Small and midsize business (SMB) expense management solutions lean heavily on manual methods that contradict employee needs and policies, as well as compromise overall profitability, according to a survey of more than 200 SMB financial decision makers by expense management solutions specialist Concur.
Seven out of 10 SMBs surveyed said they do not currently use expense management software, instead continuing to use a combination of expense methods: 38 percent rely on paper-based submissions, 26 percent use corporate cards and 23 percent use Excel.
"Often, there is a general lack of awareness around the importance of implementing a strategy to track expenses," Jerame Thurik, chief marketing officer for Concur, told eWEEK. "Almost half of our SMB respondents think having an expense management strategy is just not a big enough issue, while about four out of 10 say Excel is sufficient."
Additionally, businesses are worried about the cost to automate this process—whether this is the cost of new software, the cost of the implementation project or the cost of deploying resources to manage the project, Thurik said.
"What they often don't think about is the longer-term benefits an automated expense management system can save them," he said. "Research shows it can decrease the cost of expense claim transactions by 75 percent or more and reduce the time to process expenses by 35 percent."
The majority of SMBs surveyed (eight in 10) said they have corporate travel policies in place, but they expressed the need for, in order of priority, flexibility in booking choices, eligibility for upgrades and loyalty points, and incentives for complying with travel policy.
Thurik also noted mobile technology has a huge impact on many aspects of workers' lives, and expense management is no exception.
"IDC predicts the world's mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion this year, representing over 37 percent of the total workforce," he said. "This just reinforces the need for businesses to provide workers the tools needed to be productive on the go."
Seven out of 10 respondents said they use invoice software to keep their finances in order; they expressed that they enjoy key benefits, such as a reduction in paperwork and increased overall productivity, according to the survey.
Employees also expressed a need for faster turnaround on reimbursements, with other important needs, including having a flexible travel and expense program, and automating expense reporting to reduce time spent on administrative efforts.
"When it comes to expenses, we believe the perfect expense report is one that writes itself," Thurik said. "Our approach is simple—what would a perfect business trip look like? We believe that we can turn the business trip into something that doesn't seem like so much work. Technology should make this process easy, automated and intuitive."