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The year is 2020. If you still have a manual expense process, the reality is that you’re a bad employer


Author: Adam Reynolds


As we move into a new decade, I've been reflecting on the changes we’ve seen in the expense management market. Technology has improved at such a vast pace over the last 10 years and this is really reflected in the functionality that is available within the system.

At the start of 2010, expense systems were available as Web tools providing an alternative to a manual process. As SaaS began flourishing, connection speed was still a regular objection. Digital receipts were at a very early stage and smartphone apps were merely being conceptualised for launch on the dominant provider at the time... Blackberry. This initial mobile release was a tremendous step forward, but initially started as an ancillary element to the core process.

Fast-forward to the present day and we can see how the functionality has evolved alongside the smartphone technology. We now have the capability to automatically extract information from the receipt (using OCR technology), build the claim, and manage the process entirely on a mobile. The increasingly-sophisticated technology also provides insightful data and information to analyse, and use to predict future trends.

As I looked back over the last decade, I was increasingly struck by the notion that many companies still manage the expense process manually, and it just shocks me.

It leads to the conclusion that if you do still make your employees do this manually, quite simply you are a bad employer. Here are three key reasons why:

1. The technology is available, and furthermore it’s expected

Over the last decade we’ve seen a shift in which the quality of home technology has often overtaken what we have at work. This is unacceptable.

We live in an age of using integrated home technology to deliver instantaneous results - a film, a takeaway, a photograph, how many steps we’ve taken, calories we’ve burned, controlling heating, security. The list is endless.

Bringing people into your company and asking them to manually complete their expenses, get them approved, and pass them on to the accounts team is archaic and ineffective. It is also a poor reflection on the business you run.

The alternative is to embrace the available technology and use it to reflect the forward-thinking nature of the business.

2. Employees deserve a good experience

The expense process is emotive. You’re asking someone to spend their own money on a business task. It’s your duty as a good employer to make the process as easy as possible for an employee to get their money back. No other process at work is comparable to expenses.

A system provides ease of use, speed of reconciliation, and visibility of the process. Furthermore, you can provide employees with clarity on the key question ‘when will I get my money back?’.

Any queries can be immediately rectified, you can even have an automated payment batch schedule that informs someone when they will be paid.

When you compare the experience of a manual process, it’s no wonder that poor expense management can breed resentment in a company.

3. Lost time is never found again

The inefficiency that you’re creating through a manual expense process is wholly avoidable.

Our global study from 2019 shows how much time is wasted on manual processes and pointless tasks. We also hear firsthand from our clients that there are significant time savings for claimants, approvers, and the accounts team through using technology.

At Webexpenses, our aim is for each line of the expense claim to take a user 30 seconds to build.

For finance, the automated transfer of reconciled expense reports for the accounts team means no one has to painstakingly update them line by line.

If you look at a manual process and calculate the business savings across a month or a year, you could be looking at thousands of hours being saved.

Why would you not embrace this as an employer and choose to give these hours back to the employees in your organisation?

Time for change

As business leaders we must consider a plethora of elements that will make our companies good places to work. We have to balance the likes of environment, salary, benefits, training, progress, and security. We know that people value these elements differently, and ultimately it’s a blend that’s needed.

The piece that I feel is often the most overlooked is providing the tools for your people to do their job. It’s a fundamental component of a successful organisation, and it’s completely win- win.

You will gain more productive, happier employees and they in turn will be doing a better job for the business.

As we move into 2020, be a good employer. Help your team to do their job, and not spend all their time doing their expenses!