More than ever, companies are looking to digitization to provide the accurate data and connectivity that they need to cope with a post-covid world.
That is the finding from our groundbreaking annual Travel and Expenses survey. We asked finance departments all across Europe what their priorities were for 2021 and what we found were some striking differences.
The impact of Covid-19 was, as you’d expect game-changing and the way that finance department coped with the upheaval showed the resilience and creativity of accounting teams.
We surveyed people between September 2019 and August 2020, and have drawn on data from Rydoo users across France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK. In addition to this, we also commissioned an independent survey company, Censuswide, who questioned more than 200 financial directors at companies with 500-5,000 employees.
What we saw was a diverse range of opinions, that differed markedly in some cases from territory to territory.
What do we mean by ‘digitized systems’?
If you read the academic papers then there is quite a lot of discussion of the origins and use of the word ‘digitization’.
However, to most finance professionals, the term digitization means the use of digital systems to connect people, systems, companies, products and services.
Digitizing your finance function can mean connecting your internal systems, using software and apps instead of analogue methods of recording data and connecting to outside agencies to send and receive information.
The Rydoo Travel and Expenses system is a perfect example of where an analogue method of claiming expenses, in other words, paper, can be replaced by a digital method.
The adoption of digital systems to increase efficiency and improve data accuracy has been going on for some time now and our survey shows that take-up has increased.
When we asked whether they had digitized already, two-thirds of respondents said either, ‘Completely, all our processes are online with no paper’, or ‘mostly, all the major functions’ were digitised.
This shows that the message about the benefits of digitization is hitting home – digitized systems mean accurate data.
Bearing in mind that our survey data goes up to August 2020, it will be interesting to see whether the subsequent lockdowns have persuaded more companies to look to new systems.
The state of Expense Management 2021
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Which are the most connected industries?
If the adoption of digitized systems means more accurate data then you would expect that finance businesses would be first in line to make the switch and our survey results back this up.
Somewhat surprisingly though, media, sales & marketing companies were also some of the most likely to have totally digitized their operations showing that it isn’t always technical companies who are first adopters.
When we look at where digitization is making the most headway we start to see a wide disparity across the different European states.
If finance departments are to implement digitized systems efficiently then they need to ensure that there is effective cooperation with their IT department.
In the UK, 2 in 5 of respondents said that their IT and finance departments worked closely together, but in Germany, Austria and Switzerland only one in 14 businesses are prioritising the cooperation of their IT and finance teams.
How finance teams are changing
One of the other aspects we wanted to look at in our survey was the changing face of finance.
The composition and size of finance teams is one area where the positive effects of digitization and the negative impact of Covid seem to have aligned to produce almost the same results.
In our survey responses, we saw that overall, more than 50% of businesses report reducing the size of their finance team. The effect was most pronounced in Germany and Switzerland where up to 60% of companies reduced numbers.
One of the biggest benefits of implementing a digital system like Rydoo is that finance staff can be moved on to more value-add activities.
Where before they spent hours manually inputting and checking data, digitized systems relieve them of these tasks and so they can be released to carry out higher-level tasks.
This has been seen more often in the UK where 45% of people claimed that they had reconfigured their team so that people are now working in different roles.
Contrast this with the French result that showed only 25% of companies taking advantage of this digitization benefit and we can see the contrasting uses of systems.
Accurate data is a priority
Accuracy is as you would expect at the forefront of people’s mind when it comes to digitization.
When we asked people ‘What are the current accounting priorities of your finance department?’ 30% of people replied that it was either making sure all data is connected and accurate or correct and timely invoicing.
The digitization of systems means that there are less manual processes and as a result,. Fewer chances to introduce ‘fat finger syndrome’.
Cost control also scored highly at 16% and this is something that many of our users have reported as a benefit of adopting Rydoo as their travel and expenses solution.
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Covid has accelerated change
It’s clear that the push towards digitization was happening anyway but the need to allow people to work from home appears to have accelerated the movement.
Finance teams are adapting and whilst in many cases this means there are fewer jobs, the roles that are available are of a higher quality and presumably better paid.
We’ve seen that the need for accuracy is as great, if not greater than ever and companies are seeking to ensure that their cost control measures are working and proportional.
Our very first pan-European expenses survey has thrown up some interesting findings, some we expected and many we did not.
If you would like to see the whole report then simply click here to access it.