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Implementing Software to Manage Expenses: A Guide for Remote Employers

When companies first decide to transition to remote-friendly or distributed models, they’re often (rightfully) focussed on creating processes or incorporating software that ensures the day-to-day function of their operations. Think video conferencing, centralized document storage, and asynchronous task management. But as you go further along your journey, you begin to realize there’s a lot more to managing a successful remote team than just a business Zoom account and a fleet of laptops. 

In the same way that checking in with your team and building connection is now relegated to Zoom meetings and team-building tools like Know Your Team and Donut, processes like providing company credit cards, purchasing team subscriptions, and submitting receipts all need new online solutions too.

This transition can sometimes be slow going as you think about all the requirements to implement a new process, but here’s how implementing expense management software can help remote teams.

The issues of managing expenses manually 

Before acquiring specific expense management software or tools, you’ll likely be collecting and reporting information manually. This probably means your team has to keep track of any receipts themselves and share scans with your finance or management team. They’ll then have to create reports for the whole team, tediously ensuring the receipts match up with company expenditure.

Unfortunately, these issues can be amplified within a remote team. 

If you haven’t organized for company credit cards, employees will likely have to go to management each time they want to make high-cost purchases such as subscriptions or equipment. With time zone constraints and issues purchasing out-of-country, this can take time. 

While manual expense management is simple to implement, there are risks involved. If you collect expenses monthly, receipts could easily be lost and reimbursement delayed. Even if all things go to plan, employees will be out of pocket for weeks at a time. 

Templates and internal policies can make this process easier by guiding your employees through the steps and prompting them to upload receipts periodically. In these instances, spreadsheets are the timeless choice, but you could easily use more interactive platforms like Typeform

Benefits of using expense management software for a remote team

As with many other processes, software can completely transform the expense management experience making it less tedious, more streamlined, and functional. 

Programs like Expensify, Spendesk, Pleo, and Volopay all allow employers to simplify their company spending. 

Virtual credit cards 

With your team spread across multiple countries, it’s not always easy to send out physical credit cards to your entire team. Not to mention issues with security and budget control. 

With virtual cards, employees can purchase items online themselves just as they would with a regular credit card. Depending on the software you choose, cards can have spending caps for pre-authorized expenses or single-use card numbers for larger purchases, so you remain in control of spending while granting your team greater overall autonomy. 

Receipt collection

With a centralized portal, employees can easily upload photos or screenshots of receipts where they’ll be stored and scanned for automated expense reports. 

Instant reimbursement

With the right set up, software offerings can even allow for instant approval and automatic reimbursement, meaning no out of pocket wait time for employees. 

Automated expense reports 

From the receipt scans, software can automatically match the expense to previously set up categories or specific budgets. 

Extra features 

Some software options allow for features such as subscription management, where you can set up recurring payments for ongoing expenses, or invoice payments where managers can take care of freelance or contractor invoices themselves. You’ll also be able to see company-wide spending data with reporting features — which sounds a lot better than those manually updated spreadsheets. 

Things to consider before implementing expense software 

While features of expense management software will likely improve your process, it’s important to recognize the set up may take some time. 

Budgets

It may seem obvious, but in order to set up virtual credit cards, you’ll need to already have some idea about how much your team will spend periodically and be across any monthly subscriptions. You should already have budgets for equipment and any upgrades that your team may need over time. As well as any other ongoing costs associated with team management. 

If you’re going to set up automated reimbursement features or unlimited spending on virtual credit cards, you’ll need to calculate cash flow. 

Integration 

Many of the software programs mentioned above integrate with various accounting tools such as Xero, Sage, or Quickbooks so you’ll likely want to choose a program that fits in with what you’re already working with. Integration can make the end of the month and annual reporting more automated and therefore, less time-consuming.

Security 

Using software is already more secure than sending receipts back and forth via email or having employees lose physical company credit cards. However, with anything that will store company data and information, the standard of security is an essential criterion you’ll want to assess. Additional steps such as two-factor authentication or a VPN may be worth considering as part of your process.

Conclusion

Expense reimbursement is traditionally a tenuous process for everyone. From tedious data entry to out of pocket waiting times, manual management is difficult at the best of times but unfortunately amplified in remote teams. Thankfully, expense management software has made the process more efficient and consistent with a host of features that can help both employer and employee alike.

 

— Bree Caggiati

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