Funding Societies is a peer-to-peer lending platform for SMEs in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Since its launch in 2015, it has grown to a team of more than 400 people. With its large size, the company had reached a point where every department had two—sometimes more—people in charge of approving expense claims.
At first, Funding Societies’ staff had to enter expense claims on an Excel file, snap photos of receipts, and send both the spreadsheet and the images through email. Approvers would review them before submission.
From there, the accounting team would enter the data onto their accounting software, Xero. They had to collate data from spreadsheets sent by different employees and manually enter it into their software.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see how tedious and time-consuming—not to mention error-prone—this process became over time.
This made it difficult to implement a workflow for receiving, processing, confirming, and tracking these claims. As the company grew, they realised they needed a solution that would eliminate most of this manual work.
The cost of manual expense management
Most of us have, at one point in time, tried using our email inboxes as de facto file tracking and storage systems. If you have, you’ve probably discovered that this method gets impractical and difficult once the number of messages and files becomes too large, and the emails more frequent, making it impossible to adopt as a scalable solution.
Funding Societies wasn’t alone in this dilemma. Around the world, businesses have grappled with the costs of manual data entry. One research found that individual employees can spend as many as 19 days a year on manual data entry and processing. Another revealed that Singaporeans spend 380 hours a year on routine tasks, including manually preparing expense claims and reports.
That’s not to mention the costly consequences of data entry errors, which can result in over- or under-paying for an expense claim, increased employee man-hours in order to correct it, and inconvenience on the claimant’s part.
And by using a manual expense management process, businesses also miss out on the opportunity to track expenses in real-time. Doing so is important because it shows business leaders their financial position at any given time. It also provides analysts and accountants an opportunity to gain data insights, such as identifying expense trends over a year and spotting areas where the company can reduce spending.
Automation is key
So Funding Societies—being a tech company and a millennial-era startup, after all—went hunting for a solution that would streamline and automate their expense management process.
“We wanted to improve user experience and save time for internal users when they submit expenses. We also wanted to reduce the workload of our accounting team,” shares Daphnie Teo, Lead Analyst at Funding Societies.
Travelstop is a cloud-based corporate travel and expense management solution, but there’s one key feature within the platform that particularly attracted Funding Societies: its expense tracking and reporting tool.
Using Travelstop's expense management solution, employees could simply snap photos of receipts and upload them via a web or mobile app. The platform makes it extremely simple to track and report expenses. Approvers can view the claims on the web or mobile app to make the necessary actions.
Travelstop then generates a Xero-compatible CSV file, which Funding Societies’ accountants import into their accounting software. This automatically syncs the data with the rest of the company’s financial records. This means they can view the expenses alongside other financial information, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable.
Part of the reason Funding Societies chose to use Travelstop was its ease of use, especially for today’s mobile, tech-savvy workforce.
Reaping the rewards of an expense management system
Sometimes, it’s only when you implement a solution that you see just how big a problem you had on your hands. This is especially true in situations when the link between a certain practice and its costs isn’t always clear and direct, or can’t be easily expressed as a dollar value.
For instance, after Funding Societies automated its expense management process, it reaped benefits beyond just saving their accountants a lot of time (although that in itself is a wonderful achievement). They found that internal users, especially those using iPhones, find it a lot more user-friendly to submit expenses via the app, resulting in more timely submission.
They also saved on time and resources, as employees no longer had to spend so much time on laptops or desktops filling out spreadsheets.
Automation has also improved data accuracy and visibility across the organization.
“Using Travelstop led to more transparency and reduced the need to reach out to the finance team for updates. We know when expense reports are being approved and paid,” she adds.
Think how much time you could save if you could reduce the need to send messages back-and-forth between different teams just to get an update.
Imagine the higher-value, more strategic tasks that accountants could focus on once they’ve freed up hours that were previously spent on approving dozens—even hundreds—of expense claims in a month.
And how about the boost in employee satisfaction now that they can claim expenses by doing something they already do often—snapping pictures on their phones? Their managers and approvers no longer need to spend time reminding them to submit their claims and worrying that the process is making them unhappy.
All in all, that sounds like a win-win situation.
Tips & tricks on rolling out an expense management tool across your organisation
Even though they found Travelstop intuitive and easy to use, Funding Societies went the extra mile to make implementation easier.
Here are some things you can do, based on their experience:
- See if the expense management tool lets you export all your data, and import the file into your accounting software or for your own analysis.
- Consult the expense management tool’s user guides to make implementation a success. Funding Societies also held “brown bag sessions” to introduce the app and conducts refreshers once in a while to share best practices on the Travelstop app.
But don't stop at implementation. Once you've rolled out your expense management tool, have a plan in place for understanding the value it delivers to your business.
Funding Societies, for instance, measured both the tangible (e.g., number of hours saved) and intangible (e.g., improved user experience) impact of the tool on their business.
You can do the same, and set yourself on the right track to reap the rewards of expense management automation.