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The ROI of Expense Management Automation

Hayley Campbell March 25, 2020

The ROI of Expense Management Automation
Spend Management
Employee expense management is one of the most complicated areas for organizations to manage. Forrester Research cited employee expense management as the second most challenging business operating cost to control—and the current climate where more and more employees are working remotely only adds to the complexity. However, while it may be difficult to control, expenses are one of the most worthwhile to control thanks to the tremendous return on investment (ROI) adequate controls deliver. The ROI of empowering employees with mobile expense management solutions is real and measurable—let’s explore it further.

Recorded benefits of expense automation

When organizations invest in modernizing essential employee expense processes, they can significantly reduce expense report processing costs, increase employee productivity across the enterprise, improve working capital management, mitigate risk exposures, and minimize

maverick spending. And the ROI is real and measurable. A 2017 Levvel Research report found that organizations leveraging automation realized a 45% reduction in travel and expense processing costs. A helpful way to understand the cost-saving benefits is to look at the actual cost to process an expense report. The Levvel Research report found that the average cost to manually process an expense report is $26.63, while a fully automated process costs just $6.85—a 74% savings. Surveyed organizations reported these benefits associated with expense automation:

  • 61%—Improved visibility over spend
  • 58%—Quicker reimbursement of employees
  • 48%—Better able to enforce travel policies
  • 41%—Lower processing costs
  • 34%—Improved ability to detect and prevent fraud

Mobility holds the key to ROI

One of the most valuable assets of an expense management solution is mobility—empowering employees to submit their expense reports from anywhere at any time and enabling approvers to review and approve the information clearly, accurately and immediately.

Mobile expense apps offer capabilities that include OCR scanning, which extracts the data from the receipt and automatically matches it to the expense report. This reduces the reliance on manual data entry—instead of entering each individual expense, users need only verify the extracted information and submit for approval. In fact, OCR technologies can lower the cost of processing an expense receipts from $15 to $2.50 per receipt —an 85% reduction. Another study by The Hackett Group found that 82% of organizations incorporating OCR technologies saw noticeable improvements in their operations.

These solutions also allow for IRS-compliant electronic receipts, dynamic approval routing, mileage calculators, credit card and banking integration and more.

Field-tested solutions

While multiple surveys, reports and research demonstrate the ROI associated with expense management solutions, hearing directly from users provides a different perspective. Our clients are sharing their own stories of the ROI generated by the use of a modern expense management solution.

The Free Methodist Foundation, an organization that provides estate and gift planning, financial planning, investment advice and loan services to individuals and churches throughout the country, was bogged down by a manual expense process.

Employees filled in expense data on an Excel spreadsheet—some even printed the spreadsheet and filled the data in by hand. Next, employees made copies of receipts and stapled them to a paper copy of the spreadsheet and hand delivered it to the first stop in the approval process: their supervisors. “The supervisor would then review, sign off, and hand deliver it to the next approver, and so on,” recalls Joe Crupper, CPA, Director of General and Trust Accounting for Free Methodist Foundation. “It was a slow process, and there was no visibility into where a particular report was or what step it was in.”

Today, employees simply snap a photo of an expense receipt using PairSoft, and the software’s optical character recognition (OCR) technology deciphers the data on the receipt and populates an expense entry. The employee can include additional information such as notes, and then simply saves the expense entry—along with the image of the receipt—to later add to an expense report. Joe tells us the app saves both employees and the organization’s payable department a tremendous amount of time. “And our employees get paid more quickly which keeps them happy,” he adds.

Similarly, Cornerstone Fellowship, a vibrant church with multiple locations throughout the East Bay, California area, transformed its expense management using PairSoft.

Employees and volunteers were frustrated by the delay in processing transactions with Cornerstone’s prior software. There was no way to electronically attach receipts to a submitted expense report, leaving staff and volunteers to send emails or deliver hard copies of the receipts. Sorting through emails and paper documents to match them up with transactions took too much time. In addition, approval in the prior system was delayed since access to that system was only available when approvers were logged into Cornerstone’s network. This restricted the approver’s ability to approve an expense remotely.

Now, receipts are attached electronically with the transaction, then submitted for approval and automatically routed for review. Approvers are immediately notified and can even approve by email. Once approved, the finance department makes one final check to be sure everything is coded correctly and then transactions are batched into the organization’s ERP system, ready for final posting. “Before PairSoft, we needed one full-time and two part-time staff in our accounts payable department,” says Tina Danskin, Senior Finance Assistant at Cornerstone Fellowship. “Now, we’ve added three additional campuses, but we’ve been able to eliminate the need for the second part-time person.”

How we are responding

We’d be remiss to not acknowledge the strained and uncertain time we find ourselves in. Even as worries and concerns abound, it is vital that we all take steps to keep business moving while protecting our employees. By equipping employees and management with tools that allow them to work productively in or out of the office, we’ll go a long way toward maintaining the long-term financial health of American businesses.

For our part, we’ve continually invested in the technologies and infrastructure that help us quickly pivot and adapt to the changes we’re all experiencing. PairSoft and our development platforms are hosted with Microsoft Azure secured cloud platform and we are not anticipating any disruptions. Similarly, our support and our sales teams continue to work diligently to help our customers and prospects—working remotely themselves as needed. Please let us know if you have questions or concerns.

From all of us at PairSoft, we wish you good health and success.

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