Automating the Expense Reimbursement Form

Imagine a stack of paper more than 3 feet high. There are 10,000 sheets in that stack, the number used in a single year by just one average office worker. Paper use in the average business is growing at the rate of 22 percent a year. U.S. companies spend more than $120 billion a year on printed forms: invoices, purchase orders, enrollment forms, expense reimbursement forms. Most of them are outdated within three months.

Those alarming numbers come from The Paperless Project, a consortium focused on “transforming the way organizations work with paper and electronic content.” It notes how “Manually processing business transactions is inefficient, time consuming and costly. But luckily, with the prevalence of cloud computing, digital signature applications, document management and business automation solutions, creating a paperless business environment is easily within reach.”

The advantages of a reduced reliance on paper are many:

Improved access. No more looking through papers or waiting for them to arrive.

Reduced clutter. Losing files still isn’t impossible, but it’s much less likely.

Easier exchanges of information. Many documents can be sent to a single person. A single document can be sent to many people.

Expanded opportunities for distributed workers. Taking the paper forms out of the office helps people get out of the main office. There they can be closer to the customers, partners and suppliers who need them.

There was a time when being out of the office meant being out of favor. Now more than 40 percent of the US workforce reportedly works from home, in a satellite office, or in some other off-site location. With the improved productivity and reduced infrastructure costs that result, it seems likely the distributed workforce will only get larger.

Meanwhile, the distributed workforce is already teaching us how to reduce reliance on paper. For them we’ve already begun to automate certain businesses processes to remove the paper element. Among those processes is mileage reimbursement.

Automating the expense reimbursement form
SureMileage by Company Mileage not only automates mileage reimbursement, it addresses the shortcomings of traditional systems by using a different approach. Employees report their starting point and destination and the system calculates the driving distance between them. Rather than verifying the miles that were driven, it calculates the expenses to be reimbursed.

SureMileage has an integrated address book – corporate and personal – and every location is given a name. To add a new location, employees can add it to the app and it will automatically populate. And changing the mileage rate is easy.

The employee expense reimbursement form is just one of the pieces of corporate paper that is being replaced through automation. Others can be found in purchasing, order processing, budget approvals, and so on. In each case, the paper process is replaced by a simpler, faster, more accurate electronic one.

The distributed workforce helped push businesses to automate. Now increased automation can help improve the efficiency the distributed workforce – the one that seems certain to grow.