What Would You Do with an Extra 3,000 Hours of Time Each Month?

More time to do more things: What would your organization do with an extra 3,000 hours of work time each month? That’s 600 additional hours every week or 150 extra hours in each day!

A new survey conducted by SAP Concur and Kelton Global polling 300 financial decision makers working in state, city, and local government and higher education shows that’s how much time these public sector organizations are losing processing expense reports and invoices manually. That’s more than 3,000 hours per month for government organizations and more than 2,000 hours per month for higher education organizations.

At a time when government leaders are on a mission to re-engage and future-proof their workforce and universities and colleges face pressures to increase enrollment, these hours could add up to anywhere from 15-18 full-time employees focusing on more mission critical work each month.

But it’s not just a time and resourcing issue, it impacts budget accuracy too.

Manual systems waste many hours of precious employee time and increase financial inaccuracies.

One striking example: the sheer volume of expense reports and invoices that get processed in higher education and government organizations. On average, they’re looking at 382 expense reports and 320  invoices respectively each month, and around two-thirds of survey respondents are still using at least partially manual systems to manage all of it – manual systems that require a lot of unnecessary hours compared to automated ones that free up those employees to put their energy toward more mission-critical work.

How much time are we talking? Survey findings showed that organizations who do not have fully automated expense management programs spend an additional five hours processing each expense report and two hours processing each invoice compared to those who do have automation in place.

Inaccuracies are also on the rise. About one-third of decision makers also said the number of inaccurate expense reports and invoices that have been submitted has increased over the past year. Not only that, but about one-fourth of respondents said they’ve unintentionally reported incorrect budget data due to inaccuracies in expense reports or invoices.

With public programs and educational institutions depending on stretched budgets and strict funding and grant policies in the public sector, these errors can quickly create bigger problems beyond the T&E department.

Automating spend management improves productivity and accuracy, and can create new opportunities for employees.

Fixing these big-ticket issues – loss of man hours, reporting errors and budgeting inaccuracies – sounds like a major uphill battle. Especially when organizational leaders and their employees across different departments are so busy with day-to-day operations that they don’t have the time to rethink processes and create culture shifts around how they operate.

Automating the manual steps in existing processes can be a first step and is more doable than most think.

An example I like is Rochester City School District (RCSD). Accounts payable supervisor Derrek Blair turned to automation after determining the district’s longstanding manual processes no longer had the agility and accuracy required to redirect costs with spending and comply with complex regulatory systems. By automating AP workflows, RCSD was able to improve efficiencies, get a better real-time view into what was being spent, and stay compliant. Now, they’ve been able to reduce compliance failures and eliminate 60 percent of travel and expense errors.

Putting automation tools in place creates check points earlier on in the process that not only decrease errors, but also cut down on time everyone from budget approvers to auditors have to spend manually reviewing submissions.

Other public sector organizations that have successfully shifted to an automated approach can also be motivating if you’re reviewing your current processes. For inspiration, take a look at some of our customer success stories here.

About the Survey

Kelton Global’s study gathered responses from 300 financial decision makers working in state, city and local government and higher education to learn more about how these organizations are reducing risk, maintaining compliance and maximizing efficiency – what’s working well, what others might learn from what some organizations are doing, and where applying new systems and processes could solve for time and accuracy issues.

Download the Kelton research in state, city, and local government and higher education today.


David Ballard is senior vice president of Public Sector at SAP Concur.

This story originally appeared on the SAP Concur newsroom.