Our Very Important Process (VIP) series has been exploring how essential organizational procedures—such as the expense report process—can be made more effective and efficient. VIPs are all those essential processes your business needs to run as efficiently as possible.
Expense reports are one of the most common procedures in any organization. And for many of us, one of the most painful.
According to an Aberdeen Group study, 70% of best-in-class enterprises are using one of the four automated methods for expense management: an end-to-end solution, ERP provider, expense management software or outsourcing.
The Manual Expense Report Process
In most organizations, employee expenses align with specific budgets or cost centers and need to be categorized by business need. Manually, this process requires significant time in a spreadsheet and usually means physical receipts.
- Employee saves paper copies of receipts for each of their expenses.
- Employee enters each expense into a spreadsheet with the total cost, date, purpose, budget allocation, category and anything else required by the organization’s expense procedures.
- Employee sends complete spreadsheet and copies of receipts to their manager for approval.
- Once approved, the manager sends the expense report to the accounting department.
- The accounting department process each expense into the organization’s finance system and reimbursing the employee.
At each point in the process, the employee may need to follow up manually to keep the claim moving forward so they can be reimbursed. And as the number of expenses increase, the manual process can quickly become a frustrating, drawn-out process which requires numerous employee hours and creates potential for inaccuracy.
There are additional time and fiscal challenges to a manual expense process.
Manual processing of expense reports usually means a long reimbursement cycle. It can also result in a duplicate process for recurring expenses (cell phone, internet bill, etc.) that have to be submitted, reviewed, approved and processed manually each month.
An Automated Expense Report Process
No one wants to spend their valuable time manually entering their expenses and going through the motions of getting them approved.
Almost all the pain points of expense reports can be eliminated with an automated expense process. And the need for the step-by-step follow-up from employees is removed with an automated workflow that moves the claim through each step in the process.
Implementing a solution using the Nintex Workflow platform to automate the expense report process will alleviate your employees from the need to spend numerous hours each month tracking and submitting their expenses.
An expense claim workflow built with the Nintex Workflow platform could look something like this:
- The workflow starts with an employee submitting an expense claim via a Nintex form. They enter each of their monthly expenses and attach the corresponding receipts.
- After the form has been submitted, the workflow will proceed depending on whether or not the claim is in a Draft state or Submit state.
- If the claim is set to Submit, the workflow will pull each of the line item expenses and store them in a Dictionary (this action allows us to easy store data as name-value pairs, such as Category-Dollars).
- This and the other dictionaries are used to communicate the expense report information to an approval manager via an email or, if we think about even further down the line in our process automation journey, into another system of record such as an ERP or accounting software.
- The expense claim details are then passed along to the manager for approval. Once approved, the details of the expense claim are crystalized as a ‘reviewed’ expense claim.
The entire process only took minutes to build and is completely automated – including the follow-up.
The workflow moves the expense claim from one step to the next, without the need for the employee to intervene, to do things like remind their manager or accounting to approve the claim.
Automate Your VIP
This workflow is just an example of how you can use a workflow automation tool, like Nintex, to streamline your expense claim process.
Depending on the requirements of your organization you can include additional or fewer steps in the workflow and connect to other systems of record.
Taking an automated approach to this very important processes claims reduces the risk of errors in reporting and saves significant time for both those submitting and approving claims.
Want to try the Nintex Workflow Platform for yourself? Get a free, 30-day trial today!