OCR technology: a win-win choice for everyone!

One of the main frustrations suffered by many corporate travellers after returning from a business trip is having to find the time to sort through a fistful of paper receipts so they can reclaim their expenses from their employer.

Not only is this time-consuming for the employee – forcing them to potentially take several hours away from doing their main job – but also makes it harder for the organisation’s chief financial officer or financial director to monitor how much is being spent by travellers on their business trips.

Fortunately, improved technology is helping to revolutionise how expenses are not only submitted and reimbursed, but also how they are reconciled to particular trips and client accounts.

One of the main tools in this armoury is Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which allows digital devices to turn photos of handwritten or printed paper documents into machine-readable text.

The advantage of OCR technology for business travellers is obvious – for example, when a traveller receives a receipt for a meal, they simply create a new expense line in the app and use their smartphone to take a picture of the paper receipt; the expenses software will then read the text on the receipt with all the details of the restaurant or other vendor and the bill amount.

All the traveller has to do is check that the OCR software has read all the details, make any necessary edits and then submit it. The expense can then be submitted for approval by  the manager and it’s done. If there are any subsequent queries or checks needed, all the receipt images are stored within the expenses app and viewable for the accountant on the web application.

This kind of technology makes life much easier for employees in a world where they still often remain frustrated by poor connectivity, and the slow and outdated technology they have to use in their workplace, according to a survey by research firm CCS Insight.

While OCR technology has been around for a while, it has now improved to such an extent that it has reached almost 100% accuracy when reading text, which means little input is needed from the traveller when completing the process on the go.

The benefits of this system are obvious – the traveller saves lots of time and hassle by completing their expenses as they are incurred on the road. It also allows expenses to be approved more quickly by the traveller’s line manager, further smoothing the whole process.

This not only means they don’t have to do their expenses manually when they are back in the office but also that they can be reimbursed more quickly for the trip. An employer may, for instance, choose to repay expenses earlier than the standard 30 days so the traveller is “out of pocket” for a shorter period and will feel more valued as an employee.

For the CFO or FD, the real-time scanning and uploading of expenses gives an immediate overview of what’s being spent by the organisation’s employees rather than waiting for often weeks after the event to see the true cost of a business trip.

This clearly helps to manage costs and can also alert companies to any out-of-policy spending or potentially fraudulent expense claims. Another advantage is the creation of a much more consistent and reliable flow of data – this can be particularly important if these costs have to be reconciled to a particular client account or project.

Another benefit of an OCR-based expenses system is that it gives an overview of all Travel & Expenses (T&E) spending, which is essential for effective budgeting and forecasting purposes.

It also gives an accurate picture of what is being spent by travellers with different suppliers and vendors – helping to give leverage in potential negotiations over corporate discounts or other benefits. If you know how much all your travellers are spending in a specific hotel chain or restaurants in a key business location, then you could use this data to negotiate a discount.

Using OCR technology is a win-win for everybody – from the traveller who enjoys a frictionless experience, saves times and can be reimbursed more quickly to the finance department which benefits from real-time T&E spending data, increased control over what’s being spent and better forecasting and budgeting

Traveldoo invites you now to watch its OCR demonstration video, the new smart scan technology of your traveldoo expense app!

Watch OCR video

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