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Purchase Order Automation: Transforming Business Transactions for the Better

Mohammed Ridwan

December 1, 2023

5

The sales team needs a new SaaS product for cold calling, but the approval is due. It has been weeks, and neither the finance nor the legal team has reverted. The sales team keeps following up, and the procurement team is stuck in the loop of approvals, only to spend some more weeks negotiating with the right vendor later.

This is a common scenario in most companies where teams follow a fixed standard operating procedure, and procuring basic items takes months. All this, combined with multiple tools, complicates procurement further. One tool to raise requests, one for approvals, one to manage vendors, and so on. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how to automate purchase orders and simplify the procurement process. Instead of relying on hundreds of procurement automation software, we will look at how you can automate with minimal effort. 

What is Purchase Order Automation?

Purchase order automation is the process of automating and removing all the manual tasks associated with creating purchase orders. 

This is what the traditional procurement process looks like in most companies:

  • Employees fill out forms to raise purchase requests, but have a long wait before they receive a response.
  • The procurement team struggles to manage hundreds of purchase requests and seek approvals from different departments.
  • The finance team is disliked by both employees and the procurement team because they focus on cost-saving and resource optimization.

As a result, there is continuous internal resentment. 

Automating parts of this process lifts the weight off of each of them. Instead of relying on forms and different task management tools, you invest in centralized software to manage requests, set approval workflows, and maintain vendor databases.

How to Automate Purchase Orders

Here is a simple four-step method to automate your purchase orders: 

1. Find the Right Automation Software

We have explored the top procurement automation software previously, which will help you evaluate the alternatives available. To pick the right one, look for the following features: 

  • Ease of use- To simplify adoption and reduce training time
  • Flexible workflows- To adapt to complex organizational hierarchies
  • Integration- To connect and sync with existing accounting systems and ERPs
  • Reporting- To support data-driven decision-making and enhanced transparency
  • Real-time visibility- To track expenses and identify thefts and fraud
  • Scalability- To accommodate increased transactions and users without performance issues

2. Integrate With Your Accounting Software and ERPs

Integrating with your ERP

Connect your existing accounting software and ERPs to procurement automation software to sync vendors and transactions across multiple software platforms. 

As a result, it becomes easier to maintain vendor databases and reconcile accounts. You can streamline purchase orders and eliminate chances of errors. You get real-time visibility into the status of orders, ensuring that relevant stakeholders are informed at every stage.

3. Set Up Policy and Approval Workflow

Setting up policy and approval workflow

Create and enforce guidelines, rules, and approval hierarchies for purchase orders that align with organizational policies. This includes the following steps:

  • Outlining the approval workflow to follow the organizational hierarchy
  • Setting spending limits to control the amounts allocated in a single purchase order
  • Syncing and defining the preferred vendor's list
  • Specifying user permissions, access levels, and actions based on roles within the procurement process
  • Activating alerts for relevant stakeholders about the status of purchase orders, pending approvals, or other critical updates

This step will enhance security, communication, and transparency throughout the procurement workflow.

4. Implement Automation

Finally, once you complete the setup, you will be able to automate the following parts of purchase orders:

a. Approval Workflows

Creating approval workflows

You can set up trigger-based approval workflows without requiring any technical expertise. From approving purchase requests to clearing payments, you can set up a proper hierarchy with all the required stakeholders. 

So whether a purchase demands approval from three managers or three departments, you can accommodate the complexities without any delays.  

b. Vendor Database

Automate vendor list sync

Instead of importing/exporting or manually maintaining vendor data in your procurement software, you can integrate the software into your existing accounting system and ERPs for a convenient two-way sync.

You can also create a list of items for each vendor, making two-way and three-way matching easier. 

c. Receipts

Automate receipt management

Be it from email or WhatsApp, you no longer need to upload receipts and information in your system manually. The software captures the receipts and other key details via OCR, eliminating redundant record-keeping. 

Additionally, you can bulk upload the invoices to add all the information in a centralized platform and sync across accounting systems. This simplifies reconciliation and provides complete visibility into each expense. 

d. Expense Categorization

Automate expense categorization

You no longer need to manually add tax and general ledger (GL) codes to any expense. Based on the key information extracted via OCR, the software categorizes the expenses. Plus, this syncs across platforms, accelerating reconciliation. 

e. Goods Received Note (GRN) Matching

GRN matching

With OCR and receipt information retrieval, two-way and three-way matching becomes easy. The stakeholders can side-by-side compare the purchase order, invoice, and items listed. This significantly reduces the time spent on GRN matching and consolidates all the information on a unified platform. 

f. Audit Trails

Audit trails with Pluto

You get away with the need to maintain thousands of receipts and documents and get all the key information on a unified platform. From purchase requests to stakeholders involved and order status, you get complete visibility into each order. 

This audit trail becomes a blessing during the audit season when you only need 30 seconds to retrieve a specific receipt or document.  

How Automating Purchase Orders Makes Procurement Easier

While automation comes with multiple benefits, one reason to try it out would be gaining control and visibility. 

You go from not knowing what the teams need, where the money is going, which department spends the most, or why these reports don’t make any sense to getting clarity on every aspect of procurement, not just purchase orders. 

Here are five more benefits of automating purchase orders: 

1. Reduce Error and Manual Tasks

You minimize the risk of human errors that come from manual data entry. For instance, a manual typo in the quantity ordered leads to complications and delays. Similarly, a mistake in categorization can cause legal issues. Automation ensures accuracy by eliminating such human errors.

2. Faster Reconciliation

You get real-time data synced across your accounting systems, easing the reconciliation process. The finance team can quickly match records, such as invoices and receipts, without delays and discrepancies. Further, this eases the process of GRN matching, helping you close books much faster with accuracy.

3. Streamlined Approvals

You accelerate the approval process for purchase orders even with complex hierarchies. Instead of waiting for physical signatures or manual confirmations, you get trigger-based approval workflows. As a result, you can set up a proper notification system to send purchase order requests to designated approvers, speeding up the entire approval chain.

4. Compliance Support

You can enhance compliance with organizational policies and regulatory standards. For instance, the system can flag a purchase order exceeding predefined spending limits, ensuring compliance with budget constraints. This helps prevent unauthorized purchases or deviations from established guidelines.

5. Scalable

You can scale procurement easily to meet the evolving needs of the business. As the organization grows, the automated system handles increased transaction volumes without affecting or increasing the manual effort.

Your Search for a Purchase Order Automation Tool Ends Here

Stop looking for different automation tools for each step in your procurement process. You don’t need an individual solution for purchase requests, purchase orders, and processing payments. You can automate it all on a single platform and ensure accuracy and consistency among your accounting systems. 

At Pluto, our main aim is to stop the chaos and make procurement easier for three core stakeholders—spenders (employees), savers (finance teams), and sourcers (procurement teams). We streamline the entire process on a centralized platform and give you more visibility and control at each stage. And whether you want to automate one step or digitize your entire procurement process, Pluto gives you the flexibility to meet your needs. 

Refer to our dedicated post on procurement automation to understand how a single procurement platform can sync with your accounting systems and automate the procurement process on a centralized platform.

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Spend Management
November 3, 2022

Vlad Falin

Employee Expense Reimbursement Management: Types & Policies

Business expense reimbursement is one area of spend management that business owners do not always give its due. And yet, nearly every organization will have to reimburse employees for their expenses at some point.

Part of the problem is that these expenses can vary significantly, from buying office supplies to traveling or even medical costs. If your business deals with many types of expense reimbursements, you might wonder what you need to cover and how you should handle it.

If you’ve had trouble working out your organization's different business expense reimbursements, or you want to learn more about repayments, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we’ll take a look at the different types of business expense reimbursements and even share some tips to help you streamline your expense reimbursement process.

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What is expense reimbursement?

A business expense reimbursement is simply the act of paying back an employee for expenses incurred while performing a job for your organization.

Technically, almost any type of expense can qualify as a business expense for the purpose of reimbursement, depending on the reimbursement policies of the business. But to give you a clearer idea, here are some common examples of reimbursable expenses:

  • Business travel costs
  • Meals and entertainment
  • Employee education or training
  • Medical expenses
  • Gas expenses for a company-issued or private vehicle
  • Business supplies or tools
  • And other miscellaneous business-related expenses

You could handle these expense reimbursements individually, meaning you review each expense separately, or you could create a policy for employee expense reimbursement. 

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Do I Need to Have an Expense Reimbursement Policy?

You are not required to have an expense reimbursement policy, and in some cases, reimbursing expenses is not even mandatory to begin with. Though that largely depends on the legal framework of your country.

However, since it is customary in the UAE and the MENA region to reimburse employees for expenses, then it would be wise to create guidelines and policies to help you organize and streamline that process.

Creating a policy for reimbursements helps set the right expectations for employees about what qualifies for repayment and enables you to streamline your expense reimbursement process.

With an expense reimbursement policy, your employees will know precisely what they can be reimbursed for, how to request said reimbursement, and how long it would take to receive the funds.

Whether you have a business reimbursement policy or not, you need to have a clear picture of which expenses your employees might incur for your business and how you would go about reimbursing them.

  • Is the expense tax deductible?
  • Is this a common type of business expense in your industry?
  • Do you have a policy in place for this expense?
  • Are there any types of emergency purchases that an employee might need to make?

Types of expense reimbursements

Traveling and accommodation

One of the most common types of reimbursement requests is for travel expenses. Gas has been a particular pain point for many businesses in the MENA region due to the rising costs of fuel. Other examples of travel expenses include moving to and from an airport or travel terminal, travel tickets, public and private transportation expenses, car rentals, and lodging.

Office supplies and communication

If your organization relies heavily on digital work, you might need to reimburse your employees for supplies like laptops, tablets, software purchases or subscriptions, training materials, and more. 

Also, if your team needs to move around frequently and you need to maintain communication at all times, reimbursing them for their cell phone plans might be necessary. In particular, this applies to teams in sales, marketing, and business development. 

Food and entertainment

Business trips typically cover employee meals as reimbursable expenses. As long as the expenses are incurred in the interest of the business, they’re reimbursable.

Other expenses

Medical expenses, such as health insurance, insurance premiums, and tuition, are another form of employee expense that is often reimbursed by companies. If your business deals with these types of expenses, make sure you have a clear policy for handling them.

8 tips to simplify your expense reimbursements

1. Learn what you need to reimburse

Although the legalities of employee reimbursements vary from country to country, it’s traditionally customary for employers to reimburse their employees for expenses incurred on behalf of the company. 

It is important to note, however, that your employees cannot claim reimbursements for every purchase made, only those that are specifically tied to your business in some form.

While the specific type of expenses you have to reimburse will vary from industry to industry, you should have a general idea of what costs an employee might have to cover out of pocket in the process of working for you.

  • Do they need to travel around in their own vehicle?
  • Do you need them to be communicated at all times?
  • What kind of equipment do they require?
  • Are there any health risks associated with their job?

These types of questions can help you figure out which expenses you will have to deal with. Clear guidelines about what is and isn’t reimbursable will help reduce instances of fraudulent reimbursement requests.

2. Use a spend management platform

With the right expense management software, you would be able to automate and optimize end-to-end workflows throughout your process. 

For instance, with a spend management platform like Pluto, employees can use a mobile app to record expenses as they incur them.

In this way, your employees no longer have to save receipts or wait before entering their expenses. Plus, Pluto can automatically assign reports to the right reviewer, making the review and approval process more efficient.

Not only that, but Pluto can also tag the receipt so the categorization of the expense is much easier and reporting is real-time.

In addition to providing digital copies of relevant documents, Pluto can notify your finance team of approvals and deadlines.

Spend management platform for expense reimbursement
Pluto Spend Management Platform

3. Spend management platforms enhance collaboration

Pluto’s expense management solutions come with an employee portal so that your finance team can collaborate seamlessly with your employees. 

This allows you to save time when you need to discuss any irregularities with their expense reports. Additionally, your employees can use Pluto to check the status of their reimbursement requests.

The finance team can also use Pluto  to manage costs more efficiently due to its analytical capabilities, real-time reporting and instantaneous spend limit settings.   

4. Create a Thorough Expense Reimbursement Policy

When creating your reimbursement policy, you’ll want to make sure that it covers as many angles as possible. 

One way to do so is to invite stakeholders from multiple different departments, such as HR, finance, legal, and procurement, to a brainstorming session, as their knowledge will make it easier to draft the policy.

5. Crafting your reimbursement policy

It’s also critical to consider the following when drafting your expense reimbursement policy:

  • The specific type of expenses that can be reimbursed
  • The process your employees need to follow to submit their expenses, including any proof and supporting documentation
  • Whether any allowances will be given for expenses, and how to manage any excess
  • The specific time an employee has to submit their expense report
  • How the approval process will be handled
  • When and how your employees are reimbursed

6. Promote the adoption of the policy

One way to help employees adopt the policy more quickly is by making it readily available to them. The policy should be emailed to your employees or posted on your internal networks.

Employees should be informed when they will receive their payment from the company. You should set up a transparent and clear process to communicate what can be expected in terms of expense reimbursement. 

7. Be extra clear about deadlines and payments.

Be sure to let them know how they will receive the payment, such as via direct deposit or check, as well as how they will receive recorded confirmation of the payment made (such as a statement on their paycheque). You can complete this step easily with the help of an online payroll solution.

It is important to keep things running smoothly when it comes to paying employees. By processing reimbursements timely and reliably, you can easily prevent frustration caused by late payments. 

Having your employees pay out of their own pockets and not receiving payment back sooner rather than later can cause unnecessary ill feelings toward your company. When you handle reimbursements well, it reflects back on you as a respectable and considerate employer who cares about employees.

8. Make sure your employees follow the deadlines you set

You need to provide employees with deadlines for submitting expense reports, such as one week before their next pay date, so they can be reimbursed and get approval for their claims. 

Make sure the expense reports comply with the policy guidelines by giving yourself enough time to review them. By doing so, you can consult with the employee if there are any discrepancies, missing or incomplete documentation, or expenses that do not fall within the policy.

It’s important to submit expense reports on time since certain business expenses are tax deductible. 

Optimize your expense reimbursement management process

It’s not enough to know what your expenses are and to create a policy for their reimbursement. 

You also need to make sure that your reimbursement process is organized and efficient.

Otherwise, you run the risk of creating bottlenecks if you get slammed by more requests than you can handle. You can avoid this by optimizing the process used to submit reports and their attachments, ensuring all reports are reviewed in a timely manner and processing reimbursements as quickly as possible.

Having put all of this in place, it’s now time for the audit. The importance of audits is particularly important for enterprises and mid-size firms where employees incur large expenses. Auditing your expense reports also helps you identify loopholes in your policy and reduce instances of fraudulent claims.

You can also use audits to analyze your business expenses and identify areas for reduction.

Ensure there is an organized system for expense reimbursement requests

You should ensure that the system your employees need to use to submit their expense reports is easy to use and understand. 

Pluto allows the employee to submit all necessary supporting documentation, such as their receipt, the total amount of the purchase, a description of the goods or services purchased, and the date of the transaction.

Use a corporate card or direct deposits to remove the need for reimbursements

A corporate p card is a great way to prevent employees from paying out-of-pocket for business expenses.

You can track your expenses more efficiently and effectively with corporate cards, which provide spending limits that prevent employees from abusing their privileges.

Consider issuing corporate cards only to your regular travelers, or try direct deposits if you’re concerned about the cost. 

Alternatively, you can also use direct deposits of reimbursement funds to eliminate the reimbursement process. 

Two benefits result from this: One great perk of following either process is that your finance teams will have better visibility into the reimbursement process, making auditing employee expenses easier.

Key Takeaways

  • The best way to deal with business expense reimbursements is to have a rock-solid reimbursement policy in place. This way, you can reimburse employees for their costs on your terms.
  • Another great way to manage your expenses is to make use of a corporate card to eliminate the reimbursement process altogether, though this might not be feasible for all cases.
  • As in many situations, your best option will most likely come in the form of digitization. Using a spend management platform like Pluto, will not only give you much better visibility over your employee spending but also streamline the reimbursement process for you.

5
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Spend Management
February 23, 2023

Mohammed Ridwan

What is Operating Budget: How to Create & Manage One

Businesses have all sort of budgets, such as cash budgets, labor budgets, investments budgets, project budgets, and each has their own particular function. Among those, few are as important as the operating budget.

Your operating budget consists of all your fixed and variable costs, as well as your expenses and it is what your business will use to determine what revenue will look like for a given period of time. But an operating budget isn’t simply about knowing how much you are spending and can make; it can also help you find ways to improve your bottom line. 

In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of having an operating budget, the components that form one, and how you can improve the management of your budget.

What is an operating budget?

An operating budget is a yearly financial plan showing a company's expected income and spending. It's created at the end of each year to plan for the next one. This budget helps companies predict their money flow, manage costs, and make smart financial choices. It's key for businesses to stay on track and grow. Understanding an operating budget is important for anyone running a business or managing finances.

Why do we need an operating budget?

A company's annual operating budget outlines how it intends to spend its money over a specified period. In order to create one, fixed and variable costs, as well as revenue, need to be taken into account.

The purpose of an operating budget is to determine where and when funds should be allocated, make sure all expenditures are covered, and keep things running smoothly for all types of businesses. Without one, your business cannot function efficiently. 

Unlike a capital budget, an operating budget helps businesses plan their daily operations and recurring expenses, whereas a capital budget helps them plan long-term investments.

Its purpose is to prevent cash outflows from exceeding cash inflows. It is necessary for companies to evaluate their incoming revenue and expenditures in order to accomplish this.   

The process of creating an operating budget involves:

  • Examining your costs (fixed costs, variable costs, administrative expenses, etc.)
  • Tallying your list of sources of income.
  • Estimating one-time spends
  • Working out your supplier costs
  • Estimating your revenue
  • Building cash flow projections
  • Monitoring petty-cash and other expense sections
  • Setting spending goals

While a tight operating budget with limited resources can lead to a lot of profit, it can also create inefficiencies for your business. Ideally, you should be looking for this balance when calculating your operating expenses in the current fiscal year, as well as when planning your operating budgets. 

Benefits of having operating budgets for businesses

  • Finance the expansion of your company: If you plan to obtain a business loan or raise funds from investors, you must present a detailed operating budget outlining your income and expenses.
  • Make your business budget clearer so you can plan for the future: Your business budget serves as a financial road map in a number of ways. The financial health of your company can be determined using this report, as well as what needs to be done to achieve future financial goals.
  • Help your company run more efficiently and effectively if you make a budget: Keeping a company budget can also help you stay out of debt by ensuring that the right money is spent in the right places at the right time.
  • Analyze your revenue and costs to determine where you can save money: Budgeting your business can help you identify areas where you can cut costs or increase revenue, increasing profits.
  • Avoiding debt by predicting slow months.
  • Helping you maintain control over your business.
  • Recognizing reinvestment opportunities.
  • Calculate your expected earnings.
  • Analyze the gap between your expectations and reality

What are the components of an operating budget?

Operational budgets become more valuable and relevant the more detailed they are. A budget for operating expenses may include a high-level summary as well as several supporting sub-budgets. When you are developing a budget, you'll typically include the following operating budget components:

1. Revenue

A company's revenue is generated by selling goods and services. The forecast of revenue can be based on a simple year-over-year comparison, but breaking down revenue based on its underlying components can provide more useful information.

It is not a good idea to use projected revenue at this stage. This is not advisable since emotions can lead you to misperceive the company's capabilities. Identify your actual revenue from your financial statements, and don't worry if your expenses are higher than sales revenue. It is common for businesses to lose a certain amount of money each month until they reach profitability.

2. Variable costs

As sales volume increases or decreases, these costs rise or fall accordingly. Costs associated with variable items include direct raw materials and labor, commissions , production supplies, and monthly fees on credit cards. To calculate percentages on variable costs later, you'll need to list the actual costs when you create your operating budget. It is crucial to understand how variable costs will change as you do revenue projections. 

3. Fixed costs

A fixed cost is an expense that remains relatively constant regardless of whether sales rise or fall. Among these fixed expenses are cost factors such as monthly rent, utilities, leases of equipment, and insurance. In order for a company to be profitable, it must have a small, fixed cost and variable cost as a percentage of its revenue. To do that, it's important to understand what those fixed costs are.   

4. Non-cash expenses

Stock-based compensation, deferred income taxes, and depreciation are among the most common non-cash expenses.

5. Non-operating expenses

An organization's main activity is not directly impacted by these costs. Non-operating expenses include interest payments, losses from asset dispositions, and currency exchange costs.

Operational budgets may include other items in some industries or organizations. Typically, capital expenses aren't included in operating budgets since they are long-term costs, while operating budgets are short-term.

How to manage and improve operating budgets?

Creating an operating budget and managing it effectively takes several skills. The goal of budgeting is to improve control and accuracy over time, making your budgets even better. In order to do so, you can take the following approach:

1. Prepare multiple budget types

Spending is guided by budgets, which predict revenue over a certain period of time. Short-term budgets are intended to cover one year or a year and a half, while mid-term budgets are intended for two to three years, and long-term budgets are intended to forecast your business's finances for four to five years. Businesses often create multiple budgets. As part of business operations, they may rely heavily on a short-term budget, while for high-level planning, they may rely more heavily on a long-term budget. There are also overhead budgets, direct materials budgets, production budgets, administrative expenses budgets, direct labor budgets, and many more.

2. Delegation

A senior manager should designate who shall be responsible for updating and maintaining localized budgets. In order for all budget updates to fit together, you'll also need a plan for your delegates to help maintain financial accountability.

3. Monitoring and collaboration

Maintaining a healthy budget requires regular monitoring and collaboration. Overspending or underspending is noted here, adjustments are made, and future predictions are made. Collaboration with your staff is what allows you to find discrepancies between your expectations and the day-to-day business reality. This is ultimately the best way to monitor variable costs, follow cash flow, and catch mistakes.

4. Forecasting

It is important to understand where your business stands today and where it wishes to go in the future before you plan your business strategy. It helps you to understand where you met, exceeded or encountered unexpected difficulties for the entire year based on accurate, up-to-date data from routine budget monitoring. Using your data, you can create a budget that is more tailored to needs at the end of the year.

7 tips to efficiently managing operating budgets

1. Ensure that budget details are set appropriately

A budget can take many forms. Understanding how detailed this particular budget needs to be is the first step toward creating a successful budget. Budgets should be broken down at least by department. In most cases, though, it isn't particularly helpful to get too deep into line items. Often, managers or specific employees are better equipped to keep track of granular details about frequent purchases. In addition, managers should be able to adjust budgets based on their performance. Managing social media campaigns may require flexibility from a marketing manager, for example.

2. Delegate effectively

As a business opens, most spending may be cleared personally by the owners. Businesses grow to a point where they are unable to handle the volume of decisions alone as they grow.

It may be challenging to give someone else control over the company's finances, but as a result of delegation, all purchase decisions won't have to be passed through the owner's desk. A department can respond more nimbly to its needs. In order to continue to improve their skills in budget management, managers should have access to budget management training tools.

3. Engage in collaboration

It is necessary for departments to have a certain amount of control over their own budgets. The importance of encouraging communication between related departments cannot be overstated. Having overlapping objectives between the marketing and sales teams can help each team perform better, for instance:

  • Your finance team can cooperate with IT to find ways to keep systems updated without overspending.
  • Your Human Resources department can consult with the travel management team to lower the cost of recruiting (when it involves traveling.

4. Establish a standard for budget reporting

The budget now spreads across multiple departments if you follow the steps in order. It takes some time for each department to manage its budget independently and some time for them to collaborate with other teams. 

Keeping a centralized "home" for budget management helps executives get a cohesive, high-level view when they need it. It is possible to accomplish this by implementing a central budget system that can be accessed by all budget users. Each department should record expenses according to the same procedure, even if they handle the budget monitoring on their own. It will be easier for you to combine all records into one master budget record this way.

5. Compile accurate, complete data

It is vital to monitor actual business expenses in order to keep your budget on track. A budget without this step is merely a theoretical document that does not have any real power to influence business decisions. Make sure to pay attention to the performance of your budget during each upcoming period by collecting thorough, accurate updates.

Setting clear spend categories and making the expense submission process as convenient as possible are two ways to accomplish this.

It is important to keep context in mind when categorizing. It is possible to classify the same restaurant meal differently depending on the purpose of the trip. Interviewing a potential employee is an expense in human resources. A meal with a client is a sales opportunity. Your travel budget covers the cost of a business traveler's meal. Create an accurate view of your expenses by categorizing them appropriately in your system.

When you submit an expense report in a few minutes, you're more likely to receive complete information. The process can be streamlined by choosing a budget management tool with features such as receipt photo capture and automatic categorization.

6. Schedule appointments for budget updates

We've all experienced situations where it seems like all projects are due at once. An intense workload can lead to a temptation to drop any unimportant task during a crunch period.

Nevertheless, budget management is an essential task if you want to keep your business' finances in order. When you put off a budget review until next week, "when things calm down," the greater the chances of soon having to put out a new fire.

Establish a schedule for closing books and updating department heads on any course corrections that need to be made. The early detection of overspending can be achieved by checking on it quarterly or monthly.

7. Keep the future in mind

By comparing actual and planned spending on one budget, you can inform your next budget preparation. By keeping notes from your financial budget reviews, you can create your next budget more easily.

It is possible to discover patterns in your notes that you might not notice on a daily basis. Were you able to make a surplus in some areas but overextended in others? How can you anticipate future spending patterns? The data from your own budget is a great resource for building future plans.

How can Pluto help businesses create and manage an operating budget?

Tracking expenses

Pluto can track all the expenses made by the organization and categorize them according to their purpose. This way, the organization can see where their money is going and identify areas where they can cut costs.

Budget setting

With Pluto, an organization can set a budget for each expense category (under a corporate card or group of cards). This ensures that the organization does not overspend and can stay within its financial limits.

Real-time monitoring

Pluto can provide real-time updates on the organization's spending, allowing them to see how much they have spent, how much they have left, and where they are overspending. This helps the organization make informed decisions about its spending and adjust its budget accordingly.

Detailed reporting

Pluto can generate ad-hoc reports, providing the organization with detailed information on their spending. This can help the organization identify trends and make informed decisions about future spending.

Overall, Pluto can help an organization create and manage an operating budget by providing real-time tracking, automated reporting, and budget-setting features. This allows the organization to stay on top of its spending, make informed decisions, and achieve its financial goals.

Key takeaways

An operating budget isn’t just important, it’s absolutely necessary. While there can be challenges when it comes to building one, such as poor visibility of your expenditure and a lack of expense tracking, these can be overcome with the aid of Pluto.

Properly building and updating your operating budget will help you find opportunities for improvement when it comes to cost-cutting and revenue, as well as generally increase the efficiency of your business.

5
All
Spend Management
November 12, 2022

Leen Shami

Expense Management; Definition, Types & Tips

Effective expense management is a critical aspect of any organization's financial health, ensuring smooth operation through controlled employee spending. Employees frequently incur various business expenses, from travel and entertainment to office supplies. To facilitate reimbursement, these expenses must be meticulously reported with detailed descriptions and receipts, subsequently reviewed and approved by line managers and finance teams. This process, central to expense management, not only streamlines how employees pay for business expenses but also provides a comprehensive track of their spending through organized expense reports.

What is expense management?

Expense management is the process of tracking, processing, and reimbursing employee spending. This involves scrutinizing expense reports, evaluating reimbursement claims, and enforcing company policies on permissible expenses. It is a key practice in ensuring adherence to the organization's expense policy while maintaining accurate financial records.

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Why is expense management important?

As an essential part of any business, expense management is vital for various segments of a company, such as the following:

1. Finance teams

An expense management process is the most important to a finance team or accounting department. Their main goal is to sustain accurate business financial records and analyze past trends to determine future business decisions.

Additionally, it can help identify cost-saving opportunities and risks by providing insights into the company's financial health.

2. C-level executives & managers

Owners, managers, or C-levels are more concerned about growing revenue, managing risk, reducing expenses, satisfying employees, and having a productive business.

3. Employees

Having reimbursements processed quickly creates a feeling of trust and satisfaction among employees. This greatly influences the productivity of your employees and your company.

4. Compliance

Maintaining detailed records of your business expenses ensures that your company stays compliant and assists companies in audit activity in case of fraudulent behavior.

Nevertheless, with the corporate income tax being introduced in 2023, expense management makes it simpler for businesses to file their taxes.

Expense management process

The expense management process is designed to safeguard against policy violations and mishaps, and it typically follows a uniform sequence across most businesses:

  1. Employee Expenditure: An employee makes a purchase for business purposes.
  2. Reimbursement Claim Submission: The employee submits a claim for reimbursement of the incurred expense.
  3. Claim Review: The submitted claim is reviewed and either approved or rejected.
  4. Payment Processing: Upon approval, the reimbursement is scheduled, often aligning with the employee's End-of-Month (EOM) salary.

Types of expense management

Approaches to expense management may differ from company to company. Here you'll find the different ways in which expenses are managed:

1. Paper tracking

Employees collect paper receipts and submit them to the accounting department for approval monthly or quarterly. This is the traditional (and outdated) method of managing expenses.

2. Spreadsheets

Businesses, especially in the UAE, usually use spreadsheets to manage their expenses and reduce dependency on paper receipts. Some common spreadsheet software is Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Zoho Sheets.

3. Expense management software

An expense management software simplifies the process for companies by automating it. After an employee makes an expense, the managers are alerted to either accept or reject the expense. If the expense is accepted, it is usually scheduled to be reimbursed with the employee's EOM salary.

4. Pluto: Automated expense management software

Pluto is an expense management software that helps accounting teams save time by automating reimbursements, expense reporting, expense tracking, and budget control.

When a business expense is made, a Whatsapp notification is sent to the employee, prompting them to upload their receipt by snapping a photo; this also simplifies the reconciliation process. When that is done, the admin/manager is notified to accept or reject the expense. If the expense is accepted, it is reimbursed to the employee's bank account in seconds.

On the other hand, Pluto gives you the ability to create unlimited corporate cards with spend limits so you won't have to go through an approval workflow.

Real-time expense reports are also one of the many benefits Pluto offers, helping finance teams, CFOs and accountants make informed decisions. Learn how to improve internal control over financial reporting on our new post.

Pluto's overview dashboard

Traditional vs. automated expense management

Despite the benefits of automated expense management, a large percentage of organizations in the UAE still perform manual expense management. This leads to expense reports that are time-consuming and prone to error.

Traditional expense management

Traditional expense management is one expense management process that relies on several steps to manage spending and ensure the process for an expense claim is correct. As an expense management solution, expense tracking is usually in the form of paper tracking or excel sheets, as mentioned above.

Typically, once employee-initiated expenses are made, the employee must store the expense receipts and file them as reimbursable expenses at the end of the month when the accounting department is doing the end-of-month closing. After the expenses are submitted, the approval process begins. The employee's manager either accepts or rejects the reimbursable expense; if it is accepted, it is sent to the accounting team for reimbursement.

This is considered a nightmare for accounting departments, as they will have to go through manual data entry and spend countless hours on expense reporting at the end of month closing.

Automated expense management

Unlike traditional expense management, automated expense management software reduces time spent on processing expense reports, managing the business's cash flow, reconciliation processing, and controlling expenses incurred for finance teams.

Automated spend management software, such as Pluto, eliminates the manual process and automates the process for finance teams from A-Z. With expense management software like Pluto, you can automate different flows.

Benefits of using an expense management software like Pluto

1. Automate Reimbursements

Pluto helps you manage expenses incurred by digitizing the reimbursement process. Once an expense is made, Pluto sends you a Whatsapp notification prompting you to upload your receipt by replying to the Whatsapp or by uploading it onto the Pluto app. Once that is done, the expense record is saved, so employees don't lose it, and the expense is submitted for approval.

As an added perk, Pluto also auto-categorizes expenses made so employees and finance teams won't have to worry about categorization!

2. Streamline expense reporting

With Pluto, all expense records are in one place, meaning expense reports are automated; this helps accounting departments save hundreds of hours on manual work.

Additionally, expense reports are trackable in real-time, giving managers, finance teams, and accounting departments complete visibility over the business's finances.

Real-time expense reports on Pluto

3. Accounting automation

Close your books 5x faster!

Whether you use Zoho expense, SAP Concur, or Quickbooks, your accounting software can integrate directly with Pluto's platform.

Through our integration, you can also sync your chart of accounts and your GL codes to automate bookkeeping.

Accounting integrations with Pluto

4. Smart budget control

Pluto allows you to issue your employees unlimited corporate cards with spend control. If you have daily allowances, weekly budgets, or travel expenses, you can get better control over your employee spending by setting custom limits on their corporate credit cards.

Expense management advantages for business

If you've reached this far, you might already know the advantages of automated expense management.

1. Accurate expense reporting

  • Real-time, automated expense reports
  • Sort reports by day, week, month, or by department, or category

2. Quick reimbursements

  • Faster approval process for employees and finance teams
  • Auto-categorization when uploading receipts

3. Monitor employee spending

  • See what is being spent and where in real-time
  • Set daily, weekly, or monthly allowances

4. Close books faster

  • Integrate with all major accounting software to close your books 5x faster
  • Sync your GL codes

What is an expense management policy?

Employee spending can be controlled by implementing an expense management policy. The policy can function as grounds for rejecting or questioning expenses and help determine whether they should be reimbursed.

In every expense management policy, the following items should be included:

Types of expenses

 A complete list of everything employees may purchase and what they may not purchase.

Budgets

The current budget should be disclosed to everyone, and those with questions should be able to contact those responsible.

Reimbursements

 A reimbursement policy must specify the reimbursement method, such as online, by credit card, or by other payment methods.

Key features to look for in an expense management software

If you're purchasing an expense management solution, make sure it fills your company's unique needs, offers the right level of functionality, and comes with a dedicated account manager.

Some of the key features you should be looking for are:

1. Real-time expense tracking and reporting

Having real-time expense reports is vital, as it helps finance teams monitor employees' expenses and manage them on the go.

For example, if the company's marketing department uses 70% of its monthly budget in the first two weeks of the month, the finance team can notify them that 70% of the budget has been used so they can plan and budget for the remaining 30%.

With Pluto, you can:

  • Get notified as soon as an expense is made, so you know who spends what, where, and when
  • Keep track of all business expenses, such as reimbursement, travel, and employee expenditure data, to avoid going over budget

2. Quick reimbursements

End-to-end reimbursements are crucial for a business to operate seamlessly. With quick end-to-end reimbursements, employees no longer have to wait till payroll to get reimbursed.

With Pluto, you can:

  • File a reimbursement request through Whatsapp or the Pluto app
  • Get reimbursed in seconds

3. Approval flows

Approval processes should be hassle-free. It's essential to have automated approval flows to ensure employee expenses and expense claims are approved by the right managers.

With Pluto, you can:

  • Automatically assign expenses to the right reviewer
  • Create your own customized approval flow
Approval workflows with Pluto

4. Integration with accounting software

Integrating your accounting platform with your expense management software reduces the time spent on bookkeeping.

With Pluto, you can:

  • Integrate most major accounting platforms
  • Sync your chart of accounts
  • Sync your GL codes
  • Close your books 5x faster

5. Customizable budget control

Setting limits and budgets is essential to control your company's financials fully. This helps your company stay within its budget and avoid mishaps with company spending.

With Pluto, you can:

  • Create unlimited corporate cards with set limits
  • Increase limits on corporate cards in seconds
  • Issue vendor-specific cards
Spend limits & vendor specific payments with Pluto corporate cards

Pluto combines the above features with easy integrations, complete visibility, and total control over every aspect of your company's expense management.