At FORUMDIMO 2021, Marion Dupacq Aregay, Purchasing and Logistics Manager at Lur Berri Group, shares her experience, in a workshop led by Nicolas Rousseau, Notilus Sales Manager.
Not just a promise, but a reality!
The Basque cooperative Lur Berri (1.4 billion euros in turnover, 500 employees) has been rethinking its expense reporting processes and working on a paperless alternative for 2020 while paying special attention to employee mobility as well. This project was conducted during Covid in parallel with a fleet management project. Marion Dupacq Aregay (Lur Berri) explains:
“Teleworking allowed us to free up time from daily tasks to think about dematerialization and the acquisition of an expense report management solution. We felt the timing was great to launch this type of project, which had sometimes been put aside in the past.”
Why such a project? Why then?
Studies show that the cost of processing a paper expense report can vary from 15 to more than 50 euros, depending on the processes in place in companies. At Lur Berri, there were multiple incentives to initiate dematerialization. For starters, there was more time to focus on certain IT projects and specific issues; in addition, the teams were mature enough to work on mobility. The main target of optimization had been identified: there was a large volume of physical expense reports that needed to be processed and it required a full-time resource within the HR department; paper receipts were frequently lost, which made the whole ordeal even more cumbersome. This hurt performance and taking into consideration the time spent every month on the sheer number and volume of expense reports, the processing costs exceeded 15 euros for a single file.
Marion Dupacq Aregay remembers:
“We had to make three copies of each expense report. The employee had to write out the amounts manually, collect the receipts, make copies, send them to the HR department by mail; if HR had successfully received the package, they would then check that nothing was missing and that the amounts had been validated by the manager following the policy in force. Only then could the employee be reimbursed. This was a sensitive subject at work and we also wanted to give more visibility to employees and managers so that they could validate expense claims with better knowledge and precision. Lastly, we wanted more transversality, to reduce existing constraints, and to send a strong message to employees in response to this problem. And this is where the optimized paperless solution came in.”
With our OCR, all fields such as VAT, currency or amount are automatically detected. With the electronic archiving, your expense receipts are stored in a secure cloud, no more paper.
How was the choice made?
“We set up a project team with the IT manager and the Human Resources manager. We also brought onboard people from the field for a total of 5-6 people, including the person who handled expense reports, to help us put together our call for tenders. To cover all our needs, we drafted the specification with both practical and technical considerations in mind, and drew up a response form to compare 5 propositions we had received” says Marion Dupacq Aregay. She adds:
“There were 4 months between the first internal meetings (started in March 2020 as soon as Covid started in France) and our final choice in July when we finalized the master plan. We were only able to truly work on the subject from September onwards.”
Why choose Notilus?
Ease of use was a priority, and trial versions of the solution were installed for employees and managers, who found the Notilus Expense Reports Management tool easy to use. There was no need to be a computer expert, in fact, it took them no more than 5 minutes to enter an expense report. “Internally, it also allowed us to recover the VAT, which we had been unable to do before. In a single-track process, we could finally ensure that the expense reports would not get lost. Once the receipt was photographed, the corresponding procedure and link were sent directly to the manager, which improved efficiency and speed of processing. Notilus perfectly met our expectations, which we already knew they would when they first responded to our call for tenders”, explains Marion Dupacq Aregay. Notilus’ 25 years of experience allow the solution to handle a multitude of specific requests that have been integrated into it over time, including complex workflows and input screens that are configurable via simple ergonomics, which was a sensitive issue for employees.
“It’s essential that employees, managers, and all levels of the hierarchy adopt the solution. Which is why the tool needs to be understandable and within everyone’s reach via Android or iPhone type smartphones so that expense reporting is no longer a problem, an ordeal, or a waste of time for the organization. When we ranked and compared the editors and set priorities, DIMO and Notilus were within the average price range and their quality/price ratio was quickly apparent and approved by management” concludes Marion Dupacq Aregay.
Developing a project during Covid
In the South-West of France, the culture of face-to-face meetings remains very strong. “Only 10% of meetings were held remotely before and it was a learning experience when video-conferencing took up 80% of our meetings. Once a few routines were in place, the exchange of information between the IT department, HR, and the Notilus teams was quite straightforward. From the launch of the first analysis workshops to the production launch, only a few months passed. We have 22 different activities, with different workflows, different validation processes, and a travel charter to refine. The software allowed us to set common rules”. The Notilus teams helped with the configuration and the travel policy. The solution also allowed Lur Berri to structure its mobility policy, between September and December 2020, while developing the interfaces. The test phase on the field took place in January 2021 and the entire reporting process was shifted to the software in February 2021, for a paperless environment in early April 2021.
The declaration of an expense report at Lur Berri
As Marion Dupacq Aregay explains it:
“The employee takes a picture of his receipt and classifies it by type (fuel, hotel, restaurant). Notilus analyzes the receipt in question and automatically pre-fills in the documentation fields. This saves a lot of time. The receipts are then stored on the phone and will be incremented and constitute the expense report at the end of the month. The employee can directly bring up the travel policy and have a very clear grasp of what will be reimbursed or not in case of overrun. Now, Notilus is the one applying the rule, not the manager or the accounting department. This means that everyone is treated the same. Employees can continue to conduct their business without being hindered, in compliance with a global travel policy. They no longer have to hold on to physical receipts, we are truly paperless. Once the employee has submitted his or her expense report, it is controlled by the manager who can access all the digitized receipts.”
Probative value, 3 points to remember
To guarantee the authenticity, integrity, and durability of documents, Notilus converts documents to PDF format, leaves a digital signature, and archives them for 10 years, which confers a legal value to the documents. Thanks to electronic archiving with probative value, even a smartphone picture suffices for proof.
“Previously, we incurred postal costs for the tracked mail we used so we wouldn’t lose any receipts. It was an expensive process. In addition, the preservation state of the documents was variable, and sometimes they were difficult to read. Today we no longer need to concern ourselves with this. Similarly, VAT recovery used to be a complex issue. The budgets are now clearly set according to the expense accounts of sales representatives and field workers, which represents a real financial gain for Lur Berri. The processing cost has been reduced by 30 to 35%, but there is still room to optimize the process given that we have not yet taken into account VAT recovery. Thanks to processes dematerialization, Notilus has provided an interesting functional and financial answer to our initial decision to enter a new era of expense report processing”, says Marion Dupacq Aregay.
During the workshop, several Internet users asked questions that we found relevant to transcribe in writing.
The questions from Internet users
Which departments should be integrated into the project?
IT, HR, accounting (because an interface will be set so that expense reports are sent directly to this department without having to re-enter data), purchasing, and a person from the field, to see what the real needs are. Remember not to forget anyone, because all departments will be affected.
How easy is it to modify reimbursement limits, especially for meals?
It’s very easy from an IT point of view, via a slider. However, from the human side of things, this is the most complicated change to make. Support, education, and explanation take time as DIMO provides training on how to set up parameters so that anyone can on their own change rules, ceilings, workflows, create new expense types, companies, etc. Notilus is very open and allows its customers to easily manage their software. While it had not been used internationally for this specific project, Notilus can perfectly adapt to local legislation and constraints as it was shown to do when it got deployed across nearly 100 countries.
How much does a Notilus project cost?
Two factors must be taken into account:
- The license cost, which depends on the number of users and represents a recurring cost (labelled “run”);
- The project cost (“build”) corresponds to the time spent with the Notilus teams, which ranges from 3-4 days to ten or a hundred days in the case of international projects, with follow-up workshops.
In the event of a URSSAF audit, how do I present my receipts if I am paperless?
Within Notilus, the Audit functionality allows you to go back to the receipt, and even download sealed data. You can search for the expense line and download the documents to prove to authorities that the document is indeed a controlled receipt, which has been logged in along an expense report and is archived for 10 years in a secure environment, thus conferring it a probative value that guarantees the document has not been modified, altered or replaced during the download.
What developments for Notilus at Lur Berri?
Lur Berri is in the process of setting up a car fleet project with travel management. Sales representatives will be able to book a hotel, a plane, a train via the software. A partnership with an external reservation platform will allow direct incrementing of the expense reports into Notilus. The solution can be connected to a hotel, train, rental car, and travel agency reservation platforms. The goal is to simplify the lives of employees and managers, with OCR (optical character recognition) technology and AI respectively. Reporting is also evolving to find innovative ways of using data to generate indicators.
A project to dematerialize expense reports is also an opportunity to rethink reimbursement policy, travel policy, etc. When we respond to a call for tenders, we are confident our solution’s functionalities, ergonomics, and innovation will meet clients’ expectations, but Notilus is also open to transfer skills, to support its customers’ evolution in the long term, and change alongside them through a process of co-designing. Zero effort is our credo at Notilus, while innovation, paperless, and simplicity are our keywords. Thanks to technology, we have turned expense reporting into a non-issue swiftly dealt with by way of a simple photograph.
Our solution is dedicated to the moblity management. In addition to the expense reports management you can plan, book and track your business trips. It is also possible to manage your car fleet.