One of the most hateful items on my to-do list when I was managing people was having to approve their weekly expense reports – a hugely time-consuming and notoriously paper-intensive process.
That's why I have been researching some of the cloud-based applications and services that handle this sort of thing much more efficiently, especially when it comes to far-flung teams.
One of the most intriguing offerings I've heard about so far is ExpenseCloud, an online system that automates expense management in the cloud by importing information credit card accounts and banks, and by serving as a repository for paper receipts that are scanned and submitted using a mobile device (it supports iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry.)
This is not a system that lives in a world by itself – the data can be exported into accounting applications used widely by small and midsize businesses including QuickBooks, FreshBooks, NetSuite and Intacct.
You can also integrate it travel management systems, such as TripIT. (A screenshot of one of the management screens is below.)
Employees can be reimbursed either through a transfer to their bank account or through your company's regular payroll system.
ExpenseCloud has brought dramatic improvements in productivity to BodyArmor, a start-up beverage company based in Los Angeles.
Jen Petrovich, CFO for the company, said the software has streamlined the amount of time it takes to process approve expense reports from employees around the country. The company used to rely on spreadsheets and the U.S. mail to collect approvals and submit reports to the financial team that approves them.
ExpenseCloud also has reduced errors associated with manual data entry, since it integrates with BodyArmor's accounting software.
"The biggest thing for the employees is easy usability," Petrovich said. "And for us, it is so much less work."
One other thing to mention: All of the data and expense documents that your company creates within ExpenseCloud are stored and backed up as long as you are a customer, in case there is an audit.
This is not a frivolous investement. As you might expect, the pricing scales depending on the number of users that are on board. It starts at $10 per month for individuals, jumping to $90 per month for companies with 10 to 24 employees, and then on up from there.