Cheapest isn’t always better

The importance of choosing the right Expense Management solution

“Cheapest isn’t always better”. A sentence which we’re all familiar with, but how does this express itself in our line of business?
When choosing an Expense Management solution, it is key to relate to the full process that you want optimized. Put in another way, it is crucial to have full insight into the process.

If you don’t succeed to get fully around the process you want to optimize, then it’s guaranteed that you won’t end up with a successful result. This means that the solution you choose will have little or no value at all for your business. And that’s a scenario that you don’t want.

Insight and focus

Our starting point is always a thorough insight into the customers’ processes when we advise about implementation and use of our solution. This stands in striking contrast to solely focusing on being the cheapest in the market.

Our focus lies on the employees, in other words those who use our service most often. Some call them “the travelers” and the point is, that “the travelers” must spend as little time as possible on the actual handling of receipts. Instead they should spend time creating value for the business.

However, when we assist our customers in digitizing their Expense Management process, our methodology goes even deeper. It’s typically not enough, only to relate to employees as one single group of users. No, it’s important to go into more detail. You can often define sub-groups of users with different needs. If your supplier or advisor doesn’t take this into account, then you’ll most likely end up with a process that goes awry.

Lacking process insight has consequences

Sometimes we hear statements like; “Well, your competitor also has an app…”. “True, but is it simple and intuitive?”, “will it be implemented correctly?”, “will it enable the time savings you expect?” and “can it be adapted to the exact processes and user types of your organization?” we can ask back.
These are important questions to ask yourself before you enter a contract with a supplier. Remember, that you will only achieve the full savings effect, if the solution embraces the full process. And if you begin to doubt whether you can demonstrate a positive ROI with the solution that you are looking at, then you’d rather hold off from entering the project.

Fact is, however, that a project around digitizing the expense process is relatively simple to implement. Especially if you are in the hands of experts within the field. On the other hand, both market research and our experiences shows that it can be equally simple to implement an Expense Management solution in a bad way. We often see examples of this, and research reveals that about 50 % of the businesses who’s already got a dedicated solution for handling expenses, doesn’t utilize the system in an optimal way. It can for example be because some user groups are limited by lack of functionality, certain expenses cannot be processed through the system or that the system isn’t rolled out properly. I have chosen to call this the “Fifty-Fifty trap”.

The consequences of lacking or inadequate process insight can easily lead to a bad implemented solution. Obviously, you want to avoid this, otherwise you’ll risk getting caught in the “Fifty-Fifty” trap. If that happens, your ROI scenario won’t hold up.

A real-world example

Let me draw up a fresh example (anonymized, of course).

A medium sized organization with international activity wanted to optimize their expense process. They also received advisory from a state-authorized public accountant related to their expense process and the choice of solution. The organization choose a solution that is based on pre-paid debit cards appertained with a well-functioning app.

However, amongst other things, they forgot that:

    • They have certain groups of employees who often visits airport lounges (the chosen solution just didn’t provide lounge access).
    • They have employees who register mileage (the chosen solution just didn’t provide this functionality).
    • They have employees who does cash expenses (the chosen solution just didn’t allow this).

In the end, the solution (if we can call it that) was, that this organization had to keep credit cards for certain employees accompanied by a manual process for settlement. Also, they needed to use pen and paper for registering cash expenses and mileage.

Bang! That’s the sound of the “Fifty-Fifty trap” closing around them.

It’s easy to understand that this doesn’t have anything to do with process optimization or digitization. In my opinion, it’s more of a hassle for the employees to handle their expenses now.

And don’t get me wrong here. I’m not after accountants, who deliver advisory to their customers. No, I’m just after advisory that isn’t complete and doesn’t get around all the corners in a process.

What about security?

If you initiate an Expense Management project, data security is also an important area. That’s why I’ll also touch upon this in this article.

Make sure that you are confident with what your solution provider and/or your advisors has to offer regarding security. If you, as mentioned in the example above, end up in the “Fifty-Fifty trap”, then your process security will be seriously compromised. It means that you don’t have complete control over the process as it will be split in separate independent part-processes, where some things are done digitally, and other things are done manually. This is a true nightmare scenario when we talk data security and can end up by being a costly affair.

We focus on the whole process. Hence, when our customers trust us with large quantities of their data flowing through our solution, we have chosen to secure them against misuse. This means that we, amongst other things, are 3402 certified and have dedicated resources to handle GDPR and data security.

Don’t miss out on the upsides even before you’ve started

Okay then, so the choice of solution and solution provider and their approach to uncovering your processes is extremely important and determines whether you will have success with optimizing the expense process in your organization. “Process insight” is the most important keyword to take away from this article. And we are probably all familiar with the next sentence; “Usually, you get what you pay for!”.

There are also other factors that can send you straight into the “Fifty-Fifty trap”. In other words, factors that can make you a member of the club for those that doesn’t get maximum benefit from their Expense Management solution.

The next topic I will dig into is “implementation and roll-out”. An area where things also can go wrong, if you don’t team up with the enough experience and know-how. So stay tuned on the blog.

Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder
Acubiz