Interviews

Good-bye, paperwork: The business case for automation when scaling up

4 min read

19 June 2018

Former special projects journalist

As your business scales up, your business processes need to be able to scale with you. Here’s how to get a handle on your expense and invoice management.

Keeping tabs on employee expenses might be a relatively simple task for a small business starting out. An employee might expense a lunch with clients, another might expense some train tickets for a meeting, but it’s all in hand and easy to process manually.

But what happens when that business opens branches around the country? Overseas, even? What happens when, suddenly, you’re receiving 10, 20, 50 invoices or expense reports every week?

Suddenly, it can become difficult to gain an overall picture of the money flowing in and out of the company coffers. According to a study by AMI Partners, sponsored by SAP Concur, 69% of businesses are put off by the general inefficiency and laboriousness of manual solutions, and 60% indicated that cashflow tracking was a challenge.

It’s clear that as business scales up, it needs a better way of managing expenses and invoices. Could automated expense and invoice solutions be the answer?

The business case for automation

There are clear-cut benefits to automating expense and invoice management. Key findings include:

  •   500 hours saved annually per finance employee using an integrated expense, travel and invoice solution
  •   £22,000 average annual savings after implementing a travel and expense solution
  •   Average savings of £15 per expense report
  •   £25,000 average annual savings after implementing an invoice solution
  •   Average savings of £8 per invoice after implementing an invoice solution.

These are pretty significant numbers, and they can really add up. Here’s how it works:

The study found that finance teams using an automated travel and expense solution reported a 15% time reduction in the time it took to process expense reports. Likewise, invoice management users reported a 16% time reduction.

Time is money! These employees were freed up to work on driving the business forward rather than getting held up with admin.

It’s not just time-saving, either. Automated financial management also allows for greater visibility of cashflow – in fact, 54% of companies cited improved analytics as an important benefit.

Automated expense management can also reduce the time between report submission and reimbursement by as much as 80%, which is good news for employees.

Getting ready to switch

Introducing a new process can be daunting for some SMEs that have got used to working a certain way, but that’s never a good reason to resist change that could ultimately offer great advantages.

Implementing an automated solution can be a straight forward process, requiring only basic IT support. For larger firms, it is a good idea to ensure that the solution provider will offer a more hands-on service.

Potentially, some business owners may be put off by the idea of a new cost. While it is important to do your homework on the cost of implementation, it is worth remembering that in the long run it can help your bottom line.

The report explained: “Hesitant firms should not underestimate the potential long-term savings a well-guided solution can generate. In addition to cost savings, there are a variety of benefits that are tougher to quantify but can have a significant impact on the overall business.”

Overall, manual expense and invoice reporting might be working right now, but all ambitious businesses need to think ahead. Choose tools that can scale with you to future-proof your business.

For more information, or to read the full report, click here.