Why Spreadsheet Expense Reporting is Costing You (In More Ways Than One)

If your organization is like most, you probably use spreadsheets to manage expense reports because it’s ‘good enough.’ But good enough is not really good enough when you consider the cost implications.

Businesses already spend more in the Travel & Entertainment category than in any other and the use of spreadsheets only adds to these expenses. However, a lot of manual processes seem to work well until the hidden costs and inefficiencies are examined. Then the true costs start to ratchet up.

Five Reasons to Update Your Expense Reporting Process Right Now

1) Spreadsheets aren’t mobile.

Employees can’t fill out a spreadsheet on a smartphone, yet mobile is a modern mandate. Business travelers demand connectivity and spreadsheets are not congruent with the work-from-anywhere mindset of today’s workforce. Soon, mobile expense reporting will be the only way it’s done.

The current process: Employees are responsible for managing and submitting receipts (plus keeping copies for personal records). The finance department must then validate each line item of the expense report while making sure they have the correct paper receipt for each line item – assuming everything matches up, which is unlikely without extra digging and follow-up.

The mobile process: Employees snap a photo of receipts using their smartphones and submit them electronically. Every receipt can be viewed online and automatically matched with the appropriate expense entry. Managers can approve from anywhere using their smartphone.

2) Spreadsheet data entry wastes time.

Manual expense reporting affects productivity across the board. By automating the process, the entire timeline is sped up, allowing employees to focus on the jobs they were hired to do rather than on endless and tedious data entry.

3) Spreadsheets are often inaccurate.

Manual data entry increases the likelihood of errors. Think about it: When an expense is incurred, digital data is created around the purchase and a receipt is automatically printed. The employee re-types that same information from the receipt (that was digital to begin with) into a spreadsheet, prints it, and staples the receipt to the printed copy. The result is duplication of effort and unnecessary mistakes.

Automated expense reporting, on the other hand, captures exact credit card transactions, matches them to receipt photos and specific vendors, and automatically and accurately assigns an expense classification such as meal, lodging, or office supplies. Now think about how many tasks that could be eliminated across your company over the course of one week, much less an entire year.

4) Spreadsheets slow down the entire process.

After hours of manual entry, the spreadsheet is sent to a manager for a signature. The report may then sit for days. Once approved, it needs to be processed so the employee can be reimbursed. This workflow—one filled with emails and attachments—is slow, inefficient, and ultimately expensive.

Automated expense reporting is just the opposite. Exact credit card data and receipts are automatically captured digitally. Employees simply click ‘submit’ and the expense report can be reviewed and approved from any mobile device—with a full audit trail. It’s a much faster way to approve and reimburse, which makes for much happier employees.

5) Spreadsheets don’t provide immediate insight into spend.

Ten percent of operating expenses are T&E related. Therefore, it stands to reason that managers should really know where the money is going – in real time. But when the expense data is a stack of paper, finding needed information is neither quick nor easy.

With automated expense reporting, your expense data is at your fingertips. Reporting is immediate and you can drill down to get the line item details for any expense, allowing more visibility into the spend. This information can then be used to encourage travelling employees to make better decisions, saving the company money.


Discover how to stop processing your expenses and start managing your spend and cash flow.

Concur is a leading provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions. Concur’s adaptable web-based and mobile solutions help companies and their employees control costs and save time.