We are beginning to research the costs and benefits of online expense reporting for our traveling sales and service group in the United States of approximately 70 to 80 employees. Currently, we manually review all expense reports and vouchers in our payables system in order to generate reimbursement checks.
I have a few questions:
1. Are there certain vendors that are better than others? Please let me know if you are particularly happy with your vendor.
2. What are some of the risks and rewards that we should be aware of?
3. Is it possible for such online expense reporting to be implemented globally?
Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.
Scott Rodriques (SRodriques@novabio.com )
American Express provides a free program with its cards, one that works globally. You need to have individuals sign a document that the credit card is for business use only. Also, you may have to guarantee credit for some individuals with poor credit.
Connell Saltzman (Connell.Saltzman@comcast.net )
ProLiance uses Concur, and we have been very happy for around five years. The Concur system is Web-based, so employees can interface from any Internet connection. The system allows expense receipts to be scanned or faxed in order to create a digital document associated with each expense report, which eliminates the paper chase. Approvals are also done electronically with e-mail notices (multiple levels of approvals are available).
Another great feature is the ability to see where an expense report is in the approval process. The employee can access the site to see where the report is held up, instead of calling accounting to complain about not getting a payment. It is almost always held up in the approval process, not accounting, by the way. We are relatively small (120 employees) and entirely within the United States, but I believe the Concur system is scalable, and I recommend it highly.
Jack Larch (JLarch@ProLiance.com )
There are two big vendors in the United States: Gelco and Concur. They offer different flavors of the same process. There are other vendors as well, but there has been some consolidation in the industry, and these two are the big remaining players. Both have the basics, including auto population of card transactions, imaging of receipts, automatic routing of reports for approval, etc.
In terms of the risks and rewards, the reward is that T&E expenses will go down – no question about it. There are other rewards, too. For example, better information means that you will not need to dedicate as many people to the T&E process, and you will not have to key any more expense reports. Undoubtedly, however, the big savings are in lower T&E costs, especially when employees realize someone is watching and can see more details.
You should integrate the cards so that all card transactions populate the system. It is also helpful to make your card program a company liability card, which allows you more flexibility to force its use for company purposes and prohibit its use for personal purposes. The biggest risk is not being ready to deal with the ramifications of finding out what has been going on with expense reports. Automated controls and exception reporting are not always welcome. You can do it globally, but one currency at a time may be easier. Card programs typically have a default currency, so a European program may have to be a different setup from a program in U.S. dollars. You can centrally manage them, but they may have different bank feeds, etc. A side benefit is that you will hear lots of interesting stories about why people need to spend money.
George W. Beckwith (gwbeckwith@NationalGypsum.com )