For a long time, spend management was almost synonymous with travel and expense management in organizations. This was in part due to the software solutions on offer, which were standalone solutions that dealt with travel booking, expense reporting, expense reimbursement, and analytics. However, the time for standalone solutions is passé – it is the time of platforms now. Platforms can help organizations manage their business processes in a more efficient and coordinated manner by bringing different solutions on to a single platform, and deliver much better performance and user experience compared to standalone solutions. This article talks about what the spend platform does and how it can be useful for organizations.
The spend platform is a collection of modules that help manage different elements of spend in an organization – travel booking, expense management, procurement, wireless expense management, accounts payables, and invoicing. The greatest advantage of the spend platform over individual solutions is its integrated nature – all these solutions work together seamlessly and automatically, and data from all the tasks are stored centrally, ready for access at any point of time. Central to effective spend management is excellent collaboration among all the stakeholders involved – multiple business units, senior management, suppliers, and so on, and the spend platform offers organizations this ability to collaborate effectively. The platform can be further bolstered by integrating other applications that are useful in spend management, such as contract management. Furthermore, utility modules such as online signature and single sign-on can also be added on to the bundled package to ensure secure and convenient access to data and applications. Firms have the choice of the deployment of the software – on-premise installation where data is in their control but they also will be laden with server and maintenance costs, and SaaS installations where data is with the service provider but with minimal up-front costs and none in maintenance.
So, how is the deployment of this platform helpful for organizations?
One of the biggest benefits of using the spend platform comes in risk management. Every organization is exposed to a variety of risks – financial, strategic, operational, environmental, and reputation, to name a few – which can greatly impact the firm’s prospects and profits. While many of these risks can be mitigated by the use of the platform, it is greatly helpful in reducing operational risk in particular. Operational risk, which comes from forces internal to the firm, and which manifests in the form of failed processes, fraud, and the system fails, can ruin day-to-day operations and could lead to total business failure. To reduce the chance of operational risk, organizations need the right tools in place to monitor systems closely and eliminate bottlenecks and other complexities in business processes.
In spend-related affairs, the operational risk stems from fraud in expense management and procurement, delays in payments and reimbursements, lack of communication among multiple business units, and inconsistent collaboration with external stakeholders such as suppliers and customers. Mitigating this risk would need complete transparency and visibilities into all the different elements of spend across multiple business processes and regular evaluation and feedback provision of processes and activities. This is what firms enjoy with the spend platform, which allows firms to reduce their operational risk considerably. The platform provides unmatched overall visibility into all the spend-related transactions, and by collecting and making data available to process owners, ensures that business failures and fraud do not occur. Continuous monitoring and evaluation improve processes to eliminate bottlenecks and other hindrances to the effective functioning of processes and stakeholders.
Compliance is something that employees scoff at and the stuff of nightmares for administrators. In spend management especially, compliance plays a huge role. From the types and categories of tickets that employees can buy for travel to the kinds of expenses they can make to the type and nature of suppliers they can buy raw materials from to the way they make the payments, spend management comes with detailed policies governing a wide range of affairs, and compliance with these policies is a must if departments are to stay within their budgets and the firm is not to suffer excess expenditure.
Compliance is one of the reasons red tape often arises in firms – to ensure that everyone complies with policy, firms often bring in additional rules and approvals into the system, which also causes bottlenecks. Further, this is also one reason why firms hesitate to decentralize operations such as travel booking, ordering, and so on. With the spend platform, though, compliance can be inbuilt into the system while at the same time decentralizing operations, thus gaining both ways. The automation built into the solution restricts users from taking any out-of-compliance actions while allowing them full freedom to perform functions that fall within the policy. In many ways, the platform automates compliance while not restricting anyone from carrying out their tasks.
Collaboration & Communication
While no one disputes the importance of collaboration and communication among the different stakeholders involved in a process, not many can agree on how to ensure that these exist at the workplace. In a typical travel and expense process where the firm uses two different applications for travel booking and expense reporting, the details from one solution to another will have to be entered manually, since these solutions are not compatible with one another. In contrast, with the spend platform, data from one module can be automatically entered into the other, saving time and improving accuracy. The same is the case with procurement and accounts payables. Procurement data is made available for AP specialists to ensure that duplicates and fraudulent invoices are weeded out. Much of the processing happens automatically, saving time for everyone involved.
Communication is also automated to a great extent. To ensure that a process is running along smoothly, the stakeholders involved in the process need to be in constant communication with one another. This is done through status updates, notifications, and reminders. However, internal customer service is not imbibed in everyone, and people often miss communicating with others. They might not also communicate with others when they have not completed their own tasks to satisfaction. To eliminate such concerns, the platform automates status updates, notifications, and reminders. Also, it automatically prepares periodic reports and delivers them to senior management so that they can also keep an eye on proceedings.
The above are only some of the major benefits that firms can gain by deploying the spend management software platform. The other benefits of the platform include greater convenience for all the stakeholders, improving the productivity of employees, spend control and highly accurate forecasts. The SaaS version of the platform also provides unmatched mobility to users so that they can handle their tasks from any location, any time. This is particularly useful for managers and up who need to approve requisitions and are away from the workplace for some reason or the other. Using a single solution for all the tasks is a huge boon for employees – no longer do they have to remember a bunch of passwords and toggle between applications. It is also great for analytics – since all the data is in one place, analyses can be carried out by anyone easily. Further integrations are also possible to increase the applicability of the platform.
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