Reviewing expenses manually is a common way for organizations to review purchasing and travel card spend. While manual review procedures are not without flaws or risks, they can still be done efficiently with the right strategic methods.
Has the spend within your organization increased this past year? Or do you feel like you’re often running behind when it comes to reconciling transactions or verifying payments?
If you’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with paperwork, emails, and deadlines lately, you’re not alone.
Here are three realistic ways to boost your manual review of expenses in the upcoming year.
1. Create Smaller Batches of Transactions
When you think about reviewing all transactions as a whole for the month, this can seem like a daunting task. The process might start out strong, but over time, it’s only natural that eyes will start glazing over the hundreds of transactions and skip important details that need to be addressed.
To aid your manual review process and reduce the chance of human error, create smaller batches of transactions to look at. Start a few days earlier and break up the load by reviewing only a certain number of transactions at a given time.
Also, giving yourself short breaks in between could help you be more efficient than trying to look at everything in one sitting. This will help avoid burnout and still improve compliance to ensure employees aren’t overspending or making unapproved transactions.
2. Randomly Sample Data
While batching transactions may help smooth out your process, it still might not give you back much time or make the task any less tedious. If there are simply too many transactions to review at once, you can also try taking a random sampling of the data.
This means, instead of looking at 100% of the spend data, you randomly select 50% (or whatever percentage seems attainable) of the transactions to review. While checking all data would be the preferred method, it’s not as likely to happen when your resources are tight or the review team does not have enough time in a day to finish the work.
The main drawback of this method is that your procurement and finance departments won’t have clear spend visibility on each purchase each month. However, you can alternate the sample data you select each month. For example, one month, you may review P-Card purchases from half of the employees in the card program. Then, the next month, you focus on the other half’s spend data.
3. Automate Processes
Just because you have a manual expense review process doesn’t mean that some of it can’t be automated. Narrow down the tedious tasks that you’re wasting time on each month and see what can be automated or streamlined.
Some tasks are highly repetitive such as notifying cardholders when they are missing receipts. Prep in advance for this by creating an email template that you can send to a list of people that still need to submit their documents. Microsoft Outlook allows you to schedule emails in advance so you can send reminders automatically without even thinking about it.
Automated workflow tools could also be beneficial in helping you gain back your time. Consider setting up email notification alerts and reminders about deadlines well in advance so you can prepare accordingly.
Also, suppose you’re starting to track expense data in a spreadsheet with simple formulas like adding or counting. Exploring your options for more advanced formulas and functions, such as pivot tables and VLOOKUP, can help your review team to measure and analyze spend data with the click of a mouse.
Take Small Steps Toward Merging Manual Tasks With a Data Analytics Service
As your card program grows and spending increases in certain areas, keeping up with manual expense review processes will only get more challenging. The three methods mentioned in this article can be applied immediately as you gear up for the new year and set goals and expectations.
However, as a medium-sized or large business, it’s also helpful to consider partnering your manual process with a data analytics system or service. Even eagle-eyed procurement professionals and card program managers can benefit from having modern tools like AI (artificial intelligence), automation, machine learning, and data analytics technology on their side.
This isn’t to say that any data analytics service will be suitable. But instead, one that focuses specifically on helping organizations monitor monthly expenses from a variety of sources to help:
- Maintain compliance,
- Reduce unnecessary spend,
- Catch and prevent fraud early on.
Maybe you prefer a set of human eyes to look at employee card spending, paid supplier invoices, and to validate receipt data. The right data analytics tool can only aid your manual efforts. Consider benefits such as receiving alerts or notifications when:
- An employee exceeds their spending limit,
- Someone makes a split transaction,
- The wrong supplier shows up on an expense report,
- A specific purchase indicates fraud or card misuse,
- Receipt data doesn’t match the expense data.
Or, perhaps your review team would like to take a hybrid approach to expense review. Card Integrity is a third-party expense monitoring service that provides regular expense reports and analyzes the data to identify spend behavior and provide actionable insights.
Rather than asking you to install a software system and somehow ‘make it work’, Card Integrity partners with organizations and assigns each client with a Forensic Data Analyst to manage their account. Each month, a designated Card Integrity forensic team curates the insights and provides customized expense reporting and hands-on support to help increase your visibility for specific spend categories, all while saving you time and money.
There’s Always a Way to Improve Manual Expense Reviews
You can find some comfort in knowing that there’s always a way to improve your manual expense review processes. Start by listing out some of your most challenging or tedious tasks to narrow down specific areas for improvement. Choose one of all of these tips to start implementing the changes right away to get results quicker.
At Card Integrity, we want to exceed expectations when monitoring your expenses and support your success. We offer additional helpful services such as Receipt Validation, Invoice Review (to help prevent duplicate payments), and Cardholder Training (to help train your employees on your unique card policy).
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