How to Manage Spend for Distributed Teams
Once a perk reserved for high-growth companies looking to attract talent, remote work has become mainstream as companies embrace a partially or fully remote workforce.
Even as restrictions ease and U.S. borders open, permanent work-from-home positions are expected to double compared to pre-pandemic levels. Distributed teams with members in different locations can have natural advantages, including higher employee satisfaction and the ability to tap into global talent.
With improved productivity trends and cost savings for remote teams, hybrid workplace arrangements might be here to stay. But new work arrangements have introduced new types of spending and finance teams have to keep up.
Traditional Spend Management Doesn’t Cut It
For companies stuck with traditional expense management processes, managing spend for a remote workforce could mean back-and-forth communication, constant bottlenecks, and friction within the organization.
Manual expense management processes require at least three people: an employee, the supervisor or manager, and the finance staff. Having too many teams involved means potential delays and additional paperwork.
On top of approval delays, frustrated employees, and overworked finance teams, manual processes in a remote setup leads to greater susceptibility for fraud.
Even in the last three years before the pandemic, surveyed CFOs reported a 56% increase in inappropriate expense report requests—for items ranging from crayons to a hot air balloon ride to a Lamborghini. Across the globe, expense reimbursement fraud accounts for 14% of fraud cases with a median loss of $33,000. With distributed teams, the risk of employees using company funds for unnecessary purchases increases by as much as 3X compared to pre-pandemic levels.
According to TripActions data in Q2 2021 alone, spending for computer peripherals and subscriptions increased by 695% over the previous quarter. While all this could be actual company expenses, non-compliance risk is higher for expense claims related to work from home equipment that employees could easily pass off as a company expense.
Finance teams, on the other hand, require access to all company spend regardless of the amount to enforce expense policies. The challenge lies in fast expense approval to address the needs of employees while keeping close control of expenses and staying on budget.
And this is only possible through smart technology.
Provide Spend Policy Clarity
For companies dealing with expense management, the biggest pain point is dealing with out-of-policy transactions after they’ve occurred.
Approximately 72% of companies surveyed have a travel & expense policy and 20% of those companies say travelers' understanding of it is "minimal at best." Paired with spend management software, a smart corporate card can notify travelers of relevant policies at point of purchase, before the transaction even occurs.
Speed up Approvals with Built-in Controls
Employees need a way to make online and spot purchases in a timely manner. Lengthy approval processes for small purchases like a subscription for a tool could cause unnecessary delays or missed opportunities.
Distributed teams need a fast and accessible approval workflow, especially if employees work on different shifts and time zones. Smart and proactive systems address this need by combining corporate cards with spend management software, enabling approvals in real-time. For added security, companies can issue one-time use virtual cards and virtual cards for recurring subscriptions.
Every time an employee purchases with a corporate card, the system automatically compares the expense against your spend policy. Expenses that are aligned with policy get approved. Anything out of policy would then be flagged for approval.
Having automated expense approvals keeps the process fair and prevents managers from having to make judgment calls on expense approvals. Employees also don't have to make purchases with looming uncertainty about reimbursement.
With end-to-end spend management, companies can automate expense approvals and reimbursements. By using spend management tools designed for remote processing, companies create a culture of trust and accountability while maintaining company control.
Eliminate Manual Processes
Nearly half of companies are still trying to manage expense reporting manually.
Delays in processing expense reports are a challenge. They result in slow chargebacks, employee frustration as well as difficulties closing the books, keeping track of the budget, and managing cash flows.
Manual processes require tedious review and duplicative work that could kill productivity. In fact, 78% of businesses with 50 employees or less consider automation of manual processes as their top priority when looking for cloud-based solutions.
With smart tools, employees improve efficiency through timely expense data submissions or eliminating expense reports altogether. Reducing the time spent chasing receipts and re-entering information in multiple systems saves employees and finance teams time and money.
Gain Real-Time Visibility for Ultimate Spend Control
Effective spend management boils down to staying on budget. To keep expenses under control, businesses need real-time insights on how money is being spent across the organization. True visibility cascades into better-informed forecasts and decisions.
About 26% of executives believe that transparency in finance and procurement processes could decrease costs by 11% to 20%. Unfortunately, incomplete data from manual processes and a lack of technology for evaluating and monitoring suppliers prevent transparency.
Of the companies that made the switch to cloud-based expense management, 76% saw improvements in expense processing, and 46% reported a positive ROI in less than one year.
Reduced processing costs, higher employee productivity, and greater compliance with T&E policies drove rapid payback for these solutions. And these results prove that using a system that could keep up with decentralized teams and hybrid work setups is a worthwhile investment in a company’s future.
Spend Wisely with TripActions
Keeping up with distributed teams requires proactive management. End-to-end business spend management tools allow employees to access corporate funds while offering data and insights to authorized users.
TripActions Liquid makes expense management simple and efficient while providing real-time control and granular visibility into spending. Employees are empowered to understand spending parameters even before transactions occur. With a few simple clicks, the TripActions Liquid app offers insight into how much employees can spend, and on what. Admins set automated approvals in line with company policy and take unnecessary manual intervention out of the equation. If a transaction is not compliant with company policy, it is flagged immediately.