By Steve Dalton, Senior Director of ERP Product Marketing, Oracle
Question: What’s your No. 1 priority when you or your business colleagues return from a business trip? Is it:
A. Follow up with contacts and sales prospects
B. Organize your notes
C. Present your findings or reconvene with staff
D. Submit your expense report
If you answered A, B, or C, you are in good company. After all, for many businesses expense management is an afterthought—or a necessary evil.
Yet for SMBs, expense management should be an integral component of your strategic goals.
I’ve seen many small and medium businesses “get by” with outdated, inefficient expense reporting solutions and processes. In fact, many SMBs still use spreadsheets or email to enter and track expenses, while others create custom or “home-grown” workflow-focused solutions.
While such methods may work when you’re just starting out, they’re not sustainable once your business passes start-up mode and enters into hyper-growth.
Here’s what happens: As the business grows, employees (especially in Sales and Professional Services) may spend money with little to no knowledge of expense policies—assuming that such policies even exist. When travelers get home, the last thing they want to do is gather up their receipts and enter an expense report; they would much prefer to enter expenses as they are incurred during their business trip. After they submit their expense report, reimbursement decisions are often made based on how much cash is in the bank, instead of based on policies.
Suddenly, you’re putting out a million fires. Costs go up—but with limited insight or controls, precious cash is unnecessarily squandered. And workers get frustrated because they spend too much time managing their expenses, which inevitably cuts into mission-critical activities they must perform to keep growing the business.
Historically, SMB companies that wanted to modernize their travel and expense management process were confronted with the reality that they did not have the capital, infrastructure or IT resources to purchase best-practice solutions. Fortunately, software as a service (SaaS) allows smaller companies to adopt modern expense reporting solutions that were once only the domain of larger competitors.
The benefits of always-current SaaS solutions include increased end-user productivity, control of expenses, and minimized IT outlays.
When it comes to expense reporting, managing receipts and entering expenses are both big challenges. Traditional reporting involved entering the details of every receipt into a spreadsheet, scanning the receipts, emailing the whole package to managers, and then emailing it to accounting for approval and reimbursement. And for international travel, users had to find and enter currency exchange rates, and hope they were entering them correctly. Trust me: speaking from experience, this isn’t fun!
In today’s “bring your own device” environment, employees expect systems that reflect the digital technologies they use in their personal lives. If you can make the expense process easier, you can increase employee productivity, satisfaction, and compliance.
Modern cloud expense reporting solutions include mobile capabilities that allow users to simply take a picture of a receipt, or capture expenses with voice commands from their smartphone. Think about the power of that. You’ve taken a cumbersome, multistep process and condensed it into a simple, nearly touchless transaction.
At Oracle, we call this system Oracle Expenses Cloud.
Location-based features also help simplify reporting. Most of us who have traveled for business have experienced the hassle of logging mileage or calculating currency conversions. Mobile reporting tools let you calculate mileage and currency through your phone’s GPS route-tracking capabilities.
You also can use your phone’s contacts and calendar to identify people who joined you for a business-related meal or other expenses.
To further simplify mobile expense entry, Oracle Expenses Cloud automatically downloads company credit card transactions to smartphones. This has obvious benefits for business travelers, who no longer have to enter essential receipt information themselves. It also benefits your company because you have better reporting related to merchant spend, which allows you to negotiate better rates with your merchants.
With Oracle Expenses Cloud, expense reports can be automatically created from travel reservations made with GetThere. Since many expense policies are enforced while booking travel, you can use the GetThere connection to preempt policy violations.
You can ensure that travel expenses are properly monitored and controlled with configurable policies such as daily limits, role, and location rates. Dashboards let you see your top expense categories and your top spenders, and drill down into line items for detailed reviews. You can analyze spending across categories, merchants, and locations—and across cost centers and departments. All of these controls have a distinct advantage for SMBs that need to limit cash outflows.
As you grow your business, your employees need to focus on supporting your strategic growth objectives—but they also need to be cognizant of whether their expenses are compliant with your company policies. Oracle Expenses Cloud allows you to:
All of this might sound sophisticated, but it doesn’t require extensive setup or cost—which is great news for an SMB. Since it’s in the cloud, you don’t need to invest much, other than the initial implementation and a monthly subscription fee.
Another key advantage of Oracle Expenses Cloud is that you do not need to use precious cash for IT resources, including hardware, network security and IT personnel.
If your business is small and growing fast, your dual responsibilities are to nurture the growth and only spend what is necessary to support that growth. And one effective way to control spending is get a handle on expenses right from the start.
With mobile expense reporting and embedded policies powered by Oracle Expenses Cloud, you can minimize the time it takes for employees to enter expenses so they can remain focused on your goal of driving growth even higher.