B2B Payments

Abacus Counts On Move To Real-Time T&E

Far flung employees traveling hither and yon should no longer wait weeks to be reimbursed for expenses – and companies should not find out about errors after the fact. Here’s why real time expense management’s time has come, according to the co-founder of Abacus.

Expense management is increasingly becoming an on-the-go and automated system, wherein employees request and are approved expenditures on everything from airlines to hotel rooms in real time. Or, at least, that’s the way it should be.

Earlier this month, Abacus, which makes real-time expense management solutions, said it had finalized its integration with B2B software suite NetSuite. The cross-functionality now lets NetSuite users input and synchronize data directly tied to reimbursement. The result is an integrated tool that lets mid-market companies using NetSuite bring better visibility into reconciling data from employees “out in the field” traveling on behalf of their company.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Omar Qari, Abacus cofounder, said: “Larger organizations need more real-time data, across all reimbursement, and with the syncing up with corporate cards” and other forms of payments. “These are the companies that time savings and cost savings multiply exponentially” with streamlined expense management, said Qari.

In effect, he continued, data in larger companies tends to exist in silos, with legacy technology in place, “or expense reporting is basically what the employee has had in a shoebox for the last six weeks,” said Qari. Such delayed and ad hoc documentation can be further damaging to corporate efficiency once manual data entry enters the picture, he said.

The cloud-driven technology between Abacus and NetSuite, said Qari, is such that an employee can take a photo of a bill using a mobile device, send that visual report into NetSuite and that data will be reconciled with expense reporting. Each expense, said Qari, can be tracked and displayed through customizable dashboard functions (which dictate what data can be shared between Abacus and NetSuite), across parameters such as clients, employees, sales force and the like. That means, Qari said, that further insight can be gleaned, including return on investment, on efforts spent on clients or even projects.

And, in addition, expenses can be sent through the proper channels to be approved through a “push function” that allows for expense and accounting professionals to see them, be aware of them early and also send back final decisions to the employee. The visual process that the employee encounters can be likened, said Qari, “to a ‘Mad Libs’ style of rules that allows the employee to understand in real time which expenses can be reimbursed and which rules they may be violating.” On the administrator’s side, rules can be changed or per diems enforced. Abacus automatically flags unapproved expenses and passes the alerts on to the necessary higher-ups.

The automation functions allow for employees to link bank accounts to get deposits from approved expenses turned around in days, eliminating a common complaint of employees (i.e., lag time that can take months to see a check turned around).

When asked about the industries that may be among the “early adopters” of the partnership between NetSuite and Abacus, Qari said the roster would include financial services companies, followed by consulting companies, and that comes as the latter firms would want to ensure what expenses are billable.

Regardless of the benefits that can be accrued through speedier payments and data visibility, said Qari, the challenge remains to get companies to go through what Qari termed “a business process change, though one that helps with assessment of a business and which can help with pain points in reporting.”

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