Now Is the Time to Digitalise Your Spend Management

When we think about the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the business world, digital transformation may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But, whether business is booming or times are tough, the new work-from-home paradigm has put a spotlight on the untenable nature of paper-, e-mail-, and spreadsheet-based processes.

Shari Lava, research director for small and midsize businesses at IDC, makes it clear: “It is definitely the time to be saying, this manual way we were doing things is not working.”

This is especially true for spend management.

Depending on the products and services you offer, uncertainty can mean sudden drops in revenue or sharp spikes in demand. Even if you’ve already started to strategically automate expense management, that doesn’t provide the full spend visibility and process control you need to optimise cash flow, withstand chaos, and prepare for whatever the future may bring.

Many businesses are already looking at cloud-based technology that allows their people to work safely from home. In the meantime, employees wonder how to submit expenses for home-office equipment, fret about lost paper receipts, and can’t access invoice records that are sitting in a file cabinet at the office. Because of these process delays and data that is coming in piecemeal, finance teams are forced to pay whatever comes their way – making it nearly impossible to optimise cash flow, effectively direct budgets, and identify errors, waste, or abuse.

There is no doubt: The time to invest in digital expense and vendor invoice management is now.

As Bryan Ball, director of research on supply chain and supplier management practices at Aberdeen, explains: “In this current environment, having visibility into critical spending information that impacts cashflow, such as expense reports and vendor invoices, can make a difference in terms of survival or how quickly companies can return to a stable position and be better prepared for the future.”

With the right technology for managing expenses, your people can stop wasting time manually reviewing paper receipts and credit card statements, then keying data into spreadsheets or other reporting tools. Managers can get automatic alerts when it’s time to review and approve expense reports, so no one needs to follow up with phone calls and e-mails.  Even if you already have these tools in place, manual invoice management – with automatic invoice capture and approval workflows – can give you a complete view of spending company-wide. Plus, human error and the frustration and rework it causes are taken out of the equation. The result is more time in the day to focus on interesting, value-adding work – increasing job satisfaction and staff productivity.

In addition to overall efficiency gains, strategic spend digitalisation gives you tighter cost and budget control. By combining intelligent technology and automated processes, you can help ensure that your expense and invoice data is accurate and up to date. Employees can be reimbursed faster and invoice cycles can be shortened to minimise late fees and end-of-the-month surprises. You can also apply automatic controls and audit rules that alert employees to noncompliant expenses and help managers stay within budget. Finally, with all your spend data integrated with your finance systems, you can run detailed, real-time spend analytics that help you optimise spend strategy company wide.

While you may already have some digital spend management tools in place, it’s important to ensure that you’re able to track and categorise every aspect of company spend in order to eliminate blind spots. This includes expenses, POs, invoices, mileage, cash versus card spend, and spend due to specific situations, such as the current pandemic. It’s also important that the technology you choose integrates fully with your back-end ERP and finance systems, so your finance team has the data they need right when they need it. Robust spend analytics make it possible to organise data by category, vendor, cost center, team, employee, and more, so you can shift budgets as needed, find savings opportunities, and guide spending choices in a way that puts your cash where you need it most.

But making the call to digitalise spend management is just the first step. Next, you need to find the right technology partner. A few must-haves are simple, fast deployment; ease of integration; mobile workflows; intelligent analytics; secure cloud hosting; and predictable costs. But above all, you need a partner you can trust – one that will bring the most value to your business today and for the long haul – whether you are tightening your belt or figuring out how best to scale for future growth.

Joseph Bertran, senior research analyst at Analysys Mason, sums it up best: “Now is an optimal time for companies to digitally shift the way they manage company spend.”

Read the full business case to find out why.

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