our
    businesses are flexible. Your expenses system needs to be able to accommodate your changing business needs. Importantly, your supplier will need to be able and willing to support changes to the system. Find out if there are any costs associated with this.


    As you work through these points and decide on the features that are important to your organization, you should be able to develop some selection criteria against which you can evaluate the potential of product and service offerings in the marketplace.

    Part 2: Implementing an expense management system

    Now you’ve got a grip on the selection criteria, there are a number of elements that you need to be aware of when planning the implementation of an expenses management system. Some of them are related to the pure mechanics of integration – the system setup processes that need to be carried out by the supplier.

    However, successful implementation is not just a matter of process and mechanics. There are other, somewhat less tangible, elements that may be termed cultural. Taken together, these factors will help you gain a realistic appreciation of the time, effort and change required to complete implementation successfully.

    Data setup

    Getting an expenses management system up and running should be a pain free process. It is imperative choose a supplier who can provide the kind of support that closely matches your needs. Many service providers request system setup data from the customer in a spreadsheet format. You will need to provide user details, ledger codes, mileage rates and so forth. This is then used to create a new configuration within the system in accordance with your business requirements.

    Support network

    Once the initial setup is completed, you need to make sure that you have the expertise and knowledge available to maintain its effective use. Company administrators receive full training in all functions and in system maintenance and modification. Users should be provided with appropriate training and User Guides.

    Pilot group

    A great way to test the system and identify any issues before a company wide roll out is
    to pilot the system. By trialling it with a small group of employees, you can get invaluable feedback – technical issues and training requirements.It also provides a group of employees who can act as system ‘champions’. Their experiences can help in the training and support colleagues and to help allay any concerns.

    Roll out

    Once setup is complete, a date can be set for the system to ‘go live’. User details are added to the system, they receive a user login and password by email and are fully briefed on how to use the software. Quite often systems will have features and settings that can be switched on and off. Over time you might want to start to increase the feature set users have access to, but for the initial roll out it’s often best to keep these switched off until the core processes are firmly embedded.

    With your expense software in place, what’s next?

    There are some cultural aspects that should be considered. It’s important that the system is not seen as ‘forced’ on users and that it becomes a wedge between finance and claimants.

    Remember the system is just the tool, it’s only when people use it that the business benefits are realized so it is important to gain ‘buy in.’

    Revise and update policy

    To support the introduction of your expenses management system, it’s advised that you also update and refresh your Expenses Policy. Rules and guides designed for a paper-based system are unlikely to be getting the best out of a new digital system. With a revised policy in place, all claimants and administrators clearly understand the limits of allowable expenses and the processes involved in making a claim. Sometimes this step can be overlooked, reviewing what employees can and can’t claim can often form the largest proportion of the project.

    Resistance to change

    We are all in some way resistant to change. The introduction of an EMS, new working processes and a refreshed Expenses Policy are likely to invite some criticism initially. It may be useful to appoint one of the finance team as a system champion, or ‘go to’ person that is the first port of call for every query.

    The champion’s role

    Part of this role should include advocacy for the benefits, reinforcing that this change will make everyone’s life easier, and investing a little time to begin with will pay dividends very soon.

    Behavior modification and acceptance

    Those employees who have been able to exploit the weaknesses of a paper-based system will find no hiding place with an effective digital system. Over time, as the system beds in and users experience the benefits of cultural change, behavior modification will lead to acceptance and cultural issues will effectively fade from prominence. An expenses management system’s purpose is to provide a fair and simple way to manage expenses.

    About webexpenses

    From day one, webexpenses has only had one objective – to make expenses something you effortlessly control; not a costly drudge your organization battles against. It’s an approach which has fuelled webexpenses’ growth over the past decade; it’s now the tried and tested solution for hundreds of clients throughout the world, from small organizations to large multinational corporations.

    By giving organizations the tools they need to control expenditures, webexpenses clients are able to increase efficiency, stabilize T&E spending and reduce operational costs; providing a speedy return on investment. The foundation of webexpenses’ success is our powerful and robust software. But at the heart of the company lies a commitment to exceed expectations – to go that bit further to ensure our clients’ needs are met.

    Each and every one of our clients, no matter how large or small the organization, is given the same level of personal service from our client support team. This commitment has allowed webexpenses to record some of the industry’s highest ratings for customer support and a 97% client retention rate over the past five years.

    For more information, custom quote, or to book a demo, contact us today. To download the PDF of this white paper, fill out the form below.

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