Accelerate review and approval processes in travel expense reporting

How to speed up review and approval processes in travel expense reporting

Why it is important to think about it

Do you remember the first blog post on the topic of paying travel expenses? If not, feel free to read it again here. https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/en/blog/the-best-way-to-pay-travel-expenses-to-business-travellers

Today we want to pick up the thread again and look at how a best way for you to pay travel expenses to your employee:s might look like. We agreed that travellers naturally want to be reimbursed as quickly as possible. In times of ever-increasing inflation, as is currently the case, this trend is likely to intensify. But how do you see it as a company? Do you have the same interest or does paying claims as late as possible play a role in your cash management?

We don't want to judge that here and now; our customers can control themselves via our software how quickly and often they check, release and pay out travel expenses. At the same time, let us briefly mention at least three aspects that also speak for quick payment from a business perspective:

  • If the checking and approval processes are lean and automated, it will always relieve your back office in the accounting / HR department. This frees up capacities for activities that are much more value-adding than, for example, checking thermal receipts or phoning travellers about an invoice.
  • Your managers are also significantly relieved and can focus on their actual tasks.
  • But most importantly, we believe that motivated employees are one of the most important resources for companies today. And keep in mind that while money flowing to your employees (whether salary or travel expenses) does not create additional motivation, processes that hindered or delayed payment can lead to a lot of resentment, extra work and demotivation.

What do typical review and approval processes look like?

Before we implement projects with our clients, one of the key points in our KickOffs is to discuss the current processes and how they should look in the future. Because it is precisely in the design of these processes that a lot of time and work can be saved.

Let's first take a look at what kind of processes we encounter most often. And maybe you can see yourself and your organisation in some of them.

In some cases, software (e.g. Lexware or Concur etc.) is already being used and yet the review and approval processes are serial, i.e. organised in steps AFTER each other. Sometimes there is an emphasis on executives approving travel before accounting even starts checking, other times it is the other way around. We wonder why the 4-eyes principle is not organised in a parallel process (but more on that later).

In quite a few cases, however, people still work with forms and/or Excel. Here, travellers stick receipts on slips of paper, fill out a form to indicate, for example, why they travelled, for how long, where to or to which cost centre, which project, etc.

This form then goes to the desk of the manager, who is supposed to sign it and then gives it to the accounting department where it is finally checked. Then, in the worst case, all data is manually entered into the accounting software.

This process was already very slow and error-prone in the days when we all went to the office every day. In times of home office and/or hybrid working arrangements, it almost breaks down. Weeks of waiting for money have turned into months in some cases.

How weeks become a few days

One of the important steps in this process is the digitisation of receipt entry by the travellers themselves. If the application is stable, reliable and simple, it will be used and travellers will enter their receipts almost instantly. But that is not the focus here today. If you are interested, you are welcome to read about it in the small mini-series:

https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/en/blog/blogb-posts/mobile-working-1

https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/en/blog/blogb-posts/mobile-working-2

Today, it is about convincing our clients to organise the approval by executives and the final check by the accounting department in simultaneous (or parallel) processes.

We create the technical prerequisites for this with our software. But is that even possible? Is it secure enough?

From our experience, the backgrounds of the two review and approval processes are two very different ways of looking at the same process. And that is precisely why they can be organised completely independently of each other.

  • Managers
    • look primarily at budgets for travel costs. If necessary, they also look at the type of means of travel (e.g. plane vs. train or economy vs. business etc.) The trip itself and the purpose are usually agreed upon beforehand and result from the job description anyway.
    • You would like to give permission with little effort and at the same time be sure not to violate any rules.
  • Accounting
    • Looks at completely different aspects. Are all the receipts there? Are they correct? For example, is the company address on the hotel receipt, is VAT ticked on the tax receipt, are all the mandatory details on the hospitality receipt? etc.

In our solution, all legal regulations and also company-internal regulations (e.g. limits for hotel overnight stays, deviating additional meal expenses VMA) are stored. This means that travellers cannot submit receipts that violate these regulations and, in the case of "optional regulations", approvers are visually informed of this and are shown the rule behind it. In this way, you can be 100% sure that they will not approve anything that cannot be approved. After the travellers have submitted their settlement,

  • you will be informed,
  • guided to the right place,
  • get all the information
  • and can seamlessly approve or reject.

At the same time, the accounting department already sees the submitted travel expense report. They receive completely different information. Here, too, the software checks ahead. But not only for laws and rules. It also monitors:

  • is a digitised receipt attached
  • Do the amount, supplier, place, date and VAT on the receipt match the values in the database?
  • Compliance rules can also be monitored and visually displayed.

Of course, employees in the accounting department can see which travel expense claims have already been approved/rejected by managers or are still open. However, they can organise their work completely independently as they can be 100% sure : only when the complete 4-eyes principle has been fulfilled (travel expenses have been approved by the manager and the accounting department) the expenses will be booked and paid.

Conclusion

We have checked this in actual practice. If travellers simply enter all travel data and receipts, during or shortly after the trip, via the app in a few minutes. They can then submit the travel expense report just after their return, which makes it possible with our software and the processes we recommend to receive reimbursement 1-2 days later. (Of course, this also depends on the method and frequency of your payment method. Please read the first blog of this mini-series again).

If it takes a really long time, we're talking about a week. And now critically check how it is with you at the moment.

Feel free to send us feedback or make an appointment for a free exchange of experiences. We will be happy to share our expertise with you.

https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/kontakt

Here you can find all blog posts from this mini-series

https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/en/blog/blogb-posts/mobile-working-1

https://www.openmind-travelmanagement.com/en/blog/blogb-posts/mobile-working-2

To make sure you don't miss anything, feel free to follow us on LinkedIn or facebook.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/openmind-gmbh

https://www.facebook.com/openMINDtravelmanagement

 

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