Expense reports are a bit of a pickle. Business owners and financial managers understand the importance of knowing where each dollar flows out. At the same time, when is it fun to harp on your employees about getting that expense report done, especially when you know how valuable their time is? This type of dilemma indicates a broken system. Expense reports should be simple, accurate, and quick. Instead, they are far too often incomplete, annoying, and even cause friction between colleagues. Why is this the case and how do we change this?
Completing an expense report isn’t difficult. It’s actually probably extremely easy when compared to the type of work your employees are used to doing. It’s so easy that it might even be viewed as mundane and tedious. And what do we often do with mundane and tedious tasks? We procrastinate! And when we procrastinate on something like an expense report, we are more likely to forget the details, lose the receipt, or even completely neglect to do it. So should we come up with ways to make finishing expense reports less painful? Or should we implement a system of enforcement and penalties for not completing them?
Solving it the Hard Way
Enforcement and penalties sounds like a far-from-ideal solution for a couple main reasons. First off, it’s a downer on company culture. It’s like the company is accusing the employees of bad behavior. Or, at the very best, assuming that its employees are prone to incompetent behavior. Secondly, you’ve now implemented a new system of checks and penalties that must be enforced in order to work. There is now an entirely new system to manage with it’s own costs and risks of failure. What if these costs end up outweighing the benefits of completed expense reports – not to mention the costs of dampened employee moral. Although this may solve the problem of making sure expense reports get done, you’ve now introduced a new set of problems and you haven’t solved for the essential issue that your employees don’t like filling out expense reports.
How we can make filling out expense reports less of a drag? What, specifically, about filling out expense reports is so lame? They’re tedious, yes, but why? Well, an expense report is fundamentally a transposition of data from an employee’s brain onto a document. It is petty problem solving, if you even want to call it problem solving. It’s so simple that a computer can do (at least most of) it. So why not have a computer do it?
Solving it the Smarter Way
Let’s look at getting software do the time-consuming tedious tasks that you and your employees shouldn’t be doing. Specifically, let’s look at how we can automate the capture and reporting of transaction data so that your employees don’t have to. If you’re using cash for employee expenses, you’re out of luck. Cash has its upsides but it’s not going to help us automate anything at this point. You’ll need to use an expense card program to automatically and digitally capture transaction data for expense reporting.
Expense reports consistently comprise of certain data. They always include the who, when, where, why, what, and the amount. They often include a receipt too. Here’s a basic list of example values:
A card statement shows this information minus the category and description. Note, the statement will show the cardholder name. If Justin gives Sunil his card to use then this might actually be Sunil’s expense even though it shows up on Justin’s card statement. But this shouldn’t be the case, generally.
The point is that you could build an expense report system off of a sort of “fill in the blanks” workflow. Have each employee append a category and a description to each transaction on the statement. This knocks down two big issues:
1. You’ve removed two thirds of the transposing work your employees have to do
2. You’ve eliminated any transactions from slipping through the cracks
However, some issues still remain–for example, your employees still need to keep track of receipts. And, a new issue exists; now you have to coordinate getting each card statement to each employee every month, getting them to fill it out, getting it back, and making use of that data. You’re in better shape than before, but the whole expense reporting thing is still taking up more energy than it needs to.
Just Solve it: dash
dash works by capturing transaction data as it happens. dash then opens this data to the employee who generated it for expense reporting and to company administrators for review.
In this example, we see that an employee made a purchase at Firetrail Pizza on April 21, 2016 for $16.31. This transaction is on Justin’s card so we know it was him (it’s easy to get a dash card for each employee in your company). Justin categorizes this as an Employee Meal and he describes the transaction as “Lunch with Garrett”, one of our colleagues. Justin has also uploaded a photo of the itemized receipt. Nice work, Justin!
Justin did well on this lunch transaction, but Justin isn’t perfect. He still sometimes forgets to categorize, describe, or add photos to transactions. dash reminds him of these incomplete expense reports as soon as he logs in.
Complete and incomplete transaction reports alike are available for administrator viewing. So an admin can check on any transaction on any card.
From an admin perspective, this is all great. From an employee perspective, this is a game changer! We use dash for our employee expenses and doing expense reports is really easy. I just use my dash card to buy something, append information to the transaction from my phone app, and I’m done. dash makes sure I get my expense reports done in three main ways.
1. dash does the dull work for me. The dash card + app automatically capture the transaction details for me.
2. dash reminds me what I have left to do. No one is hounding me to get expense reports done. It’s quite clear to me, and to my admins, what I still have to complete.
3. dash is easy to use. I login to my app, tap a few buttons, type a description, and I’m done. I’m not using some archaic handwritten or spreadsheet system.
Because completing expense reports with dash is super easy, I don’t mind it. I’m not going to say that I feel that doing expense reports is fun. But, it’s certainly satisfying to complete expense reports in such a relatively efficient and effortless way.
Improving the efficiency, completeness, and accuracy of company expense reports is one of the many ways dash helps businesses spend less time on managing expenses.