The business benefits of digital expense reporting

How do you control company costs when you have so little accurate information about them? This has been one of the main barriers preventing businesses from properly managing employee expenses. With outdated systems and paper-based processes unable to provide accurate data, companies have found themselves dangerously vulnerable to inefficiency, compliance breaches and workplace fraud. It’s why digital reporting tools have become such a vital component of any effective expense management system, giving finance teams powerful new ways to manage and manipulate expense data. This guide shows you how.

The hidden challenge of expense fraud

How can you manage something that you can’t see? This has been one of the fundamental challenges that businesses have faced when it comes to keeping control of employee expenses.

It’s a problem that has been caused by the paper-based and manual ways traditionally used to manage the reimbursement of travel and entertainment costs. It makes collating any kind of expense information a slow and error-prone task. It means organizations are only able to access the most basic data. The lack of visibility creates a murky area of company finances where errors, inefficiency and fraud are able to remain undetected.

It’s estimated that a business typically loses 5% of its annual revenue to workplace fraud – that equates to global losses of $2.9 trillion each year. This is a problem that we now have the ability to tackle.

A better way to manage expenses and reimbursements

The emergence of digital systems and automated processes have revolutionized the way finance teams are able to monitor these costs. A digital setup generates real-time data on every aspect of employee reimbursements.

It means the challenge is no longer about collecting information – it’s managing it. This is why reporting tools are becoming such an integral part of any effective expense management setup. A system such as Webexpenses allows tasks that would normally take hours to manually collate, to be created in seconds. The benefits go beyond speed and efficiency; effective reporting provides the kind of 360-degree vision of costs that has not previously been possible. It shines a light on those areas of company finances that, for too long, have existed in the shadows. The purpose of this guide is to look at how digital expense reporting works and practical ways it can deliver business benefits to your company.

How expense software works

What has made information so tricky to handle with manual expense systems is fragmentation. The use of paperwork and Excel spreadsheets leaves organizations with no central synchronisation or control of information.

The need to keep manually transferring expense details between storage points leads to data entry errors, the duplication of datasets and ongoing confusion over which documents have been validated.

A digital system removes these inefficiencies by automating the whole process. From the moment a claim is made, the system begins storing data on each step of the process. The information keeps track of includes:

  • What’s being claimed – category, currency
  • Who’s claiming – name, position etc
  • When and where the claim is made; cost centre ID/code
  • Digital copy of supporting docs; receipts/bills etc.
  • Details of who checks/approves/rejects and when

The reporting tools provide a simple and user-friendly way to collate and manipulate this data, providing advanced level functionality. It allows the system to handle most reporting tasks without the need to export any data into external packages.

The features provided by the Webexpenses reporting suite include:

Templates
Users are provided with an extensive library of preconfigured templates from which to choose. The templates cover all of the most common reporting tasks that a business is likely to require. The options include:

  • Expense claims and expense reports
  • General ledger
  • Detailed ledger
  • Benefits
  • Receipts status
  • Tax rate
  • Mileage rate

With the setup already done, it allows reports to be collated within a matter of seconds. All of the data is easily changed to create different groupings, to change the order of any columns/rows or to add/remove datasets.

Custom templates
If there isn’t a template to meet a specific need – you can easily create one for yourself. Just about every aspect of reporting can be configured, allowing access to any combination of the wide range of available datasets.

Existing templates can also be adapted with customization options including the exact terminology and naming conventions used in each report. Once a template has been created, it’s able to be saved and made accessible to everyone within the finance team.

Duplication analysis
With all of the information centrally controlled and synchronized, the system allows you to check to make sure any claims are not duplicated elsewhere. When it finds two data sets which appear similar, it gives the option of whether to keep them separate or merge them together. It’s a quick and easy way to guard against the errors and confusions that can be caused by undetected duplicates.

Integrated systems
While the reporting tools can handle most tasks, the system is also designed to allow any information collected to be seamlessly shared with external packages. Any of the reports collated inside Webexpenses can be exported as a PDF document or saved in Excel or CSV formats. This allows the information to be shared with any external accountancy or spreadsheet package – allowing visual displays of data to be easily created.

Real-time visibility
The cloud storage of data allows any updates or additions made to expense information to be instantly accessed via the reporting suite. With manual systems and long processing times, data is typically weeks or even months out-of-date.

The ability to access real-time information gives finance managers the ability to identify and address issues early before they’re allowed to turn into resource sapping problems.

The best of benefits expense reporting

The ability to easily access and manage information is something that’s become essential in today’s digital business environment. Companies who harness the benefits of digital data give themselves a competitive advantage over those who remain in the dark.

Here’s a look at some of the practical benefits that can be achieved through effective expense reporting:

Policing
Employee expenses have historically posed such a fraud risk because of the difficulties in properly monitoring costs. The time and resources required to collate information with paper-based systems have created a dangerously unmonitored area of company finances.

With digital systems and reporting tools, finance teams now have the ability to shine a light on all expense areas. They are able to dig into activities at any level, from departments to individuals. It allows suspicious patterns to be identified and fraudulent actions to be rooted out. In doing so, it removes the smokescreen behind which fraud has been allowed to grow.

Compliance
Providing fast and accurate information on employee expenses is essential when dealing with the tax authorities. There’s nothing more likely to trigger suspicion than late or incomplete submissions.

With effective reporting tools, all of the information a finance team needs is instantly available with a data trail to prove that all proper compliance procedures have been followed. It helps to guard against the risks posed by triggering a tax audit or investigation as well as providing the tools needed to best cope with either of those circumstances.

Analytics
The ability to track performance and efficiency within a company is something that used to be prohibitively difficult for all but the biggest of organizations. Digital systems help to level this playing field and provide businesses of all scales with the ability to benefit from analytics.

This allows the data collected to monitor performance, identify weakness and set quantifiable targets. It can highlight areas of an organization with the highest spend and reveal patterns suggestive of fraudulent activities.

Better expense management, better business

With effective use, digital expense reporting can transform the way an organization is able to manage and monitor employee spending costs. It provides finance professionals with the ability to view the precise mechanics of an expense set-up in ways that just aren’t possible with a paper-based system.

It provides a powerful ally in the fight against workplace fraud and helps to protect companies from the risks posed by non-compliance. It also shows the way forward a better way to manage with digital data providing the visibility required to guide growth.

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