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Seven expense management best practices

Expense management best practices deliver value from expenses, making sure that they always support revenue generation. They also help to engage employees, improving accuracy and efficiency through the use of online and digital platforms and tools that make it easy to select the most appropriate suppliers, record data accurately and enable swift reimbursement.

In general, expense management best practices include automating manual and time-consuming processes as much as possible. This will contribute to cost reduction, accuracy, compliance and operational efficiencies.
Expense management best practices need to be tailored specifically to each business or organisation, but there are common features. Even though no two companies are the same, here are some key principles for best-in-class expense management.

1. A clearly defined expense management policy.

Make it simple and clear. A long and complicated document is difficult to follow and employees may misunderstand. When you have drafted your policy, ask employees to read it and check whether it’s clear enough. Make it available through accessible channels, such as online or from a mobile app, so employees can refer to the policy easily whenever they need to.

2. Clearly defined acceptable expenses for reimbursement.

Examples are the best way of helping employees understand the choices and behaviours you want to encourage for expenses. Include not only examples of what’s acceptable but examples of what’s not acceptable. This might include types of accommodation, entertainment, places to eat, approved suppliers or airlines. Some employers use a third party corporate travel manager and all travel and expenses must be booked through them – or through an automated corporate travel system that fulfils the same function.

3. A simple claims tool

Use an expense management system that makes it quick and easy for expenses claims to be submitted, especially when employees are away from the office. Modern digital platforms allow employees to photograph receipts using their mobile and upload them immediately. They submit claims line by line, as they happen, rather than saving up receipts to reclaim in one time-consuming batch. This helps minimise errors and lost receipts.

4. Require only relevant details

Ask for only relevant details that you need as a business to reimburse the claim, so that the process is quick and concise for your employees. If employees can upload a photo of their receipt, OCR (optical character recognition) technology can extract the data, supplier, item type and value. This saves even more time and helps ensure accuracy.

5. Make managers accountable

Provide a system that makes it easy for managers to understand and assess all the information they need to make decisions on spending for the benefit of the business. Enable them to approve or escalate claims from a mobile device, to streamline the process and avoid delays in authorising vital business travel and other costs.

6. Process expense payments in a timely manner

Using a mobile application can help speed up reimbursements, as managers can review and approve claims wherever they are working. Modern expense management systems can automate low value approvals and payments, helping avoid frustration and poor employee experiences.

7. Calculate the ROI of expense spending

Understand the value of costs to the wider business, so you can apply a flexible expenses policy which supports business growth. You should do this by ensuring employees submit claims against the business purpose for which the spend was incurred such as a customer, marketing event or support visit. Managers and finance teams can see the costs versus income or planned income associated with the expense. High value travel for example, may be beyond a standard limit, but if the sales contract at stake is for a large amount, it may deliver excellent ROI.

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