Software Europe – a neat expenses management solution

We featured Software Europe a while ago as an example of a small firm that had come successfully through the UK Government’s “Innovation Think Tank” process.  James Thompson from the firm spoke to us about the experience, and whether it had benefited the firm (answer – it had, to some extent, but maybe more could be done to help similar firms).

So a couple of weeks ago I called in to meet them and have a look at their products in a bit more detail. They’re based on the outskirts of Lincoln, in very pleasant offices which a firm of their size could never afford in London – an advantage of their location (along with the beautiful City, amazingly low house prices, friendly people). Annual revenues are around the £3M mark, and the firm is still privately owned - growth has been steady and self funded.

Software Europe market a range of products, primarily a Contract Management solution and an online Expenses Management tool.  It was the latter I primarily looked at, as the product that gained the interest of the Innovation Launch-Pad process. Expenses management is a huge area for some public organisations – think about health trusts or local authorities who employ a lot of mobile nurses and other health or social workers for instance. Travel and subsistence claims can be a quite significant element within the overall cost base.

The model is “software as a service” or cloud based platform, and for public sector organisations, is available through the Cabinet Office G-Cloud Apps store.  It has a very well designed and intuitive user interface, and a number of very neat features that make life easier for both the person making the claim and the individual / organisation that has to verify and approve the claim. For instance, once you’ve registered your home and office bases, just put in the post code of the location you’ve visited, and mileage is automatically calculated. It is also integrated with Google Maps to further aid both the claims process and any verification needed.

There are “favourites” menus, and the whole look and feel is of a consumer or social media site rather than a B2B system. Software Europe have responded to the growth in mobile technology, introducing functionality to allow claims via your smart phone, and you can even use your phone to take a picture of receipts and lodge them directly into the system to support expense claims.

Whilst it is a user-friendly system in terms of the claimants, verification and control is also key. Policy is made very visible to claimants, and items outside policy are highlighted during the claiming process for further inspection – one client found compliance increased from 59% to 89% post implementation.  There is one-click approval, and a range of expenses and management reports can be obtained quickly and easily. Typically, clients find the tool pays for itself in 3 to4 months, according to the firm – and I can quite believe that.

There is also functionality to automate and manage the organisation’s “duty of care” responsibilities – the actions that should be taken by employers with regard to employees whilst driving on company business, even in their own cars.

It strikes me that as well as the public bodies we mentioned earlier, this sort of solution must be worth considering for organisations such as Utilities firms, those who support them, and other maintenance type operations that have a lot of people on the road for a significant part of their job.

We ran out of time and only touched on the Contract Management product, “Framework”, which provides a central online repository for contracts, and has features such as alerts of milestone dates and tasks, and enables supplier ratings. But certainly, the Expenses product appears to be well worth considering as an effective expense management solution.

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