A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Expense Management Software


Choosing expense management software is an essential decision for your business. This software can simplify tracking, approving, and reporting business expenses more manageable. But there are so many choices on the market that it can take time to pick the right one.

This guide will help you compare different tools for managing expenses based on your needs and budget. You’ll learn what features to look for, how to find software that fits your needs, and how to think about price models and ease of use.

By the end, you’ll know how to compare different expense management software choices to find the best one for your business travel management system. With the right tools, you can easily track your expenses and learn valuable things from the data you collect.

Steps to Choosing The Right Expense Management Software

1. Define Your Goals and Requirements.

Before selecting expense management software, define what you hope it will do. Is reimbursement a hassle? Are approvals too slow? Do budget overruns happen?

Knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve helps guide your research and evaluation of potential solutions. With this focus, you could end up with an expensive tool that only partially fixes the correct problems. Start by painting a clear picture of success for your expense processes – the tool should help make that vision a reality.

2. Research Your Options

Take your time with the first solution you see. Search online reviews to see what real users think of different products. Compare key features across potential tools. Spend time reading case studies to learn if solutions work for companies similar to yours. Consult experts and colleagues in your industry.

Create a spreadsheet to evaluate and score features of different products objectively. Identify the top solutions based on score. Focus your in-depth evaluation on these finalists. The more time you invest upfront to research thoroughly, filter options, and shortlist the best matches for your needs, the more likely you are to end up with a perfect tool for the job.

3. Involve the End Users   

While making a decision alone, involve the people using the expense management software daily. Get feedback from expense approvers, travelers, admin staff, and accounting. Demo potential solutions to them and get real-time reactions. Ask what capabilities matter most to them and what processes need improvement. Listen to pain points around current workflows. Gauge how easy or difficult different options seem for end users. Selection committees ensure the chosen business travel management software meets high-level requirements and resolves day-to-day frustrations. So make end users a vital part of the selection process.

4. Focus on Ease of Use

How easy will it be for your people to use this tool day in and day out? Spend time hands-on testing different options yourself. Try entering expenses, attaching receipts, submitting for approval, and more. See how intuitive and streamlined the workflows feel. Note anywhere that processes seem clumsy or confusing. Usability trumps features every time.

Even the most full-featured solution won’t deliver value if employees find it frustrating or time-consuming. Streamlined, easy-to-follow processes are crucial to gaining user adoption and compliance. So don’t just ask vendors about ease of use – see it for yourself in product demos and trials. Imagine how your approvers and travelers will interact with the software. If you have any doubts about the intuitiveness or simplicity, keep looking for a more usable option.

5. Evaluate Customization Options      

Beyond basic functions, evaluate how customizable the solution truly is. Can you tailor it to reflect your unique expense policies and business rules? Some key areas to consider:

  • Approval workflows: Can you set up multiple approval routes and levels to match your needs?
  • Form fields: Can extra fields be added to capture specific data for reporting or reimbursement?
  • Dropdown menus: Can you edit options in select menus to fit your terminology?
  • Policy enforcement: Can thresholds, conditions and exceptions be configured to embed your policies in the software?
  • Integrations: Can settings be adjusted for optimal syncing with your other systems?

The more customizable, the better. Look for a solution you can truly shape to match your processes – not vice versa. Since no two companies operate precisely alike, configuration options become the deciding factor for a perfect fit. So review customization during demos, seek client examples, and question the vendor extensively. The right level of flexibility will ensure the software supports – rather than restricts – how you need to manage expenses.

6. Assess Reporting and Analytics Capabilities.

Reporting features determine whether the solution gives you the visibility you require. Ask vendors to demonstrate the full range of standard and custom reports available. Assess the following:

  • Types of data: Can reports show high-level spending by category/department or drill down to individual transactions?
  • Time frames: Can reports be filtered by month, quarter, and year?
  • Formatting: Can visuals like charts and graphs be created for quick insights?
  • Customization: Can reports be tailored to show exactly the information you need?
  • Approvals: Can details on approvals, exceptions, and policy compliance be reported?

Look for flexible reporting that allows drilling into data to identify areas of concern – like travel costs by region, meal expenses by employee, or receipt-less claims. Embedded business intelligence and data visualization tools offer advanced insights into spending patterns, trends and outliers.
Check for Mobile App Support.

In today’s work environment, employees expect mobile-first solutions. If prospective expense software lacks mobile apps, move on. The functionality will be too limited to support your always-on workforce.

Choose a platform with fully featured iOS and Android mobile apps that mirror the web interface’s full capabilities. Apps should make tasks like submitting new expenses, viewing reports, and approving reimbursements simple on small screens. Look for the ability to snap photos of receipts for seamless upload.

7. Understand Support Options

Pay attention to support when choosing expense management tools. After all, you’ll eventually need help from the vendor.  During demos and evaluations, ask vendors about their support plans directly. How can users get assistance – via phone, email, chat, or community forums? What are the average response times for issues? Do they provide live technical support or just ticketing systems? What support levels are available – basic, premium, 24/7?

Look for options that align with your specific needs. For mission-critical software, around-the-clock phone support may be essential. But for less time-sensitive tools, email support during business hours may suffice. While self-service options can help, human support will always be necessary at some point.

8. Examine the Pricing Model.   

When evaluating solutions, get a full accounting of all associated costs:

  • Per-user fees: How much is charged per employee using the software? Look for volume discounts at higher user counts.
  • Implementation costs: Are there extra fees for setup, custom configurations or data migration? Get a firm quote in writing.
  • Additional modules: Are any must-have features like travel management, approvals or integrations sold separately?
  • Transaction fees: Are expenses and reimbursements subject to a per-transaction charge? Know the total cost per claim.

Some providers offer free or low-cost options for smaller teams. But beware of “hidden” fees and unclear quotes. Opt for transparent, all-inclusive pricing from the start. Compare “total cost of ownership” over several years between finalist vendors. Don’t simply go with the lowest initial quote – weigh long-term value and affordability.

9. Ask for a Demonstration.

A live, hands-on demonstration gives you an unfiltered look at how intuitive, user-friendly and effective the software truly is. You’ll spot firsthand any rough edges, design flaws or missing capabilities. You’ll experience how closely the solution aligns with your requirements and processes.

10. Choose the Best Match for Your Needs. 

You’ve researched, compared features and risks, tested options, and gathered feedback. Now it’s time to make a decision.

Select the solution that comes closest to satisfying all your must-haves:

– Meets key objectives like improved control, visibility, and approvals

– Offers capabilities that directly solve your most frustrating pain points

– Provides a high degree of needed customization and configurability

– Fits within budgetary constraints while justifying its costs

– Demonstrates a user-friendly, streamlined experience

No tool will be flawed. So choose the one that best aligns with – and enables you to achieve – your overall goals. Consider both functional fit and intuitive design. Even the most feature-rich option means little if employees find it challenging to comprehend and operate. While cost is a factor, keep quality, usability, and capabilities to save a few dollars upfront. The right tool can save you much more over time.


Choosing expense management software simplifies processes and makes seeing and controlling spending easier. There are many ways to help a business. Consider features and functions, collaboration, ease of use, and price to find software that fits your wants and budget. Test demos, talk to users, and look at ROI estimates to ensure the chosen software gives you the benefits it promises. Effective expense management software can improve financial management, workforce efficiency, and expenditure insights. With the right software partner, you can automate how you spend money and put your people to work on important tasks that help your business grow.

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