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A guide to managing expenses for small businesses



Accounting | Finance | General | Small Business | Tax | Tax, Accounting and Bookkeeping | Tech

By Loren Webb

Managing expenses is a common headache for managers and finance teams, who often need to sort through hundreds of receipts, invoices, pay cheques, and reimbursement claims daily.

Digitalisation has highlighted the flawed nature of traditional expense management practices, signalling that spreadsheets and paper document filing are insecure and error-prone. Small businesses should introduce simple technology systems to automatically manage and report on expenses, according to SAP Concur.

Fabian Calle, general manager of SMB, ANZ, SAP Concur, said, “Small businesses often assume that, due to their size, low staff numbers, or income, investing in emerging technology isn’t necessary. However, new technologies and finance management systems are essential for any business, large or micro. Small businesses need to pay rent and electricity bills, manage supplier invoices, purchase maintenance products and, most importantly, manage changing budgets and incomes.

“Slow-moving finance management processes prone to inaccuracies will hold small businesses back and limit their profit. Many small businesses physically file away receipts and payment data, and track numbers using spreadsheets. This can easily backfire if stored documents become damaged, lost, or stolen. And, if one or two units of data are incorrectly entered into a spreadsheet, this can throw off organisations’ abilities to predict income, needs, budgets, and growth strategies. It becomes critical for small businesses to consider how they can improve their expense management systems. Implementing new technologies can be quick, easy, and affordable, even for the smallest of businesses.”

SAP Concur has revealed three ways automated technologies and digitalised data can help small businesses improve their expense management:

1. Compliance
Managers often need to spend time looking for misplaced, lost, or poorly-stored payment data and invoice numbers. And, when physical receipts, financial data, and payment documentation become old or damaged, they can become illegible and unusable. Managing important financial documents with a centralised, cloud-based program can help small organisations easily locate and view their information, ensuring valuable data can’t degrade or disappear.

2. Cash flow visibility
Physical data and spreadsheet calculations are unlikely to provide managers with the insight into spend and purchase activity they need. Key decision-makers need collated information and data to get a clear, unified picture of expenses, revenue, cash flow, and opportunities to reduce costs. This offers a major advantage when it comes to making decisions about future activities, budgets and investments. This data helps small businesses figure out where to cut back, where they can spend more, and where they can save.

3. Security 
Small businesses are just as vulnerable to data breaches as large organisations. In its most recent report regarding the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner revealed 33 per cent of data breaches were due to human error. (1) Not all data breaches happen online, and serious information compromise can occur when physical documents fall into the wrong hands. The right technology can help small businesses digitalise paper receipts and documents and store them in secure databases, so they can only be viewed and accessed by authorised people. Secure storage solutions also mean that, as businesses grow, their increasing volumes of data will be better protected from cybercrime and human error.

Fabian Calle said, “Small businesses shouldn’t underestimate the responsibilities they have in protecting and optimising their financial data. As various aspects of business, including customer service, retail, payment processes, and marketing become increasingly online and digitalised, small businesses need to protect themselves and manage their operations more effectively with up-to-date and useful technology.”

 

(1) – https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy-law/privacy-act/notifiable-data-breaches-scheme/quarterly-statistics-reports/notifiable-data-breaches-quarterly-statistics-report-1-october-31-december-2018