Is there an ”expense irony” that could save your company money? Aberdeen Group Inc. analyst Christa Degnan says that while many companies have systems in place to price and track the smallest component within their supply chains, they often have no idea how much money employees spend on travel, or how much time internal staff spend processing travel and entertainment reports.
Up to 20 percent of a company’s total indirect costs stem from travel expenses, which are usually reimbursed via an intensely manual paper-shuffling process. Expense management automation (EMA), which entails Web-based technologies that cut people out of the process, can lower both the costs of processing and the amount spent on airfare, hotels, and so on. But Degnan warns that corporate-culture issues pose a challenge: since expense reimbursement touches on employees’ personal time and money, getting them to adapt new Web-based systems can require some coaxing. She says to start small, have patience, and make sure your EMA system captures all policies and rules. That way, no one can claim ignorance about what will and won’t fly. Another tip: make the EMA system the only way to get reimbursed. That will ensure that employees take it seriously. EMA software is offered by, among others, Acceleron, Ariba, Captura, Concur, Extensity, Gelco, IBM, Necho, Outtask, and many ERP vendors.