The beginning of the new financial year is the perfect time SMEs to review and simplify expense management processes. With the increase in a distributed workforce being accelerated even further by COVID-19, employees who once were tied to an office will likely be working remotely in the new financial year, which means tracking and automating expense management has never been so important. By simplifying processes, SMEs can set up new and easy-to-use management systems and processes for the year ahead, and save time when it comes to the busy end-of-period reviews.
Tracking expenses is a crucial part of any small business’s financial and administration governance; however, if done manually, these tasks can take time away from value-adding activities, tying up staff members with repetitive work. Completing these tasks manually is also error-prone.
Our Finance in the New Way of Work study found that 32 per cent of Australian businesses and 47 per cent of New Zealand businesses still use manual processes to submit expenses. The same study found that almost 50 per cent of ANZ employees want to reduce time spent on the expense process, with employees spending between 3.4 hours and 4.3 hours per month filing expenses. On top of filing their own expenses, managers or business leaders take up to 6.9 additional hours per month to review and approve expenses.
Simplifying and automating the expense management process can save employees a lot of time, helping them remain productive and focus on customer service, innovation, and business growth. For business leaders, automation provides real-time visibility to help increase their organisation’s resilience during turbulent times.
There are three ways SMEs can simplify expense management processes:
- Review current processes. Reviewing current processes is essential to understanding what is happening, and why processes may or may not be working. This lets SMEs identify bottlenecks and other inefficiencies in the expense management processes. With this clarity, businesses can look for a solution that addresses the problem specifically.
- Eliminate complications and redundancies. Sometimes businesses over-complicate processes in the mistaken belief that additional steps are required to maintain governance and control. However, it’s usually possible to eliminate these additional steps. For example, it could mean filing invoices once in a backed-up system, instead of in two different (and not backed-up) places, or setting up a schedule for expense approvals, so that it is no longer an ad hoc duty. Putting clear policies in place can also reduce the amount of time spent reviewing and approving or rejecting expense claims, rather than treating every claim separately.
- Automate. Expense processes are ideal targets for automation because they’re policy-driven, repetitive, and can be error-prone. Automating all or part of the expense management process lets SMEs reduce fraud risk, increase compliance, and maximise finance employee efficiency. Automation will also reduce errors and free up staff members to work on more valuable tasks for the business rather than focusing on paperwork. The visibility that automation provides, enables SMEs to become more agile, adapting to the ever-changing market influences.
SMEs need to focus on expense management as a crucial tool to manage cashflow and maintain profit margins. Simplifying expense management processes can contribute to cost savings and efficiencies, and it can also ensure that businesses remain compliant, reduce their risk of fraud, and experience fewer errors in the accounting process. Especially in the current economic environment, SMEs must consider automating and simplifying their expense management processes.
Fabian Calle, General Manager – SMB, SAP Concur ANZ