29 Sept 2023
3 mins

Automated expense reporting for modern businesses

This article has been brought to you by our spend management editorial team.Payhawk Editorial Team
OCR and automated expense management
Quick summary

Automating your expense reports makes business sense. Manual data entry leaves significant opportunities for human error, fraudulent expense claims, and non-compliance, and it drains financial team resources. Discover automated expense management software that helps you spot spending patterns, mitigate risk, and enable growth.

Table of Contents

    If you’re creating your expense reports manually, this blog is for you. Injecting automation into your expense reporting process removes the manual tasks that no finance professional wants to do. This includes manual receipt collection, lengthy reconciliations, and correcting mistakes. Automating this essential part of your business spend processes enhances visibility and streamline the expense management process, along with many other benefits.

    Both employees and finance team members need help with the weight of manual data entry, correct categorisation, and timely submissions — and automated expense reports are ready for the job.

    Seven core business benefits of automating your expense reports

    There are many benefits to automating your expense reporting process. Here are seven of the biggest:

    1: Mitigate risk and fraud

    According to a report, travel and expense fraud accounts for 14.5% of all uncovered corporate fraud. By automating expense reports, you massively reduce the risk associated with fraudulent spending. With every penny accounted for, employees refrain from spending out of policy, thanks to rigid approval workflows.

    2: Ensure expense policy compliance

    25% of employees that spend outside of policy do so without realising, but 5% spend outside of policy intentionally. You can put a stop to this by automating your expense approval process. Employees request funds or submit their expense reports, and your assigned approver can determine whether the spend is necessary, rejecting the expense report or asking for further clarification. This stops unnecessary spending, always keeping costs in plain sight.

    3: Enhance spending pattern visibility

    Understanding who is spending money and what they are buying is crucial to managing your corporate finances effectively, and that's what automating your expense reports gives you. With visibility, you can forecast business expenses and plan for the future, encouraging efficient business growth.

    Make multi-entity expense management efficient with Payhawk

    4: Faster employee reimbursement

    To retain top talent, you need to demonstrate you value your employees. And there's no better way to show appreciation than by processing their expenses promptly. One way to do it is through corporate cards, letting them pay with business money from the off (instead of using personal funds). So don't leave them waiting unnecessarily to provide reimbursements; introduce automation to move things faster.

    5: Reduce errors

    Errors are the bane of every financial and accounting professional's life. You must spend too much time adjusting errors on expense reports or asking for clarification before accepting expenses. And why waste time on a task you can do in half the time with automated expense approval workflows? Automation can help you move faster and remove human error.

    6: Facilitate company growth

    As your company grows, your expensing processes become more complex. Aside from an increased number of employees and, therefore, more expenses to manage (including business travel expenses or office supplies), control and governance become even more critical. As you scale, regulations and internal policies multiply. A business expense management software that helps you automate large parts of your spend management process helps you avoid legal backlash, fines, and penalties.

    7: Save time spent on manual tasks

    Automating expense reporting saves your finance teams a lot of time. Eliminating sloppy manual errors means you don’t have to double-check data, and automatic report creation means you’re not heading down in spreadsheets for hours on end. Instead, you can focus on other aspects of your job that drive business value, while employees simply snap a picture of their receipt and let the software do the heavy lifting.

    Real-time reconciliation explained

    Case study: How ATU recovered €2 million in VAT returns with Payhawk expense automation

    Automating expense reporting takes enormous pressure away from the finance team. Organisations can spend more time and energy on the things that add business value without wasting time on employee expensing processes.

    Auto retail store and workshop chain ATU faced many challenges, including a need for more visibility across their finance workflows. However, the team's reliance on cash payments and manual reconciliation meant this was impossible.

    "Digital Transformation is an important challenge for us. A few years ago, we would transport our paper invoices through Germany with two of our trucks," ATU's CFO, Sebastian Jarankowski, explained. "A big problem was dealing with so-called external purchases, especially with over 500 branches and individual cash systems on-site. When buying parts from other companies in the sector, our branch managers would historically always reach for cash, generating a massive amount of paperwork."

    With the help of our expense management software, ATU has gained complete visibility of company spending, taking advantage of built-in spend controls and automated multi-step approvals. Our solution helped them make better-informed spending decisions, reduce resources allocated to manual tasks, and find significant savings via VAT reclaims.

    "We no longer have to chase receipts. Since using Payhawk, managers must simply take a picture of their receipt — thus digitising it — and enter it into the automated finance system. In the first year, this change resulted in ATU recouping €2 million from the tax office that would have otherwise been lost," Mathias Goetz, Senior Project Manager, ATU, said.

    Five questions to ask yourself when choosing an automated expense reporting solution

    Implementing new software can be daunting. You need a solution that employees will adopt quickly and ensure it delivers value from day one. Here are a few things you should consider when researching the market for automated expense management software:

    1: Identify your business needs. Do they align with the software’s features?

    You want a solution that solves most (if not all) of your corporate expense management needs. Before you start comparing, you should understand the problems your employees and management teams face with your current processes.

    Here are a few questions to help you determine if the software features align with your business:

    • How fast can you create expense reports? (Ideally, your solution should let you automate nearly all of this process).
    • Can the software integrate with your existing ERP, accounting software or travel management solution?
    • Does the software come with a mobile app for expense management?
    • Can the software make automatic suggestions to correct expense data?
    • What automation features does the software provide?
    • Is it a good choice for multi-entity management?

    2: How often does the software introduce new features?

    You don’t want to partner with a stagnant software company. Instead, you want a company that consistently listens to customers and develops sought-after features to improve the overall user experience.

    At Payhawk, we always listen to our customer feedback and generate new and exciting feature updates at least every quarter to ensure our product is always best in class for spend management.

    Some of our recent updates include:

    • AI camera feature to better capture expense receipt data
    • Expense approval emails to reduce the time employees spend resubmitting expenses by 70%
    • Expense status filters to help better understand which expenses have been approved or rejected to help understand approval jams

    3: Can you integrate the new expense management software into your existing systems?

    You don't have time to try and tie together a disconnected view of spend or constantly switch between solutions. So, you must ensure you're not just adding another piece of tech to your stack when implementing any new expense reporting software.

    Choose a software solution containing multiple functions like cards, expense management, AP, subscription management, and more.

    Think ERP, accounting, business travel management systems, and more. At Payhawk, our seamless integrations with market-leading software, including QuickBooks, Xero, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, TravelPerk, and more, mean our customers save huge amounts of time and effort.

    "We have five entities, with approx 300-500 expenses a month in the parent company. It used to take me one whole day per entity to review, import and export, and put the expenses in the correct format," said Eduardo Felipez, Management Accountant at Heroes. "But with the direct Payhawk integration to NetSuite, I spend just an hour a day on this. It's an enormous help."

    That's big. Heroes reduced five days of manual work into just five hours with our expense management automation and seamless NetSuite integration. And if you don't have a system on our list of integrations? Don't worry; thanks to our Developer APIs, we can build custom integrations, too.

    4: What are their security and data privacy measures?

    You’re trusting whoever you partner with to keep sensitive financial data safe and secure, so you need a solution that follows industry-leading security protocols. Payhawk is PCI DSS compliant, which means we meet the security standards set by the leading information security standard policy for payment cards.

    We don’t take our customers’ data security lightly. This is why we regularly undergo security audits and vulnerability scans, so you can rest assured knowing that your financial data is safe with us.

    5: Is the expense management solution scalable?

    You must choose a solution that supports your organisation's ambitious growth plans. That means a 'custom' solution to fit your specific expense policies as they grow and change.

    Using expense reporting software with automation and multi-entity management features will help you track and allocate available funds and upcoming expenses for each business entity. So even as you grow, you keep governance, control, and visibility.

    Why choose Payhawk for automated expense reporting?

    Automated expense reporting is a game-changer for modern organisations, delivering increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved compliance. By choosing Payhawk as your expense management solution, you can stay ahead of the curve and embrace the future of expense reporting technology.

    Schedule a demo to see our automated expense reporting in action.

    This article has been brought to you by our spend management editorial team.
    Payhawk Editorial Team

    The Payhawk Editorial Team consists seasoned finance professionals boasting years of experience in spend management, digital transformation, and the finance profession. We're dedicated to delivering insightful content to empower your financial journey.

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