How to choose a spend management platform
Whether it’s putting a stop to out-of-control expense claims or more accurate budgeting and forecasting, a spend management platform can give you more visibility and control over your business’ finances and help you make better-informed decisions.
But with so many spend management platforms on the market – all promising to help take your finances to previously undreamt of heights – how do you choose the right one?
Here’s a deep dive into what makes a spend management platform great and the things you should consider before buying one.
What is a spend management platform?
A spend management platform tracks spending across your organisation. This helps you manage your finances more efficiently and effectively.
If you’re like most businesses, you probably manage spending using a mix of the following:
This is where employees make business purchases with their own money and you pay them back.
It’s a time-consuming, paper-heavy process — a single expense report typically takes 60 minutes from submission to payment
Company credit cards
Depending on the size of your business, you could have one shared card or, at the other extreme, a credit card for each team.
It’s difficult to keep staff accountable using credit cards. Worse, they’re a fraud risk. The average credit card thief spends £120 before a card’s blocked. You do the maths.
A tin full of notes and coins that staff can help themselves to at will. What could possibly go wrong?
Spend management platforms vary from no-frills affairs to chock full of bells and whistles. But at the very least, a good one will:
- Record all transactions across the business in one place
- Show you how much money is being spent, by whom, and on what
- Help you stay in control of spending and enforce your expense policy more easily (you have one of those, right?)
- Cut time spent on data input, reconciliations, and other soul-destroying admin
But how do you decide if they’re doing this properly?
Here are six things to consider.
1. What are the spend management platform’s credentials?
Finance systems contain extremely sensitive data. So, before you link them to a third-party platform, you’ll want to make sure it can be trusted.
A good way to do this is to check if the platform is regulated. In the UK, this is as simple as keying the name into the Financial Conduct Authority’s register.
FCA-regulated platforms have to follow strict standards, processes, and procedures. Because they’re UK-based, they also have a better understanding of the way you do business and what your concerns are likely to be. Which means they can offer you a more personalised service.
You should also find out what they do with your money.
At Soldo, we keep client money in ring-fenced accounts at leading banks, completely separate from our own bank accounts and assets. The upshot is that, in the unlikely event we went bust, our creditors couldn’t touch your money and you’d get it back.
2. How easy is it to set up?
Can you use the platform straight away? Or do you have to spend months tweaking it and training staff?
One of the main reasons to invest in a spend management platform is to make your life easier. So it’s worth making sure you’re not replacing one set of challenges for another.
At Soldo, for instance, you can start creating virtual cards, assigning them to staff, and setting rules and limits as soon as you sign up. And if you want physical cards, they could be in your hands in as little as 2 working days.
By comparison, it can take some spend management platforms up to two weeks to deliver physical cards. And some do either physical or virtual cards, not both.
3. Is the spend management platform remote-friendly?
In 2019, 5% of the British workforce worked from home. But as a result of Covid-19, the number shot up to 49.2%.
Whether this is the end of the office as we know it remains to be seen. That said, remote working was already a sought after perk pre-Covid-19. So it pays to invest in a spend management platform you can use without staff having to be physically present in a specific location.
Remote-friendly features to look out for include:
- Virtual cards. These live in the cloud, so you can assign them to a team member and top them up instantly, without having to mail anything.
- A cloud-based dashboard. This will allow you to log on and view transaction data, set budgets, and manage company-wide spending from any device. As long as you have an internet connection, of course.
Soldo also has an app staff can download to their phones. Team members get notified as soon as they make a purchase, so they can upload the receipt.
They also can:
- Check the balance on their card
- Disable the card should they misplace it
- Order a replacement card with one click
4. How much control do you have?
It goes without saying, but the best spend management platforms will make controlling spending as easy and effortless as possible.
Soldo, for instance, lets you:
- Set automatic top-ups, either on a specific date or when the balance goes below a predetermined limit
- Set monthly, weekly, or daily spending limits
- Limit what you can or can’t buy with an individual card by category, geography, or both, including enabling or disabling cash withdrawals and online transactions
Best of all, you get real-time updates so you can see exactly what’s being spent at that very minute. And you can organise the data by spending category, by employee, by card, or by another accounting category of your choosing.
5. Does the platform integrate with your accounting system?
Ultimately, you’ll need to import your spending data into your accounting system to get your books in order. Unless your spend management platform and your accounting software integrate, that’s going to require a team member to do it by hand. Which means you’ll be back to square one.
At the very least, a good spend management platform should let you export your data as .csv or another format most accounting platforms will accept. But what’s even better is if the platform integrates, so you can bypass this step. Soldo, for instance, is compatible with Xero, Quickbooks, and Netsuite.
It’s also a good idea to check whether they have an API (application programming interface) and what it’s like. While you may not need advanced or custom integrations right now, this might change down the line. And a good API will help you make sure you’re future-proof.
Speaking of which…
6. How easy is it to scale up?
You may not be ready to open offices in every major city just yet. But the more your business grows, the more important keeping your spending in check will be. So it’s good to know your software can grow with you.
Soldo lets you create as many physical and virtual cards as you need for very low per-card fees. So there’s no limit to how many staff members you can hire.
Soldo is also the only expense management platform that has expense centres. These are special wallets where you can ring-fence money you’ve earmarked for a department, an individual, a specific project or expense, or something else. The possibilities are endless.
More to the point, we’re the only platform to offer non-nominative cards. Unlike debit credit or prepaid cards, they don’t have to be in someone’s name. So if a key employee leaves and they are paying for items (such a subscriptions) used by multiple people, since it’s a non-nominative card, it can be transferred to the new owner in one click.
It’s also worth checking whether your chosen spend management platform owns its own infrastructure. This might not seem like a deal-breaker, but platforms that don’t have to rely on third parties are more flexible, more responsive, and can innovate more quickly because they’re not constrained by limitations outside of their control.
Being spoilt for choice might seem like a good thing, but it’s easy to get paralysed when you have too many options.
Following our tips should make things simpler. Pick a trustworthy, straightforward platform that makes it easy to keep track of and control what staff are buying, and you’ll be well on your way to spend management success.