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Expense Reporting: Striking a Balance between Simplicity and Needed Information

Expense Reporting: Striking a Balance between Simplicity and Needed Information

The expense report. Helping organizations to reduce spending waste and to control costs while providing employees a way to account for their actions while on the road.

A necessary task (Buzz Aldrin had to file one after going to the moon in 1969), the process of filing expense reports has become easier thanks to technology, but remains a time-consuming task that takes away from the time an employee spends creating value for the business.

How Long Does It Take to File an Expense Report?

While it’s important for travel managers to get information from travelers, one question that travel managers need to ask is “are you making your expense reporting process too complicated?”

According to a recent Concur report, The State of Business Travel for 2016, while sixty percent of expense reports were described as simple, taking roughly eight minutes to complete, another 8 percent required additional details which took, on average, nearly an hour to complete.

Percentage of Reports Average Time to Complete
Simple Reports 60% 8 Minutes
Expense Report with Itemizations 16% 32 Minutes
Expense Reports with Meal Attendees 11% 22 Minutes
Expense Reports with an Allocation 5% 16 Minutes
Expense Report with Itemizations, Attendees, and Expense Allocation 8% 55 Minutes
Note: These times are for business travelers filing expense reports on the Concur platform. For companies with paper-based or manual expense report processes, the time required to complete an expense report is higher.


This creates a concern, as 79% of employees are spending hours during the week filling out expense reports—directly impacting the time that they are calling on customers or making decisions that will impact the future of the organization.

In essence, the more complex the expense report, the more value this task saps from your organization (The corollary for travel managers, who have to make sure everything is correctly filed and adhering to policy, is that it takes twenty minutes and $58 to complete and process one expense report, with 19% of these having an error which takes another 18 minutes to correct).

Striking a Balance to Make Expense Reporting Better

Robb Nielsen, vice president of global product experience at Concur, hopes to continue easing the expense reporting process, was quoted in an interview with Spend Matters,

“While Concur tries to automate the expense report process as much as possible, there are still ways companies can make expense reporting easier for employees. It’s about striking a balance between gathering necessary details about an employee’s business trip while not taking too much time away from the employee’s workday to complete an expense report. Travel managers should think about how granular they want these reports to be and to decide if each detail they wish to ask an employee about a recent business trip is necessary.”

The easiest way to simplify the expense reporting process on both sides of the table is to find a balance between ‘getting the important information’ and ‘simplifying the process for traveler and travel manager’.

To accomplish this, it pays to train employees on policies at the right time (Nielsen recommends before the first business trip, rather than during orientation), as well as to make the process as easy as possible by minimizing the amount of paper, implementing a mobile-friendly reporting process that allows submission with the snap of a camera, and automating the process as much as possible.

The combination of these three will reduce headaches for all parties involved, improve compliance with policy, and shorten the time from receipt to acceptance to accounting for the transaction.

Learn more on how to better manage your expense processes by downloading the State of Business Travel 2016 report, as well as reading about the five levels of travel and expense management maturity and how to take your TEM beyond automation.

For even more, watch a brief demo on ExpenseConnect, Brittenford’s connector designed to automate the data entry between Concur and Intacct, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics SL.

1 Comment


  1. […] reports can take absurd amounts of time to complete — a 2016 study found that 79% of employees spend hours during the week just filling out these […]

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