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How Automated Expense Reports Unlock the Future of Finance

How Automated Expense Reports Unlock the Future of Finance

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Samantha Shankman

12 Sep 2023
7 minute read
How Automated Expense Reports Unlock the Future of Finance

Picture this: It’s the end of a grueling month, and Sarah, a manager at a bustling start-up, slogs through a mountain of receipts, invoices, and spreadsheets. She’s trying to piece together the company’s monthly expenses — a project akin to assembling a puzzle with missing pieces.

Receipts are lost, entries are duplicated, and the clock is ticking. It’s a scene played out in countless businesses across the globe, where the cumbersome task of expense reporting is a necessary evil, fraught with pitfalls like hard-to-decipher receipts and non-compliance with company policies.

In a world that has seen incredible advancements in technology and efficiency, it’s almost comical that many businesses are still entangled in the quagmire of manual expense management. But the repercussions are far from funny — delayed reimbursements, inaccurate expense claims, and cash flow problems can seriously hinder a company’s progress.

In this article, we’ll explore the challenges of manual expense reports, the innovation of automated expense reporting, and a way to optimize your expense management process.

The Shortcomings of Manual Expense Reporting

It’s been standard practice for many businesses to rely on manual expense reporting. But this approach comes with a host of challenges that significantly burden employees who submit expenses and the finance team. These include:

The Time Drain: Employees are responsible for collecting and keeping track of paper receipts, manually entering data into spreadsheets, and submitting expense reports for approval. This process is not only time-consuming but leaves room for a multitude of errors.

The Error Epidemic: Manual data entry is inherently prone to errors, which can range from duplicate entries and incorrect categorizations to missing receipts.

The Visibility Void: Finance teams find it difficult to get real-time visibility into expenses, leading to potential cash flow issues and delayed decision-making.

The Benefits of Automated Expense Reporting

Switching from manual to automated expense reporting offers many advantages to your organization. It makes the expense reporting process more streamlined and efficient and helps minimize errors. It helps ensure compliance with company and regulatory policies while providing valuable insights into spending patterns.

Moreover, automated expense management systems expedite the reimbursement process, enhance the employee experience, and ultimately contribute to the company’s bottom line by enabling cost savings. 

Let’s delve deeper into these advantages.

Key Benefits of Automated Expense Reporting

  • Streamlined Processes: Automation drastically reduces the need for manual entry, speeding up the expense reporting process and freeing up employees’ time for more value-added tasks.
  • Reduced Errors: Automated systems can detect duplicate entries, ensure accurate categorization, and match receipts to transactions, significantly reducing the risk of errors.

Enhanced Compliance: Automation can enforce company expense policies and regulatory requirements, simplifying the task of maintaining compliance and preventing fraud.

How to Automate Expense Reports

Streamlining your company’s financial operations is essential, and a key component is automating expense reports. That involves transitioning from manual processes such as collecting paper receipts and entering data into spreadsheets to automated workflows powered by expense management software. 

The result: Finance teams can reduce the time and effort required to submit and process expense claims and minimize errors. That helps ensure compliance with expense policies and provides real-time visibility into employee spending. 

Here are the crucial steps for automating expense reports.

  • Select the Appropriate Expense Management Software: Seek features such as receipt capture, intelligent categorization, and seamless integration with your accounting and ERP systems.
  • Implement Company Expense Policies: Configure the software to enforce your company’s expense policies, including spending limits and approved vendors.
  • Train Employees: Ensure employees are well-versed in using the software and fully understand the company’s expense policies.

Automating expense reports is not merely about efficiency; it’s a strategic move that can result in significant cost savings, improved cash flow, and enhanced decision-making. 

Automation diminishes the time spent on manual processes, enabling finance teams to concentrate on more strategic tasks such as budgeting, forecasting, and analysis.

The Evolving Role of Finance Professionals

Automated expense reporting transforms the roles of finance professionals. They can shift their focus to analyzing expense data, recognizing trends in employee spend, and providing insights that lead to better decision-making and cost savings. 

As Navan’s VP of Global Finance Operations, Julia Jansen, writes in this op-ed, “Incorporating technology allows finance professionals to pivot from routine reviewing to economic thinking. No longer mired in repetitive tasks, these professionals can now gain the bandwidth to conceptualize and implement broader changes.”

Automation of accounts payable, coupled with accounting software integrated with expense management platforms, eradicates manual processes and offers real-time insights into cash flow and employee spending. This functional transformation enhances efficiency and empowers finance and accounting teams to strategically contribute to the business’s bottom line.

The Nexus Between Automated Expense Reports & Corporate Cards

Automated expense reports and intelligent corporate cards are intrinsically linked. Intelligent corporate cards can be programmed with spending limits and approved vendors, enforcing company expense policies. 

Transactions made with smart corporate cards can be automatically imported into the expense management software, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Similarly, virtual cards can be integrated into the automated expense management system and used for online transactions or business travel expenses. This ensures accurate and real-time capture of all transactions, whether made with physical corporate cards or virtual cards, and it enhances the overall expense management and approval process.

Technology Solutions for Automating Expense Reports

Various technology-focused solutions can automate expense reports. But Navan is a comprehensive expense management solution that offers innovative features such as: 

  • Receipt capture
  • Intelligent categorization
  • Seamless integration with accounting and ERP systems
  • Mobile app functionality
  • Intelligent corporate and virtual card support

While some providers offer partial solutions, Navan delivers a holistic platform that addresses all facets of expense management, from submitting expense claims to enforcing company policies and streamlining the reimbursement process. Additionally, the mobile app functionality enables employees to capture and submit expenses on the move, further simplifying the process and reducing the time lag often associated with paper receipts and manual expense reporting.

Case Studies with Navan’s Automated Expense Management: A Transformational Journey

Global IoT tech company Relayr struggled with a fragmented travel and expense solution. CFO Joel Jeselsohn found the tool Relayr was using to be inadequate for the company’s needs due to a poor user experience and the inconvenience of using separate solutions for travel, payments, and expenses.

Relayr adopted Navan Expense, excited by its capabilities as a unified solution offering robust reporting capabilities, built-in policy controls, virtual and physical cards, and an intuitive dashboard. Relayr can now analyze booking compliance, cost savings, CO2 emissions, and real-time transactions globally. 

With Navan, Relayr’s spend management changed significantly due to:

Elimination of Expense Reports: Navan smart cards, with built-in policy controls, helped Relayr streamline its T&E policy, eliminating the need for expense reports. Control shifted to the expense level, providing immediate visibility into spend.

High Adoption and Compliance: More than 95% of employees adopted Navan Expense, leading to 98% auto-approval of global travel bookings and 98% compliance with the max-price policy for travel bookings. The EMEA team achieved 81% compliance with all other expense policies.

Cost Savings: Navan Rewards incentivized employees with Amazon gift cards for choosing cost-effective bookings, resulting in 15% net savings on hotel bookings.

Global Support: Navan’s 24/7/365 global support via chat or phone ensured traveler support, resulting in a 90% CSAT score from Relayr’s frequent travelers.

The adoption of Navan Expense revolutionized Relayr’s approach to expense management, resulting in streamlined processes, increased compliance, significant cost savings, and enhanced global supportall crucial elements for the success of any global enterprise.

A collage view of a submitted expense on the Navan mobile app, hotel search results using the Navan desktop app, and the Navan corporate card

Looking Ahead With Automation

Automating expense reports with solutions like Navan Expense is a strategic move that can benefit businesses of all sizes, from automating employee expense claims to simplifying spend management. Navan helps streamline the expense reporting process, reduce errors, and improve compliance. It also provides real-time visibility into spend, which is crucial for the management of business trips,as well as employee expense reimbursements and corporate credit card transactions.

By replacing manual processes (like entering data into Excel spreadsheets) with expense management automation software, companies can unlock valuable insights into their spending patterns, optimize their expense reimbursement process, and ultimately contribute to the bottom line by enabling cost savings.

Navan offers a comprehensive expense report automation solution that addresses all aspects of expense management, from submitting expense claims, enforcing company policies, and streamlining the reimbursement process to managing corporate credit card transactions and providing global support.

Key Takeaways:

  • Traditional expense reporting is time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient. It can lead to lost receipts, delayed reimbursements, inaccurate expense claims, and non-compliance with company expense policies.
  • Automating expense reports with expense reporting software like Navan Expense streamlines the process, reduces errors, ensures compliance, provides real-time visibility into expenses, and enables cost savings.
  • Automation software transforms the role of finance professionals from data entry clerks to strategic business partners, enabling them to focus on more strategic tasks like budgeting, forecasting, and analysis.
  • Smart corporate cards and virtual cards can be integrated into automated expense management systems, reducing the need for manual data entry and improving the overall expense management and approval process.
  • Companies like Relayr are proven examples that Navan Expense can provide a unified, streamlined, and tech-forward T&E solution that improves compliance, real-time visibility, and user experience for a global workforce.

Ready to transform your expense management process? Get started with Navan today and unlock the full potential of your business.

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