Checklist for Choosing the Right Expense Management Software


Editor’s note: this post was originally published in April 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on 1/03/2016.


There’s a lot to consider when choosing an expense management software solution. There are many vendors, solutions and technologies to choose from. You have to consider deployment options, amount of flexibility, cost-efficiency and business value.

This amount of choice creates some extra consideration on your side. It’s important to carefully evaluate your own needs, match them to the functionality offered, while not forgetting about the price and coming to terms with how much of the system your users will actually use.

This checklist will help you guide you to decide which expense management software solution is right for your business.

1. Define what it is that you want to achieve

The first step in choosing a travel and expense management software solution is to ask yourself what challenge you are trying to solve. Perhaps your business is continuously experiencing:

If you’re a small business, it’s probably good enough that you sit down and run through this process by yourself and ask yourself these questions.

If you’re a little larger, it’s probably a good idea to involve the people who are major stakeholders.

This means systematically going through and mapping every process that is involved in expense management today so you can understand what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.

At the same time you should review your information and reporting needs.

Questions: Your Answer:
How do employees submit expenses at the moment? eg. Excel and paper based expense reporting
How and where are receipts being stored?  
Do you keep digital copies of the receipts?  
Are there steps in the expense submission process that take too long or employees complain about?  
Is the expense submission process flawless?  
How much errors are being made at the moment?  
Is there a need for approval of expenses before reimbursement? How is this done at the moment?  
In which areas of the process do you need to make changes or improvements in order to achieve your business goals?  

2. Decide your requirements for technology and support

Regardless of the size of your company it’s wise to take a few minutes and think about the current systems that you have in place today.

For all intents and purposes, you may have nothing at all to integrate, but writing down the answers to these questions will go a long way in helping you to set up your list of requirements when talking to a vendor.

Questions: Your answer
Who is going to use the solution? Is it just a couple of employees; a certain department or will it be used in the entire business? We have about 300 employees, 120 of them have expenses on a regular basis.
What other business applications do you have that you want to integrate with the expense management system (like accounting or ERP) ?  
Do you need support and training for you and your team to get started?  
How sophisticated is your team in learning new technology?  
How much mobility do you want? Do you need the software to be accessible on mobile phones and tablets?  

3. Consider your budget and where to run your Expense Management Software

Budgetary concerns play a role in which travel and expense management solution you choose. Some businesses are being constrained by current business conditions. Other businesses are able to take a longer-term view of their Expense Management Software investment.

There are two main payment options. The more outdated way is to actually purchase a solution and all the necessary hardware as well.

The other way is to use a SaaS solution that makes sure you’re always running on the latest version and without the heavy hardware investment of setting it up on your own servers.

  SaaS On Premise
Cost Pay as you go - per user - per month. You're not bound to the vendor and can leave whenever you want.  Up-front capital cost for hardware, software, licensing, lab space, airco etc.
Setup Fast deployment time. Cheaper setup and maintenance. No IT department required. Software updates are pushed automatically. Complex setup and involvement of IT department required. Time to deploy is much longer.
Customization Customizable using open API's depending on the software vendor. Somewhat customizable depending on software vendor. Most of the time expensive to customize.
Hardware  Hard- and software owned reside at provider site.  Customer must provide hardware and system platforms to run apps
Integration  Integrations provided depending on the vendor. Open API’s allow you to make your own integrations.  Integration with existing software is commonplace but requires plenty of resources of both vendor and client.
Control  SaaS provider controls systems but data is owned by customer  Control of systems.

4. Set up a focus group within the company

There are a lot of people in your company that are involved when it comes to expense management. It starts with the employee who has to report his expenses, an approver who has to go through all those receipts and reports.

Then there’s the CFO who needs to be able to see where the money is going per project, category, employee, … in order to make better decisions.

When you go for a test drive, make sure that at least one of every user type is involved in this test. Invite a couple of your employees to see how they report their expenses now, and ask them how this process of capturing and reporting can be improved.

The same for the approver and CFO, get them involved and set up a test group of users.

 Type of user Question Answer
Employee How do you currently capture and report your expenses? e.g.  Type them over in an Excel sheet
  What’s the thing you hate most about reporting expenses?  e.g. Time consuming, lost receipts
  What can be improved?  
Approver How do you approve expenses filed by employees at the moment?  
  What’s the main problem with current solution?  
  What would you like to see improved in this process?  
 CFO How do you gain intelligence out of the expense reports at the moment?  
  Do you have access to all the data you would like to see?  
  Is it hard to gather this data?  
  What can be improved  

5. Match your needs to what the market offers

We divided this checklist into 4 parts, each part is essential in expense reporting. First of all we start with the expense policy to make sure the application meets the needs of your expense policy. Then we will look at expense submission, expense management and last but not least exporting tools and integrations.

Expense policy features

Feature What Vendor
Multi User Is the solution for single users only or can more users be added under the same account?  
Group- role and branch management Can you assign users a specific role and/or assign them to a group or a branch?  
Rules Can you add your own rules (e.g. no expenses during weekends)  
Categories Are you able to add your own categories and assign them to expenses?  
Custom Fields Can you create custom fields (and make them mandatory?)  
Projects Can you add projects and assign them to the expenses  
Mileage, Timetracking & Advances Does the application supports the submission of mileage - time tracking and advances?  
 Approval Is it possible to use an approval flow?  
Payment Card Is it possible to add payment cards and select them as payment method?  
 Transaction Matching Is the application capable of matching expenses with bank or credit card transactions?  
 Multi Language Is the application available in multiple languages?  



Submitting expenses

Feature What Vendor
Expense submission How can expenses be submitted to the application? e.g. Mobile app, e-mail, e-receipts
Integrations Are there integrations available to submit expenses (e.g. Dropbox or Evernote?)  
Mobile apps Are there mobile apps available to submit expenses and on what devices do they run?  
Receipt Scanning Does the app reads out all data of the receipts submitted?  
Receipt Storage How long are the digitized receipts stored?  
Supports additional data Is it possible to add extra information to an expense such as category or project?  
Supports multi-currency Is it possible to use different currencies for separate users?  
 Currency conversion Does the app converts foreign currencies to the native currency?  
Todo list Does the app notifies you when fields are missing?  
 Business Cards Is it possible to scan business cards as well?  



Exporting and reporting tools

Feature What Vendor
Filtering tools Does the app has filtering tools and are they easy to work with? e.g. Mobile app, e-mail, e-receipts
Exporting tools Does the app has exporting tools? How do they work and which export formats (pdf - csv - xml)?  
Approval Flow Does the approval flow blocks unapproved expenses on reports?  
Accounting Integrations Which accounting software does the app integrate with?  
HR or ERP Integrations Which HR or ERP software does the app integrate with?  
Open API Does the app has an API to connect with?  




Support and resources

Feature What Vendor
Telephone Support Can you speak to someone on the phone if you have an issue?  
Email Support Does the vendor provide email support for less urgent issues and questions?  
Live Chat Support Is a Live Chat available online?  
Admin Guide Does the software come with an admin guide?  
User Guide Does the software come with a helpful user guide?  
Client Training What training options are available?  
Consulting Services What consulting services are available?  
Account support agent Is there a dedicated contact person for your company?  

6. Conclusion

So there you have it – The most essential things your company needs to know about Expense Management summed up in one handy checklist.

Expense Management Software is the key to control and manage your day to day business expenses. Having an expense management solution that is easy to use for employees, accountant, CFO and manager is essential to organize this critical business information and to improve the bottom line.

Whether you’re a small, medium or large-sized company, Expense Management Software is the one application which is crucial to your company’s success.

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Tags: Expense Management