How Finance Teams Use Their Time

By The Center Team on March 9, 2021

Day-to-day tasks keep finance teams from the process improvements, collaboration, and strategic work their organizations urgently need them to do.

The Cost of Operational Tasks

In our 2020 expense management survey, we asked 200 finance professionals of various-sized US companies what single activity takes up most of their time and where they would allocate more time if possible.

chart showing where finance spends its time

The results overwhelmingly showed that routine, manual tasks like expense processing and invoice processing are taking up most of their time—and they’d like to be able to spend more time on process improvements, cross-department collaboration, and strategic planning.

Reporting also moved up to third place. Amid the economic downturn and COVID uncertainties, organizations are requiring more reports at more frequent intervals. Why? For the same reason that companies want to devote less time for menial tasks: prioritizing planning, strategizing, and informed decision making.

Growing Urgency to Improve Systems

The tension between time-consuming manual processes and strategic planning is not new for finance teams—our previous study showed the same results. What has changed is the urgency to address these concerns as companies move forward into 2021.

chart showing priorities for finance leaders

Day-to-day operational work continues to keep finance teams from the critical strategic, collaborative, and process improvement work their organizations need them to do, now more than ever.

Fewer Travel Receipts = More Time

The pandemic obviously greatly reduced business travel. So instead of spending a great deal of their time tracking down and reimbursing receipts, finance teams were able to finally focus more on analyzing spend and pulling together reports for strategic planning.

In our previous Spend Management Report, ”Tracking down receipts and expense reports” was the top-ranked activity, cited by 46% of respondents. That number dropped by half to 23% in.

ranking of time

With travel cut for safety reasons and a challenging economic environment decreasing the amount of expense reports filed, we weren’t surprised to see that “analyzing spend” rocketed to the top, while “aggregating data for reporting” remained in a strong second place.


Spending less time tracking down receipts and expense reports should be good news. Finance teams now have more time for gathering and analyzing data.

Our question is: Will finance teams take advantage of this valuable opportunity to create a sustainable shift in how they prioritize their time? Or will they find themselves in the same predicament when we bounce back from the pandemic?

How Center Can Help

Center is a complete corporate credit card and expense management solution that delivers real-time visibility and flexible spend controls to automate expense tracking. Center simplifies expense processing for the entire company, saving time for employees, improving operations for the finance team, and delivering live insights for managers and executives to help with strategic planning.

Making a switch to Center is quick, easy, and free. When you’re ready, we’d be happy to give you a personalized demonstration of how Center can help your organization.

Read our full 2020 Expense Report, Adapting to New Realities, here.