Zetadocs Expenses: A Finance Director’s viewpoint
"Dogfooding" expense management software
At Equisys, we have a long-term record of developing for Microsoft Dynamics NAV – and also of using it. For the last decade we have been developing Zetadocs as an add-on for NAV. In that time, we’ve sold approaching 1,000 Zetadocs for NAV systems, and half of those customers have gone on to buy subsequent upgrades, such as additional modules or user licences.
We use NAV…and our add-ons for NAV
We have used NAV in our own finance department for 15 years: starting out with Navision version 2.6 and upgrading steadily to the NAV 2016 we use today, hosted on Microsoft Azure. We’ll move to NAV 2017 soon, now that it’s available.
We have recently launched Zetadocs Expenses and, like most software companies, we use the software we produce. We call that process "dogfooding". As Finance Director, I’m going to share some of our go-live experiences and user insights.
Equisys has a UK-based development team with third party outsourced testing and quality assurance overseas. Before we go live with a product, we always use it internally first. Zetadocs Expenses was released to the public this summer, but we have used it in-house since October 2015.
How has it gone so far?
Like many companies, we have traditionally used paper-based expenses forms, created in Excel, with receipts stapled to the claim. Expenses were typically sent from the claimant to their manager for approval before the paper trail made its way to the finance department. Personally, I found it tough putting time aside for claiming my own expenses that way. In fact, my wallet was typically stuffed full of receipts. Our CEO, who approves my claims, is regularly out of the office, which made my expense reimbursement problematic.
With Zetadocs Expenses it’s been far easier to take a photo of the receipt, add details about the expense using the mobile app and throw the receipt away. As you’d expect, our tech-savvy employees have loved it, but these days everyone seems to have a smartphone, and our non-technical staff have got on fine with it, too. The process of collating receipts and making a claim is certainly less onerous – and therefore likely to happen sooner, with fewer complaints.
We know change is hard for human beings; it can provoke fear and scepticism. Adopting and trusting a new technology is no exception. It takes time.
While people got used to the software at Equisys, we found that a common question was: how easily can I view the photo of an expense receipt? The answer is, very. While the software relies a little on the quality of the photo taken, people are then able to zoom in for a better look whenever they need to see the image.
For me, the main advantage of a mobile app is in making and approving claims when you’re out of the office. This is a big convenience tick for technology. In my case, it means that the CEO can approve my claims any time any place.
Technology also improves accuracy compared with paper. We have found that expense management software helps the claimant to complete the claim correctly by:
- Having the right coding
- Capturing the required information
- Calculating the correct VAT
- Adhering to or flagging payment limits.
Whatever our developers come up with, and they’re clever guys, I’m always pushing for an ever better user experience and for the software to provide more assistance in the areas above. Crucially, as users of the software, we are aware of any issues and this help shape improvements over time.
A benefit of Zetadocs Expenses (which actually derives from our Zetadocs Capture edition) that rarely gets a mention is the ability to drill down and see the original document. It allows you to:
- Ask why we’ve potentially overspent in different areas
- Dig into the original document to see a better description of the expense
- See who’s approved it
You’re able to trace right back to the originating receipt, from the comfort of your own desk. Gone are the over-stuffed, strangely incomplete, lever arch files.
In addition, my team credit the export to NAV for saving them time previously wasted on re-keying expenses into NAV.
Secure in the cloud
As we move from internal storage to the cloud, information accessibility is improving. But what about security? We all have personal preferences, but I think the cloud will be even more secure. Both our NAV system and Zetadocs Expenses run on Microsoft Azure, part of the Microsoft Cloud. In terms of managing access and back-ups, Microsoft probably trumps internal IT teams, however good they are.
The cloud feels like the right place to be. I’m looking forward to linking up to the new and future cloud services that I read about: banks are talking about providing details of company credit card transactions as they happen, Google Map’s Timeline helps record business mileage, Google and Microsoft are now sorting through emails to find details of flight and hotel bookings. If you are using cloud-based expense management software such as Zetadocs Expenses, then it sounds like there should be even less to enter by hand in the future, and – aside from the time savings for my team and others in the company – that should help with accuracy.
So far, so good
Thanks to Zetadocs Expenses, our expense claims process is a faster one from submission to approval. We are no doubt already saving money as claims are more accurate and correctly coded for reclaiming VAT.
To ensure that we tested Zetadocs Expenses on its intuitive usability, we went live with little to no training. While future functionality improvements are planned, one value remains core to Zetadocs Expenses: user ease.
If you still use paper-based expenses, why not consider an expense app to speed up your approval process? We’d certainly never go back to spread sheets and paper!