Despite the incredible amount of communication tools like Live Meeting and Office Communicator, business travel is not going away. Nobody would disagree with me on this prediction.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about business travel. This is not because I have been traveling a lot; on the contrary, I personally have traveled less this year than ever before. I have however, been implementing Expense Management for two of my clients in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. This has kept me thinking back over my 10 years of business travel and considering every strange scenario that has happened, asking others to do the same, and then making sure that our Expense module within the Dynamics AX ERP is configured to handle such situations.
The great thing is…it handles everything we can imagine throwing at it during our testing!
Travel might be the same: Long lines at airports, sub-par food, and hotel roulette. However, managing those expenses incurred while traveling has come a long way. Ten years ago, we would wait until we got home, fill out Excel spreadsheets and staple our receipts to the printout. We would hand or mail these to our expense approvers, who would review and sign them before turning them over to accounts payable. An AP clerk would code each expense, entering them line-by-line into the accounting system. The traveler would be reimbursed at the next check run.
That former reality that I just described is a labor intensive process that adds no value to the business. In addition the cycle time for this process could leave a constant traveler floating the business several thousand dollars. While business travel is necessary, the reporting of expenses and reimbursement thereof should be as streamlined as possible.
Next came stand alone expense management software that allowed employees to use software to manage their expenses and then scan or fax in receipts that would be electronically attached. This was a welcome change that allowed mobile employees to submit expenses and categorized the expenses as part of the reporting process, taking some of the burden off of Accounts Payable. The downside was these stand-alone expense systems required extensive integrations and implementation was an entire project.
- Employee logs onto web-site and creates a new expense report, enters basic information about trip (destination, purpose, department, etc)
- Employee’s personal and/or company credit card transactions are electronically fetched
- Employee checks off boxes next to transactions to include on expense report
- Employee adds any additional expenses and indicates expense types
- Employee attaches receipts electronically via scanned file(s) or by selecting images s/he has previously sent to the Expense module via photos from a mobile device
- Employee Submits expense report
- Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 routes report to employee’s manager and notifies him/her via e-mail that a report is pending approval.
- Manager views digital report and receipts, then approves report (or can reject and return to the employee) from AX Workflow
- Accounts Payable reviews list of approved reports and batch posts them all to Accounts Payable and the General Ledger. No coding is needed as all GL Coding is linked to the expense type the employee selected.
- AP Generates payments (EFT, Check, Wire) to the vendor (employee) record that was linked to the original login filing the expense report.
Not only is the process streamlined, using little more than a few mouse clicks, but because the entire process is within one system, everyone has visibility as to where it is in the approval process.. Also, because all the modules are integrated as part of the standard Dynamics AX2012 product, the processing time for an expense report to be reimbursed can be reduced to minutes.
The best part about this system is how configurable this module is. Whether it be the approval hierarchy, tracking of information on expense types, implementing limits and guidelines, setting warning flags, or setting preferred vendors, this system can do whatever the business needs.
Business Travel may not be going away, but at least the focus on the expense portion of it can be minimized, allowing the business traveler to focus on…well, business!
By: John Hannan, RSM –