By The Center Team on December 30, 2020

Posted in Expense Management, Insight, Viewpoint

Businesses, small and large, have been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The following trends that came to light this year will continue to impact finance teams in 2021 as businesses focus on remediating outdated and inefficient expense management processes in 2021.
 

With remote work here to stay, companies are investing in spend management

The rapid shift to remote work in 2020 forced companies to take a long, hard look at the fundamental weaknesses in their spend management processes. With pressure to identify opportunities for cost savings, many finance teams are finally investing in digitizing outdated manual processes and upgrading legacy software to streamline spend and empower purchase decisions with more accurate, real-time financial data.

Managing corporate card spend gets a closer look

Decentralized corporate card spend will still be the primary way businesses make purchases in 2021, but companies need a better way to manage it. Traditional cards create more work for finance teams when not paired to real-time financial data, cascading into other problems, like improper transaction coding and manual expense reconciling. Software-connected cards let companies know where their dollars are going with more accuracy than ever before, information that could help them make quick yet critical financial decisions.

Teams will rely on tech, not new hires, for efficiency and better cost controls

Finance leaders used to tout hiring plans to help manage heavy workloads. But now, companies have indefinite hiring freezes in place or have been forced to make layoffs. The rapid shift to remote work has underscored the need for new technologies to navigate the COVID-19 environment and ensure success on the other side of this crisis. In fact, 91% of finance teams plan to implement at least one tech initiative in 2021 to help with day-to-day operations, tactical decision-making, and long-term strategy development.

Legacy systems will be replaced by low-code, AI-powered tech

When AI and machine learning are applied to a base unit of data, software goes from simply being a system of record to being a system of intelligence. For finance teams, this shift to AI has been profound in transforming cumbersome expense management processes. Businesses no longer have the time or patience to manually reconcile costs. In 2021, legacy systems will continue falling by the wayside as easy-to-implement low code technologies powered by AI and machine learning will continue to become adaptable to the unique ways in which companies manage their own expenses.

Expense reports will go the way of the Rolodex and fax machine

Expense reports have come a long way since paper-based systems. But despite their digitization, one of the biggest challenges finance teams and employees consistently face is reconciling expense reports. These often burdensome tools don’t provide up-to-the-minute spend visibility, they’re not flexible, and they cost teams time and money in inefficiencies. Just like the fax machine and the Rolodex before that, the expense report is done.

TO THE POINT:

The last year put employees and companies to the test. The good news is that many organizations and the people who work were able to adapt , often thanks to technology that made it easier to stay connected and collaborate. The challenge for 2021 will be to find efficient and sustainable ways to work despite continued uncertainty. 

Center helps organizations thrive by getting the most of every dollar--and hour--spent. We'd love to show you how we can help reduce manual expense processing, increase visibility into spend, and speed up your month end close. Sign up for a demo today.