How Concur can ease expense and invoice management

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How Concur can ease expense and invoice management

The cloud expenditure-management system is suitable for small and large businesses, the company says.

Concur has many enterprise customers including Downer, Kellogg's and Salesforce, but its products are just as relevant to small businesses – perhaps more so, according to Concur business development director Murray Warner.

While large companies typically have substantial teams to look after things like business travel, expense management and bill processing, small businesses usually lack the systems needed to keep on top of these matters in an efficient way, Warner added.

So, a salesperson's day might involve travelling to meet a customer over coffee, going on to a lunch meeting, then travelling back to the office. At the end of the month – or at the point where they feel the company owes them too much – they fill in an expense report (typically a spreadsheet), print it, attach the relevant invoices and receipts, then forward it to their manager for approval. That can take hours to do, so automation could free up perhaps four hours per person per month, unlocking time to do more selling, Warner said.

Possibly following another tier of approval, the claim reaches the finance team, which examines it in detail. What seems like a small omission (such as inadequately identified lunch guests) may have implications for the company's FBT or GST responsibilities, so the claim is sent back and goes through the process again.

Streamlining expenses and invoices

So, there are two main problems with expense management: it takes up a lot of employees' time, and people aren't reimbursed as quickly as they would like.

Concur Expense addresses the first point, and enables employers to do something about the second one.

A mobile app allows users to photograph receipts, and the information they contain is extracted using OCR. Concur provides integration with Uber, Ingogo and other providers, and together these two features significantly reduce the data entry load.

Expense reports are submitted from the app, and users' managers are notified that they are waiting for approval. Any policy violations are automatically highlighted to make the process easier, and approved claims are loaded into the accounting system.

Concur Invoice does a similar job with invoice processing. It reads paper and electronic invoices, and simplifies the workflow by, for example, matching invoices to orders and goods received notes.

Cashflow is often an issue for businesses, Warner observed, so having visibility of new invoices as soon as they arrive can make a big difference. He gave the example of a freight forwarding company with around 40 employees that receives invoices at its locations around the country. Getting that immediate visibility is particularly important for this company, because its goods will not be unloaded at their destinations if the relevant invoice hasn't been paid.

Improving GST and FBT compliance

In addition to its cloud software, Concur has a service centre in Manila with around 1000 employees that provides the option of manual invoice and receipt validation for customers. The checks they carry out include ensuring that a document is a valid tax invoice, that expense claims actually match the receipts, and that those receipts are valid.

By getting rid of the data entry and basic audit processes, and making it easy to approve expense claims and invoices, Concur frees a significant amount of employee time and allows businesses to grow without necessarily taking on additional admin staff, Warner said, noting that most of Concur's customers start by buying either invoice or expense processing, and then adopt the other one as well.

Charging is according to use, per invoice or per expense claim. But the actual price charged depends on the minimum monthly commitment: the higher the commitment, the lower the unit price. Warner was reluctant to reveal exact prices, but indicated that committing to ten expense claims per month means each will cost several dollars, which we take to mean less than $10. How much of a salesperson's time do you need to save in order to justify spending $10? And that's without considering the value of better GST and fringe benefits tax compliance.

Similarly, a small customer with fewer than 10 employees might spend a few hundred dollars a year for invoice processing. A typical customer has around 100 employees, he said, and pays between $5000 and $10,000 a year. Again, it's a relatively simple return-on-investment calculation.

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