One of the primary reasons that many companies look to deploy an expense management solution is compliance. Helping employees to stay within corporate policies with regards to the booking class on a flight, how much they can expense for dinner while travelling, or how much they can submit for mileage when driving their car for business.

One of the other main reasons for automating the expense process is to make the approval and reimbursement process smoother and faster. The traveller hits the “submit” button, the approver receives the expense claim, approves it and off it goes to finance to get the money back to the employee.

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, yes and no.

For an automated expense process to work effectively and provide the promised benefits over manual processes, everything needs to flow smoothly through the system, so that each link in the chain simply needs to perform their small individual task. For an end-user this could be photographing and uploading a receipt to create expenses, and for approvers, it means simply clicking through expense items and receipt images in a browser window and clicking “approve.” However, for the process to be this simple on the front end for system users, the back-end technology that powers the solution needs to intelligent enough to reduce the amount of “thinking” required, and eliminate any ambiguities in the decision-making process.

Related: The Pitfalls of Manual Expense Reporting

This is compounded by the fact that corporate travel expense policies can often be highly complex, both in terms of what can be expensed and by whom, and also in terms of how approvals are handled. For example, while dry cleaning could be an allowable expense on a week-long trip, it isn’t for an overnight stay. Similarly, one client of a company may allow $20 to be reimbursed for lunch while another allows $25. An automated system which automatically knows what, when and for whom an expense is permissible, and notifies employees what is within policy before an expense is submitted, enables employees to avoid mistakenly (or otherwise) attempting to claim for spend which will be denied.

Related: Creating an Expense Policy that Helps, Not Hinders Your Employees

For those in the approval process after the expense has been submitted, there are similar benefits – no more needing to check how much a certain client will allow for reimbursement before clicking “approve,” and no uncertainty about what your company’s expense policy will and will not allow. In addition, if an expense is over a certain amount, or for a particular client or GL code, and needs an additional approver, an intelligent expense system can recognize this, and automatically route the expense item as necessary.

These business rules, which determine what expenses are allowable and how they are approved, are critical for enabling companies to enforce their (and their clients’) expense policy. Without them, an expense automation solution adds little meaningful value to an organisation, and can drive frustrations and inefficiencies for travellers, approvers and administrators. However, although all modern expense automation solutions offer some level of automated policy enforcement and dynamic routing, many have limited flexibility in the way that they can be configured. Therefore, if your organisation has more sophisticated requirements, you may find that instead of the system working around your policy, you need to mold your policies around the solution’s shortcomings. 

Related: How I Did it: Best Practices for Implementing Business Rules

To learn about how a business rules-based expense management solution can streamline processes, reduce costs and increase compliance at your organization, download this executive white paper


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. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
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. Ben Zastrow Zelle