An efficient and streamlined travel and expense management solution can do wonders for the company. Aside from reducing costs, maintaining budgets, and ensuring compliance, a simple and convenient solution can also boost employee morale. Read more
Over the years, we have observed business and travel trends shift alongside technological advancements. And the past year has shown shifts continue to accelerate as we turn towards an ever-increasing global economy. And every business is not spared, from the biggest multinational corporation down to the smallest individual online shop. Read more
The recent economic downturn, difficult credit situation, and increasing costs have all arrived together. For many companies, this has forced them to take a closer look at their internal processes as they seek ways to cut costs, improve efficiencies and increase bottom lines.
One area we are seeing a lot of interest in is Accounts Payable (AP) automation, with many companies striving to make it 100% automation.
For these companies, cutting costs associated with the AP process, automating it, making it less time consuming and providing panoramic visibility to decision makers in Finance is a no-brainer. Take the example of Zappos – restructuring their financial processes reduced their month-end closing process by 10 days. For a $1Billion company, that is huge!
So what are some of the key areas that CFOs, Controllers, AP Managers, Purchasing Managers are looking to improve their internal processes with relative ease while contributing to the organization’s overall mission to streamline costs?
Automation is the key to efficiency (and success)
Consider the inefficiencies in a non-automated, manual, paper-based process:
- An Aberdeen Group study found that it can take anywhere from 3.5 to 15 days to process a single invoice. (The industry average for 50% of companies is 11 days to process a single invoice. Yikes!). The cost of processing can range from $5 to $25 for a single invoice
- On the T&E expense report side of things, another Aberdeen report found that it can take anywhere from 3 to 22 days to reconcile and reimburse a expense report. The cost of processing an expense report manually is $35.28 versus $10.75 for companies that have an automated process
- This includes the costs associated with manual processing, shuffling paper between individuals and departments, exceptions processing, missing data/receipts, accrual delays, failed audits, duplicates, and late payment fees
On the other hand, the efficiencies gained by automating these AP processes produce results that are definitely dramatic. These include a:
- 92-96% reduction in paperwork
- Greater than 29% improvement in labor productivity
Another way to look at this comparison is even if you have dedicated data entry staff and devices to help with managing the manual process, you can typically process 1,000 documents (invoices & expense reports) a month per full-time employee (FTE). By contrast, automated and rules-based matching increases that number to 6,500-9,000 documents a month per FTE.
Conclusion: Automation not only brings significant efficiencies to the AP process, but also helps grow the business with existing staff. Basically, you can do more with less.
Control – at your fingertips
By automating as much of the AP process as possible, you get greater control and better visibility into spend. And this applies to invoices and expenses. While rules, routing, policies can be configured to unique company configurations, the biggest advantage is being able to review spend on an expense report or invoice in a timely manner. Not having to review every single transaction means there is more time to focus on important violations that require attention.
Automating the process also captures the document and additional data so that AP Managers have full visibility into the process. No more expense receipts or invoices hiding on individual desks. AP and Finance can now maintain a more real-time view of their corporate spend at any point in time, thereby providing more control.
Conclusion: Automation results in greater, not less, control over your internal Accounts Payable process.
But what if this is too expensive
There are many solutions that offer end-to-end AP automation using the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that require no upfront purchases. Choosing an AP solution that is offered as a service allows the company to truly pay-as-they-go! And with a typical SaaS model, the company can expect periodic upgrades and new features that add more value. This means companies can now reach their ROI much faster than before.
Conclusion: Automating the Accounts Payable process is more than ever available to a wider range of budgets.
Does company size matter?
Cloud-based solutions coupled with a SaaS business model offer a very low marginal cost to get started. With economies of scale and best practices, everyone benefits from automation. And, as discussed earlier, automation enables AP to focus on more strategic activities, such as, sourcing, reporting, spend analytics and vendor management.
Conclusion: Even small companies can save significant $$. Some research reports suggest annual savings can range from 4 to 17% of annual spend. Even for a small company, that can be big bucks!
How can analytics help?
Imagine now, you have all of this automation and data at your fingertips. How about a quick report on outstanding invoices for vendor ABC, LLC? How about a ‘spend to-date’ report on the AMEX corp. card for T&E expenses? Being able to massage the data and use it to arrive at meaningful conclusions is the key aspect of Analytics and Reporting modules. Providing such data to decision makers like AP Managers or CFOs provides tremendous value for the company to plan better, conserve money and be very strategic about growth. Several cloud-based solutions for Invoices & Expenses provide out of the box reporting and analytics that companies should definitely consider and incorporate.
Conclusion: With the amount of data churned out today, intelligent analytics is really a no-brainer. Smart companies utilize this data, make sense out of it and provide it to decision makers to really boost growth or drastically cut costs for companies. By paying attention to this, companies can put money back in their pockets.
It is very obvious to see that the benefits of AP automation are huge and cannot be ignored for the typical 21st century company. Let’s take a quick look at them again:
- Huge labor savings across the company
- Efficiency boost while processing Invoices & Expenses
- Reduced delays
- Improved transparency
- Panoramic visibility for decision makers
Whether the architecture is cloud-based and delivered as SaaS or an On-Premise Hosted solution, the move will get a company closer to becoming paperless. Automating and streamlining Invoices & Expenses will also provide a secure and serviceable archive for data.
Finally, process improvements can be realized in days, rather than months, resulting in a rapid ROI. This will leave the company with an end-to-end 100% automated AP solution that increases compliance, cuts costs, and reduces cycle times.
Now that’s a grand vision. But very much achievable!
It’s been a few weeks since SAP agreed to purchase Concur. The deal makes plenty of sense for SAP because of their focus in the ‘enterprise + powered by the cloud’ market. In a similar vein, it has been a few years since SAP purchased Ariba and SuccessFactors. With Concur now folded into the giant SAP umbrella, SAP will have access to an enterprise T&E solution that they can sell to their 200K + enterprise size customers.
But equally important over the next several months, SAP has its work cut out in trying to build an enterprise suite with these cloud acquisitions – a tricky job that will consume plenty of resources and time.
Concur’s focus in the last few years has been primarily in evolving their travel booking solution, investing in travel related apps and setting up of their marketplace. But the next few steps are going to be critical for Concur – they currently have the huge 15 year US government contract that they must deliver, meet additional requirements and opportunities from SAP and evolve their mobile and web mobile expense platforms to keep up with nimble and innovative cloud travel & expense competitors like us.
Above all, supporting all of these initiatives equally well through the choppy seas of a typical M&A process is paramount. While the cloud is very attractive to most customers, SAP must understand that no customer wants to be stuck with segmented cloud applications from different acquired vendors that don’t ‘talk’ to each other.
The marriage of Concur and SAP makes a lot of sense for both companies and the enterprise market. But, what does this mean for SMBs? Would the SAP-Concur nexus consider SMB travel and expense requirements to be mere distractions? Perhaps too small to worry or even care about? Will they even have the resources and time to help the ‘little guys’ out?
SMBs must take a very close look at this situation and understand where they fit in the landscape. There are different aspects to this – how is the Concur service going to be in the future now that they are a small part of a much larger behemoth? Would Concur’s travel & expense solution pricing change? Where do SMBs fit in Concur’s plan as they reach out to larger enterprises with SAP?
These are all big questions. But one thing is guaranteed – Gorilla Expense will continue to service the needs of SMBs at the same economical price and exceptional service that our customers are used to. The SMB market is our sweet spot and we pride ourselves in working with customers like you. If anything, the SAP-acquiring-Concur transaction has redoubled our efforts and renewed our long-term commitment to this space.
Our recent update of our mobile app – Gorilla Expense Pro is proof of that. We evolved the mobile app to the point where users don’t have to get in front of a computer to submit expenses anymore! This is very important and powerful for the typical SMB where employees are increasingly juggling more work and time spent on unproductive tasks is directly related to lost dollars for the company. In our journey through working with several SMBs, we realize that no two companies manage their T&E processes in the same way. Our focal points have always been:
– Make the solution super easy to use (if you have to read our manuals, then it means we are not doing our jobs)
– The solution is flexible and can be configured to meet the customer’s requirements
– Provide exceptional customer support (Wow! the customer all the time)
– Keep the solution economical to own for our customers (less than the price of 3 cups of Starbucks coffee per month)
We really strive to make a difference in our customer’s lives and also be successful in this space. We don’t compromise performance for price. We realize that SMBs frequently operate in a cost control mode and should not have to pay for features that are unnecessary to them.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Gorilla Expense is currently offering an attractive switchover program for current Concur users. As part of this program, you will get access to our entire solution – mobile, web and integration (credit card, travel, accounting and payroll systems). Customers who have made the move typically see savings ranging from 10% to 60% of Concur’s price. To learn more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GBTA did a survey of more than 200 travel managers in the US on which expense types they mandate the usage of corporate card
No surprises that Airfare was the top at 67%. This is mainly to better manage the spend related to airfare and utilize programs and partnership with air travel vendors. Plus, in some cases, if tickets are canceled or modified, corporate cards have discounted change-fees for being part of the air travel vendor program. Closely following the Airfare expense type are Lodging and Rentals both of which maintain a similar philosophy.
Charging meals to the corporate card provides greater visibility from a compliance perspective. This is especially true if meals are related to Entertainment type expenses. Companies are also increasingly asking employees to charge misc. business expenses like internet, phone calls, faxes etc. to the corporate card to prevent potential frauds. For sales people on the road all the time, the corporate card is a big convenience for mileage and gas related expenses as well.
So, how do your company stack up compared to this? Which expense types do you mandate your users to use the corporate card for? Let us know in the comments below.
Reference: GBTA April 2014 survey. Chart provided by Travel Procurement, part of BTN Newsletter
When it comes to T&E expense management, the cloud has inspired a new and quick way of thinking about mobile and online expense tracking with integration to various accounting and ERP systems. Of course the ‘old’ model of companies having to purchase licenses to own the software and have the ability to deploy it on their servers still exists but faces solid competition from cloud solutions.
The Gorilla Expense software can be delivered as a SaaS or on-premise when it comes to our online T&E solution. Of course, when the SaaS solution is purchased, it comes as a complete turnkey package that includes software and the entire delivery mechanism.
The inter-webs is ripe with discussions on the pros and cons of on-premise vs SaaS when it comes to expense reporting and several topics on how best to assess the costs. With SaaS, the business pays less upfront while on-premise requires higher initial costs because you buy the software in terms of licenses and maintenance. However, the details lurk below this cursory assessment – the often heard concept of ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ a.k.a TCO. Let us explore this in more detail by segmenting the comparisons by company size relative to our customer base.
Expense Reporting for Small Business
With small businesses, the initial cost of licensing the expense reporting software on-premise is usually several orders higher than a SaaS expense solution. Plus the on-premise solution will require additional internal infrastructure and may incur personnel costs to maintain the solution. So, for small businesses SaaS cloud based expense reporting may offer better ROI and quicker value than on-premise.
Mid-Market Expense Management
For mid-sized businesses, the comparison between the two approaches can be closer to break-even. The costs usually level out because the cost of the fixed license and recurring SaaS payments typically increase proportionately while the infrastructure cost remains fixed. However, the big difference is labor costs – the standard assumption is that mid-sized business would have the cost of paying for 1/2rd to 1/4th of an IT team’s (consisting of anywhere from one to ten people) salary to maintain the server, OS and ancillary software applications; so these costs may mean that the on-premise deployment could potentially be more expensive.
When is SaaS Better?
The biggest benefit of going the SaaS route is when companies cannot dedicate IT resources and personnel to install and manage the applications. The general rule of thumb for on-premise is that upgrades are needed at least four times in a year and require several hours to install and manage up-time.
In addition, with SaaS, the expenses are deferred (the classic CAPEX vs OPEX debate), so, from a cash flow standpoint, the model becomes attractive for cash strapped small businesses.
While we have reviewed the key piece of the equation which is related to cost, note that this is just one part of the puzzle. The other factors to consider when you compare Saas vs on-premise expense reporting solutions are:
– Level of internal IT expertise and talent to manage on-premise solutions
– Comfort level with outsourcing the work, if not possible in house
– Tolerance for downtime and risk mitigation
– Capability to support requirements from an evolving and growing business operations
– Level of engagement with the solution (SaaS gives you a ‘rent and forget’ approach whereas on-premise requires constant monitoring)
– Cash flow management
At Gorilla Expense, we provide both options and work with the customer to closely understand which format will benefit their business and employees the most. We advise and support our customer’s rapidly changing requirements when it comes to deployment options, since we have seen all the combinations and the respective challenges. If you would like to learn more or would like for us to review your requirements, please send an email to email@example.com
According to the Aberdeen Group research, surveys based on millions of expense reports submitted by 3,000 companies reveal that U.S. T&E costs are constantly rising. The largest increases were in airfare (up 5.7%), hotels (up 4.5%), and meetings (up 7.7%).
With T&E spend ranging from 7% to 15% percent of the total budget for the average mid-market company ($50 million to $800 million in revenue), the challenge facing CFOs and Controllers in this area is dramatic with millions of dollars at stake! For most companies, travel related expenses remain a significant area of spend – second only to payroll.
Scope of challenge
Fundamentally, most companies struggle to tackle these challenges because of not knowing where to start, when it comes to managing their T&E Expense reporting process, resulting in thousands of dollars of reckless spending and waste. Aberdeen’s report (Expense Management for a New Decade and The Mid-Market Expense Management Program) says that:
* 56% of mid-market companies have limited visibility into T&E spending
* Less than 45% track their expenses via analytics and business intelligence in real time
* Only 33% leverage cloud-based expense reporting solutions and 28% integrate corporate cards
* Just 15% provide T&E data to C-level executives for financial forecasting purposes
Solutions for a new decade
The good news is that cloud-based solutions have significantly brought down the cost of automating T&E expense reporting. These solutions have been shown to deliver huge reductions in expense processing costs. But the big questions is – where do you start?
The Best-In-Class corporations (a term used by the Aberdeen Group to classify the top 20% of companies that manage their expense related processes by creatively blending technology & strategy) combine strategy, core capabilities, technology, a culture that embraces change and a desire to optimize. The objectives of most Best-In-Class programs include cost savings, enhanced productivity, improved efficiencies and better compliance. This is usually achieved by unifying the different processes in the lifecycle.
By advocating a culture that fosters Best-In-Class programs and by investing in a system that ensures achievement of this status, Best-In-Class companies constantly reap gains and realize immediate ROIs.
Here are the 10 Commandments of Expense Reporting that Best-In-Class companies consistently execute on:
1. Centralize the control and operation of T&E expense management programs
2. Automate the process to greatly reduce unproductive manual work and eliminate errors
3. Integrate the front-end expense reporting system to the ERP system to minimize manual data entries and errors (here is a video of automated integration with Dynamics GP)
4. Establish generally accepted corporate-wide policies and processes
5. Educate employees regularly on expense report related policies and processes and appoint a designee for any questions from employees
6. Encourage usage of corporate cards for better accuracy and mobile device applications for convenience to users (read our blog on Credit Card Integration)
7. Leverage and close the loop on expense management data to fine-tune the system and also provide better deals with travel vendors for the company
8. Develop audit mechanisms that capture errant data and provide real-time visibility into spend
9. Invest in the latest technology to maximize efficiency, provide long term ROI and reduce paper usage
10. Provide flexibility and convenience to the end users to improve productivity, reduce inherent delays and to capture expense data immediately after incurred
For some companies, executing on all 10 steps immediately might prove to be a challenge. In those cases, it would be beneficial to select a few and to focus on those, till the desired results are obtained.
Automating T&E processes does more than just reduce costs. It makes it harder for employees to inflate expenses — and far easier for companies to detect fraud. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, up to 13% of company fraud arises in this area, so that’s a huge advantage. Expense reporting time is reduced and employees are reimbursed faster which is a major boost to morale. Automation results in an average 28% reduction in expense approval times and 27% reduction in employee expense report creation times according to the latest Aberdeen reports.
To read the complete white paper on ’10 steps towards best-in-class status for expense management’, click HERE
If you have any specific questions that we can help with or need more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To calculate savings from automating the T&E Expense Reporting Process, click HERE
Learning from the mistakes of our competitors, we wanted to offer a solution that was nimble yet powerful in being able to handle all requirements ranging from a 20 user application to one used by our large multi-national customers. (And this caught the attention of Microsoft for their Dynamics ERP product line, when they sponsored us to attend DEMO – read more here)
But our focus is more than just the product – we also pride ourselves in providing exceptional support, where our competitors don’t do the best job. Every customer that signs up with us becomes THE customer for us while they may be A customer for our competitors, which is a big difference.
Our customers don’t just subscribe to our solution or buy our products – they approach us for advice and guidance to solve their challenges with expense reporting and support our mission. And we love solving their problems while putting a smile on the faces of their Travelers and Finance teams.
As part of a recent research, most managers and travel budget owners for small and medium businesses cited managing costs as the primary goal for 2014. The methods companies use to achieve this goal, vary widely within the SMB segment. The travel spend for companies in this group range from less than $2MM in annual US booked travel to $12MM on the high end.
Most SMBs struggle with the same challenges – lack of internal resources to manage T&E, no dedicated travel manager, missed supplier relationships and a general cookie-cutter travel management program setup by the travel agency, if one exists at all. The best of breed companies may have better control on travel spend with elaborate procurement strategies and internal resources that manage the company’s travel program and spend carefully. These resources typically report to the CFO, thus offering the finance office full visibility into spend.
The reason that travel management as a concept is a challenge for SMBs is because there are many factors that drive a company’s travel strategy: travel patterns, international vs domestic, company culture, senior management’s support, business focus and others. Regardless of the status quo, it is never too late for a company to manage its travel and T&E processes more efficiently.
“I don’t believe there’s a company out there that can’t benefit from some level of a managed program,” said Directravel president Sam DeFranco. “When a company feels like there’s a lack of control of their spending and they only have basic expense processes in place, their antenna should be up.”
Several SMBs were focused on getting the right tools and processes in place in 2014. One was in the midst of “designing and implementing a full-scale travel management program,” while others were planning to implement a robust automated expense-reporting system as soon as possible in 2014.
In the various SMBs, even with senior management support, a planned travel policy, TMC relationship and T&E expense reporting solutions in place, companies reported ongoing challenges with compliance. Several of the companies reported their greatest travel management challenge today was to get travelers to comply.
“At larger companies, you’re dealing with a multitude of people that touch T&E,” said DeFranco. “At one company alone, you could have a travel manager, a director of procurement, a director of purchasing, expense management, HR and a risk manager. Inherently, the SMBs simply do not have the same infrastructure, so to compensate for that, the travel management company account manager essentially becomes an extension of the customer.” One company highlighted the biggest travel management challenge as “achieving objectives with limited resources.” It’s a position in which many managers in the small and midsize segments find themselves.
What are your challenges when it comes to managing travel and travel related expenses? What are your goals for 2014? Let us know in the comments below.
Reference: BTN, "BTN's 2014 Small & Medium Enterprise Report, Apr 15, 2014"
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