Three Ways Technology Can Modernize Employee Spend For State And Local Government

Kyla Kent

While constantly reshaping the global economy, technology has enabled employees and businesses to run more efficiently. Despite its clear benefits, the adoption of new technology by state and local governments has been somewhat slow.

Although limited resources or regulatory restrictions may be valid reasons not to upgrade, 47% of state and local government employees responded in a GCN survey that it’s actually due to a lack of prioritization by leadership. But even more shockingly, 80% of respondents in the same survey said their agency was not open-minded to adopting a cloud-based solution.

With old processes becoming more frustrating for employees to deal with, state and local agencies are now facing increasing pressures to adopt more modern technologies like intelligent cloud applications, data analytics, and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Because it’s impossible to ignore and critical to tackle, CFOs at the state and local levels are looking for solutions.

Employee-initiated expense challenges solved with technology

The second-largest employee expenditure next to payroll, employee-initiated expense is one of the largest transactional aspects of government spending. But the survey from GCN discovered that only 16% of public sector employees reported having access to cloud web-based systems for submitting expenses. In fact, 40% of public sector employees still use pen and paper, making expenses difficult to track, prone to errors, and vulnerable to risk.

But technology can help relieve these common pain points. Matt Gibbons, senior director of government and contractor sales at SAP Concur, spoke more about using technology as a solution: “Automating internal processes and turning to cloud-based solutions is an easy and effective way to improve transparency and redirect efforts to citizen-facing programs, which is critical for state and local governments that face tighter budgets.”

Better control and reduced spending: this is just one of the areas that technology can help when it comes to automating expenses.

How technology can revolutionize your employee spend management process

Cost savings, scalability, and improved security can help agencies focus on strategic initiatives rather than approving expenses. But just how does expense software achieve this? Automate the process, collect the data, and start putting useful insights to work.

1. Control employee spend, reduce costs

Employees are spending more money, across more spend categories, using more payment methods than ever before. That’s more vendors and suppliers to keep tabs on and more payment methods to approve and record. How is it possible to keep up with the multitude of growing data within the spend industry? Especially when papers and receipts start to build up, and you can’t locate where you put that one expense report…

Technology that helps manage employee-initiated spend can eliminate paper and make it easy for employees to enter, track, manage, and audit expenses with just a few clicks. With a mobile application, you can easily manage expenses anytime, anywhere, saving you time and improving employee satisfaction. Take photos of receipts on the go and automatically generate expenses to give employees time back in their day so they can get back to doing what they do best.

Stop chasing paper receipts. Streamline expense, travel, and invoice technology to better manage employee spend:

  • Automate expenses from receipt to reimbursement
  • Proactively manage spend with AP automation
  • Turn employee spend data into actionable insights
  • Reduce costs and identify waste

2. Increase productivity, achieve scalability

Tracking employee spend data by hand is slow and tedious. GCN found that more than 80% of public-sector respondents said it takes two weeks or more for expenses to be approved. In today’s modern workforce, two weeks is quite a long time. Technology is changing the expectations for how work gets done, and it’s not just the digital natives. Now all generations are accustomed to, and expect, simple, easy-to-use experiences at work.

Whether on the road or in the office, automated, mobile technologies can help improve employee satisfaction and increase your productivity. Automated budget, expense, and audit technologies can quickly process employee spend data and notify you of any suspicious transactions, all while staying on top of budget to avoid overspending. At the same time, traveling employees can actively update new expenses through mobile devices and receive reimbursements faster. Mobile itineraries can help employees stay updated, on-time, and safe when plans go awry.

Transform your productivity with technology in these three areas:

Budget forecasting and strategy

  • Capture and consolidate data for a holistic view of employee spending
  • Control and adjust budget to change business needs
  • Improve accuracy and timeliness of spend

Employee expense tracking

  • Automatically categorize and map expense based on receipt images
  • Streamline expense management
  • Enforce policy compliance
  • Reimburse employees faster and improve user experience

Policy and expense auditing

  • Instantly certify each expense against your own policy
  • Identify non-compliant expenses prior to reimbursement
  • Ensure that all employees are compliant using independent auditors

3. Reduce FW&A, improve financial security

Agencies that manually track spend are even more prone to fraud, waste, and abuse (FW&A). Unlike technology, humans can make errors and carry biased opinions about which expenses break policy.

Intentional or unintentional, employee fraud is more common than you think. In 2018, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that 18.7% of employee fraud occurs in government entities, costing state and local agencies $180,000 each time it occurs.

But employee fraud isn’t always malicious. Sometimes it’s due to the complexity of government travel policies, which are often difficult to understand even for the most experienced travelers. Evidence of such waste was reported in 2016 by the DoD’s Inspector General, citing $458 million in total losses due to improper payments issued in 2014 alone.

Expense report technology can detect fraud and compliance issues in near real time. Analyzing 100% of expense reports, artificial intelligence can help reduce expense report errors by 60% and capture 10X the amount of errors and fraud, detecting patterns and anomalies that humans can’t see. It can even spot accidents versus malicious intent, so you can isolate repeat offenders from the majority of users who sometimes make accidental claims.

Help identify risks and opportunities for savings by using a preventative and detective approach to reduce FW&A:

  • Execute consistent policy enforcement across the agency
  • Pay only valid reimbursement claims
  • Focus on resolving fraud, not identifying it

Simplify employee spend challenges

Maximize your control, efficiency, and transparency with cloud-based technology that modernizes your expense, travel, and invoice processes.

This technology gives government agencies greater oversight and control over employee-initiated spending. Workflow is streamlined through a cloud-based system that efficiently manages the entire expense process from spend request to reconciliation in an automated workflow – improving accuracy, reducing reimbursement cycle time, and freeing personnel to focus on the agency’s mission.

The solution can be configured to enforce agency and regulatory policies and to create reports that ensure compliance and spend tracking, helping to reduce or eliminate FW&A. The open platform easily links to ERP, human resources, and accounting systems to consolidate expense data into a single, connected process.

Looking for more? Learn about SAP Concur’s state and local government solutions for modernizing employee spend.

Why have AI, machine learning, predictive insights, and digital assistants become the must-have new tools of forward-thinking CFOs to drive business performance? Watch the Nov. 6 webcast.

This article originally appeared in the SAP Concur newsroom and is republished by permission.

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Kyla Kent

About Kyla Kent

Kyla Kent is a content marketing intern for the Enterprise Americas team. Kyla earned her degree in marketing from Western Washington University and brings an eagerness to learn more about content creation and strategy at SAP Concur. When she isn’t in the office, she enjoys seeking out local events like art exhibits, concerts, comedy shows, and sports games.