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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Co-op streamlines employee expense claims

Thursday August 18 2011

E-expenses system implementation costs deliver return on investment within first year of going ‘live’

E-expenses system implementation costs deliver return on investment within first year of going ‘live’


The Co-operative Group, has deployed an online expense system to radically improve the whole process of staff expense claim management within its trading group of food, pharmacy, funeral care, travel, clothing, farm and estate businesses.


The software-as-a service (SaaS) based eExpenses solution from P2D has improved administration efficiency, significantly improved financial control and management information, and provided staff full visibility of where their claims are in the approval cycle.


Now fully rolled out, claims are charged on a per-unit basis, with implementation cost return on investment realised within the first year of deployment. Within its trading businesses, the Co-operative processes around 60,000 staff expense claims per annum or 1,200 per week.


Updating paper-based systems


Historically employee expense claims had been managed using a spreadsheet–based process, which staff accessed from the Co-operative’s intranet. However this involved completion, printing and then circulation of a hard copy with receipts for appropriate signoff. This was then sent in the post, with receipts attached, to its headquarters in Manchester for final processing and payment.


The Co-operative recognised that this process required updating in a way that provided full status visibility to the claimant, as well as improved processing efficiency, financial control, good management information and, most important, the timely and accurate reimbursement to employee colleagues.


Adam Williams, head of shared financial services centre for the Co-operative’s trading businesses, said: “The Co-operative considered various solutions and selected P2D’s eExpenses system as it was impressed with how intuitive the software is to use, the simplicity of deployment and customisation, and its comprehensive range of features. P2D also offered a favourable pay-to-use pricing structure, attentive account management, and an informative site visit to another P2D retail customer. The project started in August 2010, with the roll out complete by December 2010.”


Staff now login to the P2D eExpenses system through a browser from their home or office computers, complete their claims online, which are then automatically routed to the appropriate managers for review and sign off. Around 80% of staff scan and upload their receipts to accompany each claim, with the remainder sending actual receipts to P2D’s scanning bureau partner, Quantor Scanning, for processing.


System payback yields high dividend


As a result, The Co-operative has improved administration efficiency in the management of expenses for its trading businesses and this improvement has very quickly paid back the initial implementation costs.


Quality management information is also now available through the P2D solution to enhance compliance and financial reporting (which was only available in a very limited format with the previous paper-based system). For example, the Co-operative expects the level of VAT recovery to rise, as the P2D system requires staff to upload receipts before expenses are paid.


Williams said: “If receipts aren’t sent in, then we can’t reclaim VAT so each business is charged the full gross value if approved. The P2D solution now allows managers to take action, investigate and discuss claims with staff to ensure compliance with company policy.” The management information now available through P2D now enables to retailer to monitor this position and drive continuous improvement.


Similarly, the business can now review how much is being spent, on what type of expense, by whom and by which business so greater control on expenditure can be made group-wide. The system also makes it easier for the Co-operative to claim corporate tax relief, as accounts staff can ‘drill’ into nominal codes to see which expenses have been charged, and whether tax can actually be recovered.


Williams added: “We’ve had first class service from P2D and its eExpenses system is an excellent solution. They’ve been responsive to our needs, delivered quickly and supported us all the way. I have no hesitation recommending the system based on our experiences.”