We all have a long list of resolutions for the New Year: either go to the gym or finally cancel your membership; call your parents more often; put more of your paycheck into savings; keep the garage junk-free so you can park your car in it; and so on. The problem with these types of resolution is that they can be a hassle to keep up, which means they’re easy to break. The best types of resolution are the one that make life easier (and I don’t just mean by avoiding snarky comments when you do call your parents).
Whether you’re a travel manager or finance professional within the organization, or if you’re simply a business traveler who dreads the monthly drudgery of submitting expenses, see what New Year’s resolutions you should make to make your life easier this year.
1. Refresh your organization’s travel and expense policy
When was the last time that anyone – outside of new hires – even looked at the expense policy, let alone made sure that it’s up-to-date with the latest business travel trends and issues? Do you let your employees use shared economy services such as Uber, Lyft or Airbnb? If so, do you have any policies around how, where and when these can be used? For example, you probably have a section in your policy that says employees can’t get a limo service when a taxi is available, but how about allowing them to use an Uber Black instead of Uber X? If it’s not outlined in the policy, it could lead to confusion and abuse.
Overhaul your expense policy at the start of the year and it could save your organization money all year long, and beyond. If you’re not sure where to start, look at our expense policy template.
Related: Seven tips for creating an expense policy that your employees will love (well, almost)
2. Don’t keep your receipts when traveling
For years, carefully keeping all receipts on while a business trip was vital in order to get expenses reimbursed. Of course, you also needed to scribble notes on the back of each one as well, so you remember what each receipt was actually about. Given that every business traveler now has a scanner in their pocket (i.e. a smartphone), holding onto paper receipts has become a thing of the past. As soon as you’ve signed the restaurant bill, simply snap a photo of it and email it to your expense management system. Need to make notes? Just write “Dinner with John Doe” in the email with it. Using optical character recognition (OCR), the expense system’s automatic receipt handling function will take it from there, reading and extracting merchant, date / time and amount and creating a line item in your expenses. Some systems can even work out what kind of expense it is (e.g. travel ticket, accommodation, food), and even categorize by type (such as breakfast or lunch), simply by reading the receipt. Any notes on the email will also automatically go into the report.
Related: Expense Reports in a Snap (or a Tap)
3. Stop filing away your receipt emails
Just like putting all of your receipts in an envelope for safe-keeping until the end of the month, conventional wisdom has always been to make sure you file your receipt emails in a specific folder, so that you can find all and then print out of your online booking and purchase receipts when time comes to do your expenses. Even if it isn’t that much of a hassle, if you forget to file one of them, there’s a good chance that by the time the end of the month comes around, it’s completely slipped your mind and then you’ll miss the opportunity to be reimbursed.
A much easier solution is to simply forward any online purchase’s email to your expense system as soon as you get it. Then, when the time comes to do your expenses, the system will have automatically extracted and categorized the data out of the email (even if the receipt is a PDF attachment), and you don’t have to worry about entering information by hand in order to create an expense item. We call it “Forward and Forget,” but you’ll call it never losing money on a business trip again!
4. Hook your Uber account up to your expenses
If you have an Uber account, it’s super easy to set up a business profile, so you can pay for business-related rides with a different card. In addition, you can also link your account to your company’s expense management system (as long as they use the right one, of course). This means that every time you ride with Uber, a full HTML receipt – with time, date, amount and even a map showing the route you took – will automatically be forwarded directly into your expense system.
5. Don't wait until your trip is over to submit your expenses
While some systems are certainly more fun to use than others, writing and submitting expense reports is rarely a task that frequent travelers actually want to do when they get back to the office. It’s much less of a daunting prospect if you can submit them before you get home. If you’ve already forwarded your online purchase and receipt images to your expense system, your report will have already pretty much written itself by the time you log on to it. A modern system should make it just as easy and intuitive to create and submit expense reports on a mobile phone as a desktop, so all you’ll need to do is drag each pre-populated line item into your report, hit submit and you’re done. Even if you’ve been away for a couple of weeks and have racked up 50 items, you can be done in less than five minutes.
Related: Why Mobility is a Critical Consideration for your Expense Management Strategy
6. Stop ignoring your organization's expense data
Even small to medium-size single-office organizations can create hundreds or even thousands of individual expense items every month. Each one of these is a data point that can give deep insight into the spending habits of your organization and its employees. This information can then be used to spot patterns and trends – such as wasteful, inefficient spend or hot-spots for out-of-policy activity – which can in turn help corporate travel and finance departments to look for efficiencies. While this sounds straightforward in theory, if it means poring over spreadsheets to parse usable data, it’s an impossible task that would turn any business analyst’s hair white.
To truly make sense out of expense data and glean actionable intelligence, you need to be able to use robust analytics tools, which can pull data out of the expense solution and identify these spending trends at the push of a button, providing straightforward representations of the data without requiring a PhD in advanced statistics.
7. Upgrade your organization’s expense management solution
Of course, none of the above are possible if you’re still relying on manual expense processing. If you’re still stapling receipts to printed off spreadsheets, or manually entering each line item on an app on your office desktop, filing your expenses will be a time-consuming, inefficient and expensive process. Not only does it diminish your employees’ productivity, but it also eliminates your organization’s ability to cut out wasteful spend and identify ways to become more efficient.
Related: 9 Signs It’s Time to Switch Expense Management Systems
If your organization’s way of submitting and reimbursing employee expenses looks more like it’s from 1917, not 2017, turn your resolutions into a revolution and switch to Chrome River. Our expense management system is trusted by more than 500 companies worldwide, and is used in more than 100 countries. If you’d like to see for yourself what Chrome River could do for you, simply request a demo.
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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.