Expense Process Automation with SharePoint

06/18/2018 by Vanick Digital

Basking in the glow of a successful conference presentation, new connections made at networking events, and the prospect of new business, you return to the office ready to share your enthusiasm. Unpacking your computer bag, receipts begin to tumble out and the reality of what you are going to spend the majority of your day on smacks you in the face. Expense reimbursement. It must be done, so you pull up your chair and dig in.


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First, you have to find the company Expense Reimbursement Form. Luckily, you printed a stack of them last year and have them handy in your top drawer. With your calculator in one hand and pen in the other, you furiously sort through your receipts, categorize them and order them by date, then start adding up the grand total and transferring the data to your Expense Reimbursement Form. A few missing receipts lead to phone calls and faxes or emails that you need to print, but really, it goes pretty smoothly. Just before lunch, you staple it all together and drop it off in the Accounting office. Off to enjoy your sandwich and reconnect with your excitement!

Except when you return to your office, you find an envelope from Accounting. You used the wrong form. And added wrong. And left the form with the wrong person, actually. Frustration is high, productivity gone, and excitement from your trip is forgotten.

Some version of this expense-reporting nightmare happens in offices across the country every day. Manual business processes are rife with opportunities for error, loss of productivity, and frustration. Fortunately, a solution to this chaos is as close as your SharePoint environment.

A SharePoint expert can turn your manual expense reporting process into a seamless automated business process that is easy, fast, convenient and leaves little room for error.

First things first, lose that outdated paper expense form. Driving expense-reporting processes with a custom SharePoint app will allow for consistent data, enable flexible reporting, and digitally transform your company. A custom SharePoint app allows you to define the data you want to gather, standardize the format of that data, and present the user with a variety of interfaces for entering that data.

Leveraging PowerApps, a SharePoint expert can customize standard list forms and provide advanced functionality and mobility options. In addition, PowerApps can be leveraged to create a custom mobile app that will take expense reporting to new levels. Employees will be able to report expenses directly from their phones or tablets, as well as their desktops and attaching receipts is as easy as snapping a picture. Can you imagine sitting in an airport waiting for your flight home and completing your expense report before you ever board the plane and without turning on your laptop?

To continue with the expense reporting process, once an expense report is submitted via a SharePoint app, the information is automatically routed throughout the business process to gather approvals. For example, the employee’s manager will be alerted that there is an expense report awaiting approval. With a few quick clicks, it is then sent on to the next steps in the defined process. An experienced developer would use Flow to drive this business process, collecting the appropriate signatures, and moving the expense report to the reimbursement step.

Once approvals are complete, there are varieties of options for sending this information to company expense reporting systems to trigger reimbursement automatically. SharePoint can leverage APIs and/or Office 365 connectors to send approval information seamlessly, automatically upload supporting documentation, and trigger reimbursement. And once the payment is processed, information verifying the payment can be sent through this same data connection back to the SharePoint list. This keeps all data surrounding the expense report reimbursement transaction in one location, which is convenient for reporting purposes.

With all data surrounding this reimbursement stored in a SharePoint list, you are all set with a single set of data, which serves as a data source for your reporting platform. Whether your organization leverages Reporting Services, Power BI, SharePoint’s Excel Services, or another platform, all data in a SharePoint list can be accessed to meet your reporting needs. This gives your company the ability to analyze reimbursement data and make business decisions with all necessary information, with very little manual interaction throughout the process. Think about it. An employee enters data to request reimbursement for business expenses and after some automated business processes are completed, the data surrounding this transaction is immediately available for analysis. Another win for the company!

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Expense reporting is a common business process that is implemented in many ways in different organizations. However, with the increase in the accessibility of SharePoint, particularly SharePoint Online, as well as PowerApps and Flow, developing a completely electronic expense reporting system that is customized to meet your business needs and integrates with your existing reimbursement system is within reach. Digital transformation is completely possible, with a little planning and help from a SharePoint expert!


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Vanick Digital