What critical factors must you know about for global expense management?
Every company has unique requirements for its expense management solution, be it industry-specific regulations that need to be followed or complex business rules for approval routing. However, few organisations have as specific and complex needs for their expense management system as those with a significant global presence.
Not only do international businesses need to ensure that their solution effectively caters to the needs of their expense submitter, but they also – and even more critically – need a system that can support complex requirements that come with running a global finance department. As a result of these complexities, few expense management solutions are able to effectively support the needs of multinational organizations, and a poor choice could leave your company at a serious disadvantage.
If your organisation is looking at deploying a global expense management solution across multiple geographies, here are some of the key issues that you should consider:
1. Can it support your users’ languages?
Most executives who have an international role will have at least a working knowledge of English or another major Western European language. However, for companies with significant numbers of locally-based, non-executive employees, it’s likely that second-language competency may be low. If these employees also need to submit expense reports – even occasionally – it’s wise to consider an expense solution offered in a broad range of languages.
In addition, if no solution is available in all of the languages your organization requires, it’s worth finding out what the vendor’s process is for adding further languages – how long does it take and how much will it cost.
2. How can it support international tax and compliance requirements?
From personal vehicle mileage rates to sales tax to receipt retention requirements, the number of variables posed by an international expense management solution is almost unlimited. Failing to adhere to these requirements and regulations could at best lead to incorrect reimbursements, and at worst leave an organization with significant liability issues. While internal accounting teams will likely know these requirements for major international markets, the can’t be expected to do so in every country where you have staff. How can your expense solution automate these processes, and what support can your vendor provide to ensure that your organization doesn’t fall foul of regulatory compliance.
3. Can it be easily accessed in all regions?
Most modern expense management solutions have some form of mobile experience, which is critical to support travelers who need to capture expenses while on the road. However, global organizations need to consider the technology infrastructure not just in their home country but around the world. Network speeds may vary dramatically, and users in less-developed regions may have mobile phones with significantly less processing power than the latest iPhone or Galaxy models. As a result, the experience for much of your team could be far from optimal, unless the solution has been created to provide the same experience regardless of platform, device and operating system, via a web app. A web app, versus native apps, may also be more advantageous, especially if you have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.
4. Can it integrate with your existing technology and travel infrastructure?
Few organizations use only one ERP solution across all countries, and due to regional differences, nor do they typically have a single travel solution provider across all markets. As a result, an expense automation solution must have the flexibility to effectively integrate with all financial and travel technology solutions, as well your local travel partners. Ask your vendors how they can integrate with technology solutions, in addition to their capability to take feeds from TMCs around the world.
5. How is end-user training handled?
Global organizations with distributed workforces often face challenges both with up-front end-user training and ongoing support of any software solution.
Unlike many role-specific solutions, such as accountancy software, expense management systems are used by a broad range of employees across the enterprise. It’s impractical for the full training sessions to be held in each office across all markets, and as a result, a lack of training can lead to low user engagement and high levels of support inquiries and overall dissatisfaction. Companies therefore need to ensure that their proposed expense solution is simple to use, and that it’s easy for “power-users” across the organization to train smaller teams.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the questions that you should ask your proposed expense vendors, it does offer some insight into the critical considerations that global organizations should address in their expense vendor selection process.