The words Travel & Entertainment (T&E) trigger headaches for most CFOs.
(The following is a guest column penned by Bob Neveu, president of Certify, a top provider of cloud-based expense management software.)
For a category that usually ranks as a top five line item, not being able to predict or tightly manage those costs can be a source of chronic stress.
No wonder. More than a third of firms still use manual processes to manage their T&E costs.
That means companies gather their data through electronic spreadsheets, paper reports and receipts, and postal mail. Manual expense reports take hours to create, approve, reconcile, process, and reimburse.
Mistakes and hang-ups cause headaches—and low morale—for you and your team.
Here are the top headaches associated with T&E that CFOs who come to us are looking to cure:
1. Accounting for your T&E spending
Ask any CFO in mid-March to size up their total T&E expenses for February, and they’re usually at a loss.
You can guesstimate. But until every employee turns in every expense—and their managers approve them—in April, you can’t close February’s books and accurately report those expenses.
2. Waiting for the data
When it comes to gathering the data for expenses, your team confronts challenges all the way down the pipeline: lost time searching for lost receipts, managers hounding employees to submit timely reports, and overworked controllers falling behind, to name a few.
Waiting for data is painful and costly.
3. Approving the expenses
Reconciling and processing approvals are the next steps in the process. Most expenses are rubber-stamped (more typical than you might think).
Employees can take up to half a workday creating PDFs of their receipts that managers may never open. Your accounting team may spend hours more reconciling expense report data and addressing errors, such as incorrect codes or payment amounts.
This is the definition of tedium for your talented team.
4. Standardizing travel expenses
While expense reports are submitted after the money is spent, travel gives you one opportunity to control a sizable expense before it occurs.
But handling travel expenses consistently (and with compliance) is nearly impossible—without help.
Tools like Certify Travel allow your employees to book an airline ticket that complies with your firm’s travel policies, and hold it for 24 hours pending her manager’s approval.
5. Staying in compliance
Gathering T&E data and approving payments is work enough. Reviewing those reports for policy violations to help control and predict future costs is another matter.
By the time independent accountants review these reports months later, you may learn that an unacceptable number contain egregious violations. A manual reporting process doesn’t account for the time and cost associated with any audit investigations to manage these expenses, either.
There’s a better way
Top-performing CFOs are focused on the big, big picture: managing the spending and maintaining an effective system. But if you don’t have the data you need, and an antiquated process stymies your team, the buck ends (and the headaches rest) with you.
Eliminating tedious data entry and automating manual tasks let you do more with your people—keeping them happy. And the right tools make it nearly painless to get your numbers right the first time.
Bottom line: Automating T&E is a time-saver, a money-saver and a proven cure for T&E headaches.