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Innovative expenses accounting

The reporting and processing of expenses is a tiresome problem for all companies and administrations. Find out how to make it easier!

Innovative expenses accounting

The reporting and processing of expenses is a tiresome problem for all companies and administrations. The common denominator: expenses administration keeps employees away from their actual work. Nevertheless you need them – the Excel templates, the original receipts on paper, the cash-advance settlements. Everything clearly governed by expense regulations, approved by tax administrations in the most diverse variants. The cloud solution that makes everything easier already exists. Does it keep its promises?

von Simon Wespi / KMURUNDSCHAU dez 2016

Reinventing the process

If you look beyond the horizon of the expenses settlement, it becomes clear that the expenses process involves much more. As a rule, costs do not occur in your own office, but on the road. So why not integrate the geographic component into the process, such as with journey planning and the mobile capture of the data that arises? But it goes even further – on the other side of any expenses receipt there is a business partner: a rail or other transport company, airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. And often these are recurring business partners. Why not take advantage of synergies here too? For example, by the electronic integration of these business partners – before and after the provision of the service.

The expenses process in the cloud

New cloud-based applications permit this holistic view of the expense process and the use of synergies by digitisation. A new vision becomes tangible: ad-hoc and in-situ expenses recording, around the globe and on the road by app. Lunch is recorded in the restaurant, and on checking out, the hotel bill is already part of the expenses account. The completed expenses report is sent quickly before catching the return flight at the airport. Managers receive the mobile push message for approval by means of a workflow, and can view photos of receipts at the click of a mouse. Digital connections with credit card companies also help with compliance: if the company credit card is used, the expenditure automatically appears in the expense report and cannot be deleted, which creates transparency.

There is no longer any effort required from employees and managers on the day after the trip. Exchange rates are automatically taken into account using online exchange-rate platforms and the date of the expenditure. Integration with Google Maps is available for trips with private or company vehicles, allowing mileage accounts to be depicted in a realistic manner.

These possibilities allow companies and administrations to avoid ambiguities and irregularities in expenses accounting effectively and without a major additional effort, and also to significantly reduce the effort for employees.

Expenses regulation and compliance are key

When optimizing expenses processes, the focus is on expenses regulations. The liberal legislation in Switzerland permits a multitude of options for this, but does it really make sense to use forty different types of expenses? What do you want to achieve? Does an approval workflow that passes through four offices really improve security? How much has been reimbursed on average for lunch in the past few years? Does a flat rate make sense? But what about the recovery of VAT for this amount?

In principle, anything that is determined by logical rules can also be handled by an automated system. The primary issue is not the prevention of fraud. Rather, the authorizing office should be able to assume that everything that requires approval is compliant with the rules. This is exactly what state-of-the-art, cloud-based systems such as the SAP Concur solution provide.

The big question of integration

A cloud solution such as Concur can work with any system environment. Employee data is imported either by flat file and SFTP or directly using a web API. The data source plays a subordinate role here as long as the import file supplied corresponds to the required format. Usually, expenses items are forwarded to a financial and payroll system. Account entries are written to an SFTP by flat file. From there, they can be processed by any system environment. This is even easier if the systems in the environment are also part of the SAP family, because SAP is currently working on integrated standard interfaces for its own products.

Cloud also means big data

The multitude of information acquired in an expenses tool means that important information on spending behaviour can be obtained in the reporting. This can provide the purchasing department with solid arguments for the next round of price negotiations. Electronic invoices arrive in the system and are processed directly with the appropriate VAT rates. Furthermore, employees are made aware of special circumstances during the data-entry process by the setting up of clever auditing rules.

A closer look at the processes involved reveals small and large optimization possibilities everywhere. An example is integration into the travel-management system, including specifically agreed hotel and flight rates and informing employees to book with the correct provider. Alternatively, when booking rooms, employees can be given a selection of only preferred hotels.

If you have not yet considered a cloud-based expenses solution as a company or administration, you should do so now. Concerns about data protection must be taken seriously, but can be mitigated by the choice of the correct cloud partner and by drafting an appropriate contract. The growing number of companies that take advantage of the benefits of digitisation proves this.

Published: 1. December 2016

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