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Automated Expense Reporting: Gift or Curse?

Posted on 2013.02.09 at 00:00

When I was in the military, temporary duty (TDY) assignments were commonplace travel, and my first corporate gig was 2-weeks every month on travel. That has slowed down quite a bit as my career has mutated, but I still find myself on various assignments two or three times a year. Because most (not all) of my military assignments were to other bases, travel allowance and payout was pretty straight-forward. Go to the travel office, present orders, get cash. While at new base, go to the travel office, present orders, get cash. My first corporate gig was a combination of spreadsheets and fax machines. Nowadays we have online web-based reporting and automatically-linked credit card purchases. Import the credit card charge and it is payed directly. Easy as pie. In theory.

Because I checked in for a week's stay, they charged my credit card accordingly. When I left a day early, they refunded the unused portion. Our super-glamorous accounting software won't let me submit it because the receipt differs from the actual stay, and I cannot import the refund because that number is (obviously) not "greater than 0." Being smarter than this software I simply checked "include taxes with room rate" and averaged the total. However, with three decimal points it was either under, or over by $.01 - which is a flagged exception disallowing submission.

To further complicate matters, two days were less expensive than the remaining days to (presumably) a seasonal rate change and a special "weekend rate." So after a 15-minute wait-time phone call to support, they suggested I manually add each day separately - with an attached note as to why - then submit. I'll get the money instead of my credit card, then I can pay it myself.

Its a crazy world when spredsheets and fax machines are more effective.


michelle1963 at 2013-02-09 06:16 (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. Sound like the a more flexible application is in order. It is simple math for chrissakes; not rocket surgery. I am betting there are other expense / accounting applications available that could do what you needed it to do. And yet I have run across my share of poor software. In my experience, it usually comes down to the fact that an employer was trying to slide by on the cheap. Sometimes you do get what pay for.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2013-02-09 22:26 (UTC) (Link)
It's called progress!!!
Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2013-02-10 02:46 (UTC) (Link)
I've run into this a few times before, though I've never been in this situation with an expense report. This sounds a lot like berry-flavored ass.

I would argue that you should approach this situation the same we you did with the kid at Best Buy: with decorum. You can't necessarily fault the guy who wrote the reporting software: it is possible that he was contractually bound to deliver exactly the frustrating system you have bumped up against because the pointed-haired-bosses wanted everything to match and the system to reject non-matches to prevent fraud. Perhaps this exceptional case was discussed at some point, but ultimately it was rejected because pointy-haired-bosses didn't want to have to waste time rejecting erroneous submissions. Whatever the decision making process, you have ended up using the software you are using either because no one thought of the exceptional case or because there was a rational reason why the software doesn't support the exceptional case.

I will freely admit that you and your online junkies taught me a variation of this valuable lesson: when making LJ polls, always leave an option for the un-thought-of exceptional situation; hence, I always include a "my opinion isn't expressed in your poll so I'm leaving you a comment" option.
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