Efficient expense tracking and reporting is an objective of businesses of all sizes. Being able to streamline and improve the process of collecting and organizing receipts and invoices is a constant challenge. Same goes for creating accurate and easy-to-read reports, veryifing and approving reports, and then adding results to issue a check.
Thanks to cloud-based solutions that are capable of handling expense tracking and reporting, controlling employee business expenses are getting easier and less tedious. It is possible to use mobile apps and smartphones to scan and photograph receipts, and there are increasingly quick and easy methods for organizing and submitting expense reports online.
The best news for businesses is that cloud-based expense tracking software generally costs less while offering more innovation than on-site legacy hardware/software-based solutions. Let’s look at the top solutions we’ve tested.
Find the Right Expense Tracking Software
Before you can choose SaaS expense tracking software, you have to examine your organization in some detail. Is it based in the United States? Does it do international business? What kinds of expenses are typically initiated by the workforce? A good place to begin is with a thorough audit of how many employees in your company submit expenses for reimbursement, including travel, business meals, and even office supplies. What are those average expenses? Are they reasonable or do you think individuals are taking advantage? Look beyond the averages since a tool that suits a sales team on the road may not be ideal for the remote employees who visit the home office every quarter. Create an organizational map including the reporting/supervisory structure. This may sound like overkill but it will come into play if you need a multi-tiered approval feature. Use this information to create loose policies and rules based on location, company averages, and what you deem appropriate.
Next, take a look at the back-end technology your company is using, especially its accounting software. Add this to your must-have business intelligence (BI) data. It’s important to minimize employee learning curves so they will be up to speed on the new product with minimal brain drain and collateral costs. A solution that’s confusing, difficult to use, or worse, buggy in its integration with your back-end systems will make employees avoid using it, which is exactly what can kill an effective expense tracking solution.
If your mobile workforce uses iPhones or Android-based smartphones, you’re in luck since most SaaS products do have apps for these platforms. Some products support use of Windows phones, but don’t get too comfortable with that platform since Microsoft will be discontinuing support for this format in December. On the finance side, does your bookkeeper and CPA use QuickBooks Online Plus , or is your business based on more advanced accounting software like enterprise-grade general ledger accounting software? Choose a product that you’re sure will integrate with the existing software powering your accounting chain; your money-managers will thank you for it.
Expense Tracking System Features
Creating a solid and intuitive SaaS expense tracking and reporting solution is a daunting task. Mostly because the product needs to make sense to the finance department as well as the employees. A good system needs to be transparent and straightforward but also efficient in a number of areas. This includes accurate expense tracking, the capability to work within a company’s policies, and at the same time provide the tools for timely employee reimbursement. A good solution covers everyone’s bases while improving productivity and saving the business, and its employees, time and money.
One product requirement for the finance department is that it support company compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). This law addresses employee expense abuses and imposes draconian penalties on companies that lack effective internal expense controls. Because of this, the product you choose needs to have comprehensive and customizable policies, rules, and approval designation abilities, and if it has tools to self-audit for SOX, so much the better. Another top-of-mind capability is data storage for at least seven years as required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Data must be available to create a full audit trail should the request be made. Accounting software integration is another must-have so report data can be automatically folded in to the company’s Chart of Accounts; some of these applications also rely on the accounting software to make and track the actual employee reimbursement. While integrating with typical small business accounting tools is fairly straightforward, should your business be using more sophisticated general ledger or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, like NetSuite OneWorld or SAP Business One Professional, the integration process may be more difficult but is no less essential so it’s important to plan well at the outset. It’s important to both finance and employees submitting expenses that the product’s interface be accessible in the user’s local language. It should also be able to slice and dice expenses in currencies the company and employees use.
On the mobile side, users need simplicity in their smartphone app, but simplicity that delivers the maximum level of performance in as few keystrokes as possible. Users should be able to capture images, glean as much specific data from those images as possible, manually input expenses, and create and subsequently submit their expense report for approval. Taking this a step further, the end-to-end process flows more smoothly when products pull in expenses from users’ credit cards and facilitate reimbursement into designated bank accounts.
Users have different criteria for success. While back-end accounting can run the gamut as far as complexity, anything from the ease of a SaaS-based small business solution like FreshBooks ($7.50 Per Month for Lite Plan at FreshBooks) all the way to a multi-month deployment process for the typical ERP implementation, no one wants complexity when it comes to an expense report system. They want simplicity, simply because nobody wants to spend any more time than they absolutely must doing expense reports. Most of the data entry relies on mobile apps, though each application lets you construct the report using a website and usually email forwarding and credit card integration, too. Employees should be able to capture images, glean as much specific data from those images as possible, manually input expenses, and submit their expense reports for approval. Taking this a step further, the end-to-end process flows more smoothly when products pull in expenses from users’ credit cards and facilitate reimbursement into designated bank accounts while filtering key data identified by your accounting professionals to their back-end systems.
Expense Tracking Bottom Line
We tested nine SaaS expense tracking software solutions in this review roundup. The trials gave us a good view into each product’s setup complexity and the issues a regular customer would encounter not just during setup but also during day-to-day use. We looked at key product features, the software’s web and mobile interfaces, setup, and ease of use to get an overall impression before zeroing in on end-user points such as camera image capture quality, speed of image analysis, and efficiency of expense report submission and approval.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the electronic conversion of typed, handwritten, or printed text images into machine-encoded text, and it can be a critical component of a successful expense report management software system. OCR reduces the amount of required manual data input, and all nine products in our roundup—Abacus, Certify Now, Concur Expense, Expensify, ExpensePath, ExpensePoint, Receipt Bank, Rydoo (formerly Xpenditure Small Business), and Zoho Expense—use the technology. Abacus uses geo-location technology suggesting restaurants, etc., to help users. That said, the products that glean the most data from receipt images are Certify Now and Rydoo, a key reason why both earned our Editors’ Choice award.
Overall, the mobile interfaces in Certify Now and Rydoo are the easiest to use to create expense reports, although Abacus comes is a close second. Abacus also sports a cool, text-like internal communication tool that none of the other participants had, and it provides the most expeditious route for reimbursement. That said, we appreciated the simplicity of ExpenseBot’s mobile app and the feature depth of Receipt Bank, too.
From a finance point of view, Receipt Bank and Rydoo have the widest choice of back-end accounting software integrations, and they have the best international environment features as well. Abacus is only available for companies doing business in the US, and all of the participants maintain data storage for the required seven-year period, if not longer.
From the end-user perspective, Certify Now and Rydoo tie for Editors’ Choice due to their ease of use, and their simple yet sophisticated interfaces available for a wide range of mobile platforms. On the finance side, their policy and rule-setting capabilities are the most comprehensive.
Pricing is competitive across all our competitors, with Expensify’s $5 per user per month demonstrating that a low price can sometimes still be a true bargain rather than just “cheap.” Even so, the prices are close enough that other factors may be more important. Most applications charge based on the number of active users per month, but there are variations, such as ReceiptBank charges based on the number of transactions practiced. Rydoo beats out Certify here because of Certify’s setup fee. While Concur ExpenseIt and Concur Expense offer cool, seasoned, and full-featured expense management services, they lose ground because it was so difficult to ascertain value without pricing transparency. They may well be a great value for a fast growing SMB, though, so don’t overlook them if that’s you have an SMB.
Any of these products would be good choices depending on your business needs, though the combination of usability, expense functionality, and price gave Certify Now and Expensify the tie for Editors’ Choice for midsize and large enterprises, while Rydoo gets the nod for the little guys. This round we also included new reviews for Receipt Bank, ExpensePoint, ExpenseBot, and Zoho Expense, all of which are solid options worthy of your consideration. Choose a service that’s affordable, easy to use now, and will scale as your business grows. You won’t have to revisit the decision down the road.