Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.
Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.
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These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.
Today’s Topic: A New-Gen Way to Handle Expense Reporting
Name the problem to be solved: Based in San Jose, Calif., Innovation Core SEI, the overseas research and development arm of Sumitomo Electric Group, is working with Fyle, an intelligent expense management software solution, to reduce the hassle associated with submitting expenses.
There is a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered expense management solutions available to businesses of all sizes that integrate with commonly used business software that not only improve the overall work experience for employees, but help businesses scale.
For Innovation Core SEI, a large number of employees are road warriors, spending 50% of their time on the road for business. Keeping track of reimbursable, travel-related expenses while on the go has proved to be cumbersome.
Accounting and finance departments are among the last to benefit from automation and digital transformation. Until now, that is: Fyle is helping companies move away from error-prone manual processes stuck in spreadsheets to an easy-to-use solution that delivers a complete view of expenses.
Instead of all-company emails prompting employees to submit expenses by a certain deadline to get reimbursed, Innovation Core SEI is able to direct employees to Fyle, which seamlessly manages expenses and automatically identifies and extracts receipts in email systems, making it easier for employees to submit expenses and get reimbursed promptly.
Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: For Innovation Core SEI, the second-largest bottom line expense (after payroll) is employee travel. While other areas of the organization’s accounting and finance departments were running smoothly and efficiently, expense reporting before Fyle was a tedious, entirely manual process that required employees to print receipts and complete spreadsheets. Once complete, these expense forms could sit on a manager’s desk for an uncertain amount of time before being processed, causing delays and hindering predictability for employee reimbursement.
The search for a new solution began more than a year ago, when Innovation Core SEI started looking for a cloud-based expense management software solution that could meet its requirements. Fyle was selected for its ease of use, mobile-first approach and elegant user interface compared with other offerings on the market. With a few tiny customizations and configurations, Fyle transformed Innovation Core SEI’s manual expense management processes and delivered a new level of efficiency and productivity for employees.
Using Fyle, employees do not have to wait until their business trip is complete to start reporting expenses. Whenever employees have a receipt from the train or parking lot, they can use their mobile device to scan it into the Fyle expense management system instead of collecting paper receipts and sitting in the office processing expense reports in a spreadsheet.
List the key components in the solution: The most important feature for users at Innovation Core SEI is being able to easily file expense reports on the road directly from their mobile devices. The platform automatically extracts expense data from any kind of receipt using machine-vision algorithms that operate in real time via mobile applications for paper receipts, or email plugins and add-ons for electronic receipts.
Other key components include:
- The ability to enter and save preset expense policies, which approve or deny requests in real time and eliminate timely (and costly) back-and-forth interactions.
- Analytics and report status tracking, which allow company decision-makers to view things such as which employees are submitting the most expense reports, reimbursement timing and which vendors are most popular among employees.
- Add-ons for Google G Suite and Microsoft 365, which allow employees to easily submit expenses from email receipts directly in Gmail and Outlook.
Describe how the deployment went, how long it took and if it came off as planned: From the very beginning, there were so many positive reviews from a group of early users of Fyle that managers began approving its use across several departments starting with the San Jose office, where more than half of the employees based in that office travel at least once a month across the United States and overseas. It was difficult for them to process expense reports the old-fashioned way while working with clients in Europe, Japan or other parts of the world.
Describe the result, new efficiencies gained and what was learned from the project: One of the most important results was the ability to improve the overall employee experience; the ease of use makes expense tracking and reporting second nature, eliminating the tedious process of tracking down receipts. If an employee has a receipt emailed to them, they can easily submit it with just a simple click in a matter of seconds.
The average user of Fyle’s expense management solution experiences significantly shortened turnaround times when it comes to submitting expense reports. The delay in submitting hotel expenses, for example, significantly dropped in the three months after adopting Fyle—from 65 days to just 12 days.
At Innovation Core SEI, once employees adopted the solution, the overall business reaped immediate benefits. The platform allows businesses to set up predetermined expense policies, and approve or deny requests in real time. This dramatically reduces the risk of faulty or fraudulent expense claims, whether intentional or accidental. It also makes the entire process much faster and more efficient, as opposed to the time-consuming back-and-forth that occurs with antiquated expense management systems.
There are longer-term business benefits as well. The system allows decision-makers to view and parse analytics in a number of ways, such as viewing which vendors employees frequent most, or which employees make noncompliant requests most often. The automated tracking also contributes to organization-wide pre-accounting, helping the business remain audit-ready.
Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings and staff time savings, if any: Challenged by an average expense reporting rate that could take months, Innovation Core SEI identified Fyle when it was looking for a solution that would help deliver an employee experience on par with the rest of its digitized employee services. Since enabling expense submissions directly from the user inbox and mobile device, the company has seen employees turn their expense reports around in just a few days and get reimbursed faster.
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