At the best of times, managing business expenses is difficult and complex work. But in the midst of the great digital shift, with an increase in the number of employees working from home – whether C-suite or commercial – the task can seem Herculean.
“Sometimes it’s out of control – expense management can feel like trying to hold water with your hands, and the water, naturally, just wants to go through your fingers,” Aneal Vallurupalli told PYMNTS , Chief Financial Officer of Airbase.
CFOs and their teams, he said, have had to adapt to working remotely, which means managing expenses from remote locations. The pressure is particularly strong for small and medium-sized businesses to make the transition.
As Vallurupalli told PYMNTS, the shift to remote working has forced small businesses to take a closer look at the systems in place – and find out where the weak spots lie.
Many processes and systems have traditionally been manual in nature and therefore take a long time. But companies made it all work, because because workers were in close proximity to an office, tasks could be completed relatively quickly, even if the infrastructure was not necessarily aligned.
In the remote environment, Vallurupalli noted, everything is a bit different.
Bringing the systems together
“SMEs have had to learn, essentially, how to ‘channel’ our systems together, whether through AP / AR functions or financial / non-financial activities,” he said. As a result, finance teams and larger operational teams are moving towards a more in-depth look at how they can enable remote working and make remote workers more productive. This scrutiny paves the way for SMBs to take advantage of technology offerings like online platforms and virtual cards (including those offered by Airbase) to meet the expense.
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“We see this as a big impact in the non-payroll industry, where customers have our software and, through our expense management platforms, they are able to put more on the cards with vendors,” said declared Vallurupalli. SMBs can also configure cards that are uniquely identified for each vendor. And more generally, he said the ability to have real-time visibility into spend allows the company to measure itself against various benchmarks, such as how they spend against their CRM count.
Vallurupalli told PYMNTS that Airbase’s expense management platform incorporates approval matrices, which helps companies make faster decisions about expense management.
The urgency is there, of course, to do more – and with speed. As PYMNTS research has shown, about half of the more than 2,400 SMEs surveyed chose not to pay vendors or other monthly bills when cash flow is hit hard. Up to 67% of those surveyed said they had relied on personal financial assets to cover cash flow gaps.
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Vallurupalli argued that expense management platforms, with features that allow them to combine expense management with invoicing, can help close this cash flow gap.
With the combination of AP and invoicing, SMEs deal with external suppliers and pay them on time. With expense reimbursement, businesses can pay employees on time for the money they spent on behalf of the business.
Going forward, Vallurupalli said, the digital transformation of SME financial functions will connect ERPs to data warehouses, as these warehouses have product-level and CRM-level information that will ultimately be needed for invoices sent to customers. .
“These tools reduce the risk of your running as a finance team and ensure that they spend company funds diligently and wisely,” he told PYMNTS.