by Emma Maslen, MD of UK Enterprise, SAP Concur
The end of the month can often be a time where the financial director and the rest of their team need to approach the mound of expenses, invoices and business travel details to make heads or tails of the information – often a task approached like the basement in a horror film with a rapidly dying torch.
This month, the usual round up falls on October 31st, a suitably terrifying time for the manual checking of all of this data, the hours this takes and the very real possibility that a mistake or fraudulent claim will come shambling up behind you.
But for savvy accounting teams, some have taken a leaf out of modern horror’s playbook and started to turn the tables. They’ve looked at that basement, decided against it, called the cops and have gone to stay somewhere else until the sun comes up. But to do this, these teams need to have access to all of the right information, allowing them to forecast ahead and work out that it’s probably not in their best interest to check the moaning coming up through the air vents. In fact, this information can actually allow them to turn the tricks they might have been left into treats that will help them as they move forward. Here are just a few examples to help ease the Halloween horrors.
A vast amount of expense submissions will be in the form of mileage receipts – it’s one of the biggest items found on the average expense report. Unfortunately, it can also have a Jekyll and Hyde effect, as research has shown that 27 per cent of employees will often exaggerate their claims. As the 31st encroaches, these are the kind of stats to wake up an accountant in a cold sweat. It’s here that the antidote of online expense submissions can allow mileage to be turned into a positive for your organisation.
To start with, any exaggerated claims can quickly be identified and routes looked at. Do you have three salespeople that regularly visit the same location, but one’s journey always claims that extra ten miles? For those with online systems, these are far easier to spot and query. So too can the data be used to stop any scary mileage results; duty of care can swiftly be brought in to help take those people regularly driving for hours each day and instead ensure they are safely using the train for overtly long drives.
Flights can put a shiver up the spine of even the most hardened finance and accounting teams. When first or business class is involved, these can be downright heart-stopping.
But connected data sets can often be used to ensure that there isn’t a nightmare at 20,000 feet; financial information is all the more powerful if it is combined with other data sets and reviewed with a birds’ eye view. For example, we’ve seen customers realise that by putting their regular travellers onto more expensive and comfortable flights, they can actually save themselves money in the long run through less sick leave being taken, and by delivering well-rested travellers to their destination.
Bookings for accommodation can sometimes feel like the hollow man for those responsible. An unseen threat, they often make themselves known only when its too late and the scary spend has already occurred. Finance teams can often feel like they are checking over their shoulder all the time for rogue bookings that aren’t through their official channels.
But there isn’t just a defence against the invisible man; in fact, there’s a full-on cure, in the form of the right technologies being brought into use. If finance teams can use booking software that doesn’t just capture the bookings made on-channel, but off-channel too, then they have the full picture of what is happening – including any villains that might be lurking about. They will also be better informed for the future; if they realise that the majority of travellers aren’t booking with their preferred supplier (and their discount), then they can instead turn their attention to where they are actually booking and negotiating a corporate rate there instead.
Invoices are the lifeblood of any business, especially for smaller organisations, these are the flow that keep them alive. But those that are designed to suck this blood from a business don’t look any different to you or me – at least, until you shine sunlight on them.
And remember, not all of these evil invoices are going to walk through the front door and attack; often they’ll wait patiently in the basement or in the rafters, until the time comes to strike.
This kind of fraud is rife, but for many in over-stretched finance departments and accounting offices, they simply don’t have the time to manually assess each of the invoices that crosses their path, looking for the one that’s a little pale and has no reflection. But automating this process can ensure that the needed sunlight can be turned on each and every one, ensuring that a safety net surrounds the business. Not to mention, there will be a far better flow of data to be analysed and forecast against, ensuring that the business stays alive, rather than becoming the undead.
These are just a few examples for this Halloween, but the message is clear – data is what fuels the modern finance department and needs to be harnessed in order to analyse spend, forecast the road ahead and make positive changes to their organisation. For those that are still using manual, drawn-out processes, don’t be alarmed, but I’m sure that sounded like footsteps coming from the attic…