Oct 31, 2023
3 mins

How to get better spend visibility and what to do with it

Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrowTrish Toovey
How To Increase Spend Visibility
Quick summary

Missing important visibility into your spending data? You’re not alone. Over a quarter of finance professionals surveyed for a recent report say they face the same challenge. But what can you do to improve your visibility? And how can you leverage it to improve your business success?

Table of Contents

    Getting access to clear, real-time spending data can unlock loads of benefits for organisations like yours. From pinpointing financial inefficiencies and optimising spending to making informed decisions and improving profitability, transparent spending data can make a massive difference to your business’s financial strategy.

    But while expense visibility is vital for tracking, managing and reporting on spending, it’s not always easy — especially if you use multiple disconnected solutions and try to connect the dots.

    A recent IFP Spend Management Pulse Report highlights the challenges many organisations face, and this article addresses some of the biggest.

    The IFP Spend Management Pulse Report

    Over a quarter of companies lack real-time visibility into data

    Alongside other challenges, including human error, time wasted on reconciliation and ineffective software, 28% of medium-sized companies need help with real-time spending visibility and data.

    And despite 51% stating their overall spend management practices were ‘very good’, 24% say they’re incredibly concerned about corporate spending.

    To deliver an impactful and effective spend management strategy, you must master the delicate balance between empowering employee spending to support agility and growth while reducing overspend and out-of-policy spending.

    Only 28% of employees are empowered to spend

    When questioned about spend control and empowerment, 50% of financial leaders shared that all spending must be pre-approved.

    For many CFOs and financial leaders, the obvious solution is pre-approving all spending with processes like Purchase Orders (PO). PO systems can be hugely beneficial for bigger spending but aren’t always the best fit for smaller on-the-go expenses.

    But the ideal scenario would be to leverage a solution with PO, reimbursements, and corporate cards (with built-in controls) all in one. By using a comprehensive solution which covers all of these processes, you can ensure that all your bases are covered; larger spending creates no risk, and smaller or project spending can stay agile.

    You can better empower employees, too, with things like corporate cards that feature limits, controls, and automated approvals, letting your employees spend without constantly having to re-read policies.

    Spend report graphSpend report graph

    43% of companies want to improve spend visibility

    Want to reduce concerns about overspending? You need real-time visibility into your spending data. And many other finance teams agree: 43% (small business and 35% (large business) of financial leaders say they prioritise improving spend visibility in their organisations.

    How do these companies plan to improve spending visibility? In a nutshell, by investing in spend management initiatives. In fact, 22% of companies plan to invest between $500,000 and $1M to improve their spend management processes with tools and other initiatives.

    Financial leaders are clearly seeing the importance of using the most effective tools for spend management, but how do they know which to choose?

    Simply put, the right spend management solutions should give organisations real-time visibility across company-wide expenses or multi-entity management spending data, streamline all financial processes to save hours and even days (from receipt data capture to real-time reconciliation), and help capture spend in a way that makes accounting data flow seamlessly into a chosen ERP or accounting software.

    How to achieve unrivalled spend visibility

    Spend visibility is paramount; it’s the root of all business decisions. Without this visibility, you simply can’t plan, forecast or grow your business.

    Inefficiencies in spend management will cause delays in approvals, a decrease in employee productivity, and can increase errors throughout the spend management process. Leaving you open to fraudulent expense claims, incorrect tax information, overspending and more.

    "We rely on the customisable class settings within Payhawk to distinguish between venues to analyse performance. Whether it's categorising between venues or categorising it into the right general ledger code, it's extremely helpful in terms of how we allocate spend," says Andrew Jacobi, VP of US Finance at State of Play Hospitality.

    "At the end of the period, we look at two things. First, were we able to forecast our spend properly? For this, we put Payhawk directly in the hands of our venue managers so they can report on what they're spending money on. This approach means they can track spend against their budget and ensure they're meeting it across each general ledger category. Then, at the end of the period, we look at variance to budget — seeing whether a spend category exceeded or came in under budget. Payhawk allows us to spot if there's overspending in specific places up and down our P&L very quickly. For example, if we see that we're spending too much or more than expected on DJs in a particular venue." Andrew continues.

    At Payhawk, our comprehensive spend management tool keeps you in complete control over spending across all your entities without compromising user experience or creating inefficiencies.

    Multi-entity management

    Payhawk's Group Dashboard streamlines multi-entity management, offering a centralised view of expenses, including bank transactions, reimbursements, invoices, and subscriptions. Using the dashboard, you can easily identify top spenders by team and entity and get a clear picture of cash flow across entities and currencies. Plus, low-balance alerts let you take quick action before you get into any sticky situations.

    Real-time visibility and integrations

    Making short-term and long-term financial decisions requires real-time insight into spending. And with our intelligent expense management software and direct integrations, you have the insights at your fingertips. Integration with your ERP or accounting systems means your data is updated instantly; everyone works from the same data, and there’s no room for miscommunication.

    Spending controls and corporate cards for employees

    By assigning employees their own corporate cards, you make expensing accountable. You can set card limits and create spend policies to keep track of spending, reducing overspending, all while giving employees the freedom to spend within a framework.

    Spending controls are controlled from a centralised dashboard, so if there are any worries about card activity, cards can be frozen within the app in seconds.

    Leon Steenbrink, CFO at procurement marketplace Mercell Nederland, says: “My favourite [Payhawk] feature is having the ability to assign spend policies to employees. I like it because it empowers employees to perform their job function without asking for permission to spend money that they have already budgeted.”

    Smart receipt data capture and automatic reconciliation

    Our Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology means employees take a picture of their receipt from within the Payhawk app, and necessary receipt or invoice data is instantly extracted and categorised as a receipt or invoice so it can be correctly processed by accounting.

    Automating this part of the process reduces errors and reduces employee time spent manually copying data, and once uploaded, the receipt data is automatically reconciled against bank account transactions.

    Custom approval workflows and expense approval filters

    Set your own custom workflows for certain spend types or spend requests and bring approval chains in line with company spending policies — no matter how complex they are. This gives you better control and flexibility over your spending processes, ensuring all company spending is within policy and keeping unnecessary or duplicate costs to a minimum.

    Our expense approval filters mean you can filter expenses by status (approved, pending, etc.), giving finance managers increased visibility over expenses helping better manage cash flow and adhere to budgets.

    Subscription management

    Twenty-nine percent of business spending is on invoices, which means if there were duplicate or dormant subscriptions you were wasting your money on, you need to know about them. With our subscription spend management, you can uncover hidden costs quickly and efficiently.

    Assess monthly subscription fluctuations and instantly pinpoint problem areas to act fast and reduce overspend.

    Your next steps

    Learn more about the spend management challenges facing finance professionals like you, including spending controls and visibility, by downloading the Payhawk Spend Management report. Or, if you’d like to see Payhawk’s spend controls in action, book a demo today.

    Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
    Trish Toovey
    Senior Content Manager

    Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

    See all articles by Trish →
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