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17 Mar 2014

Excel for expenses…does it really?

Microsoft excel is a undeniably a valuable business tool that many organisations rely on heavily. But just because there’s a way to complete a task using Excel, is it really the best tool for the job?

Well, according to Paystream Advisor’s latest expense management research, 27% of finance and accounting professionals still believe that it is. Perhaps they should give themselves break from their formulae to think about some of the problems that employees have using excel to manage expenses. 

Right off the bat, here are five good examples to get the calculators aglow…

Firstly there are the many hours of (sometimes wasted) effort.  With manual data entry the door is left wide open for errors. A decimal point in the wrong spot, a missing formula and the figures are wrong. These can have serious repercussions in the expenses arena where data is often re-keyed into other financial software systems.

This brings us to the problem of wasted talent. Expense claimants are not usually employed for their abilities as data inputters. The vast majority of them possess other skills that keep them in mazuma. Time spent manually filling out spreadsheets is certainly time that could be better spent elsewhere, whether that’s squeezing in an extra sales meeting or fixing an additional damaged power line.

So the data is finally in, what now? One of the biggest drawbacks of using Excel for expenses is the difficulty finance teams have actually accessing the information they contain. All those useful, decision-enabling statistics about spending trends can be so hard to extract that it never actually happen, and if it does it’s usually too out of date to be of any value.

That leads us to the opportunity cost that Excel should make us consider. Costs come in the form of expense compliance statistics and preferred supplier agreements. Manual workflow systems don’t have the checks in place to help staff make the right choices (as far as their employers are concerned!). By the time the employee is filling out the spreadsheet the money’s spent….

Which brings us nicely back to where we started…the 27% of finance and accounting professionals who haven’t considered the cost of using Excel on the bottom line.  According to the same white paper research it costs $20.18 to manually process an expense claim, compared to $7.60 for a fully automated system. When you take into account the number of expense claims that companies process per month, the potential for savings through automation is Excellent!

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