Emburse offers a single platform that enables organizations — small, midsize and larger —to manage their travel and related expenses, pay invoices and handle their corporate spend. Today, technology has the ability to significantly increase the efficiency with which organizations handle expenditures while simultaneously containing costs, increasing controls and improving visibility into where the money is going. This is part of a broader trend toward digitizing outlays: I assert that by 2025, more than two-thirds of organizations will be using spend management software and corporate cards to achieve greater control and increased efficiency.
Emburse’s applications can improve accounting department efficiency while reducing administrative burdens for workers. Executives, workers and finance and accounting departments often devote a considerable amount of time managing and controlling expenses — especially for travel and worker spend — when they could be using software to streamline these processes. Using its applications, they also can access the current state of their expenses and budgets wherever they are, receive timely alerts when situations needing their attention arise, and dig into the details of every transaction for clarity and control. Using software to manage this part of the finance department can provide a rapid payback and is a relatively easy way for organizations to use technology effectively. Finance and accounting departments notably lag in their use of technology: our Office of Finance Benchmark Research finds that 45% of midsize and larger organizations operate at the lowest level of technology competence while just 12% are innovative.
Accounts payable is a function ripe for technology-driven innovation. Automation applied to invoices can substantially increase staff productivity. Another often-overlooked benefit from reducing cycle times in payables is that organizations can achieve a higher return on available cash by taking advantage of early-payment discounts where savings can be a multiple of what’s earned on cash balances or even short-term borrowing costs. Managing paper receipts should be consigned to the dustbin of history given that anyone with a smartphone can record an image of the receipt, and Emburse’s software captures the merchant, date and amount to create an expense line item without requiring a keystroke.
Another way Emburse helps is through its corporate card offerings, which provide greater flexibility and efficiency in how payments are handled. Physical cards can be programmed to limit purchases to specific categories, apply per-diem caps or be suspended when the worker fails to comply with policies, including providing valid receipts. Virtual cards can have pre-approvals baked in and are well-suited for one-time or recurring payments. Some can be established for a specific event, such as a trade show or marketing program. Increasingly, auto-categorization makes it possible to immediately classify expenditures and, along with paperless receipt submission, cut down on time spent by the accounting staff and accelerate the accounting close.
I’ve covered the topic of corporate spend in a previous research note. It usually refers to the incidental but still significant outlays organizations make to support operations. Especially in nonmanufacturing industries, purchases of indirect goods and business services — such as computers, office supplies, furniture and graphic design — as well as travel and entertainment can represent a significant percentage of total costs. Spend management software is no longer just a tool to record employee expense reports, manage approvals and process requests for reimbursement. Beyond streamlining processes, it provides managers immediate visibility into actual spending and trends as well as better service to employees through a modern, consumer-friendly interface that makes it much easier for them to prepare and document expense reports.
Emburse's spend management software also makes it easier for workers to comply with policies, can reduce duplicate or wasteful spending and substantially reduce maverick spending by concentrating purchases with preferred vendors, thereby helping to achieve cost savings through negotiated volume discounts. Centralizing indirect procurement in one application that records all purchases makes it easier to hold suppliers accountable to volume discount agreements. Moreover, having a single system for expense management and financials can improve the finance department’s strategic potential by streamlining the accounting and reimbursement processes. Such software cuts the time and effort the accounts payable department spends on processes that rely on paper and desktop spreadsheets. It also should provide the finance department with increased accuracy, visibility and control of these expenses. Executives and managers should be able to closely track outlays, especially if the organization’s system provides comprehensive, up-to-the-minute information about the expenses. Spend management software shouldn’t just automate; it should streamline your employee spend processes. It shouldn’t just collect data; it should provide actionable information.
Technology has evolved to the point where executives — especially the chief financial officer — need to take an overarching approach to corporate spend that utilizes technology to tighten controls, deepen visibility into expenditures, increase productivity and reduce process frictions. Spend management software and corporate spend cards — either physical or virtual — offer a means of achieving spend management objectives.