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Expense management software cures ills at nursing home company

Travel and expense software improved record keeping, speeded reporting and approvals and tightened compliance.

Employees at Tennessee-based Diversicare Healthcare Services have seen significant benefits since the company stopped filing travel and expense reports on paper and began accepting them on cloud-based expense management software.

In the old manual system, items were lost, reports were filed late and approvals could be slow.

Those difficulties decreased when the nursing home owner went live in 2013 with Certify, software as a service (SaaS) for managing travel and expenses.

Matthew Weishaar, vice president of finance and controller at Brentwood,Tenn.-based Diversicare, said the software solved key problems for the company. It improved retention of records, speeded the reporting and approval process for expenses, provided new capabilities for analyzing spending trends and tightened the method for ensuring compliance with company travel rules, he said. Overall, it made filing and approving reports more organized and convenient.

In the mobile version, employees can use their smartphone or tablet to photograph receipts and enter them into Certify, Weishaar said. Without a smartphone, employees can use other ways to enter receipts, including scanning and emailing them. The travel and expense management software automatically enters the numbers into report fields.

The easy to use, intuitive software "takes very little training, and everybody loves the time savings," Weishaar said. "They don't lose expenses anymore. Everything is approved faster and it is a cleaner process."

Based in Portland, Maine and founded in 2008, Certify competes with SAP-owned Concur. The travel and expense management software category received new attention in December when SAP completed the acquisition of Concur for $8.3 billion.

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Of Diversicare's 5,000 employees, about 200 managers and corporate staff use Certify for expenses such as mileage, air travel, hotels, meals, entertainment and professional licensing.

Weishaar said the report functions are also valuable. Certify provides reports that can break down spending over any time period by category, business unit, team or employee. Diversicare analyzes the reports by individual and category, paying particular attention to spending outside the company's policies or reports that may lack approval.

Diversicare set up Certify so that the system can take 100 types of expenses. The company also entered travel rules in the system. The travel and expense management software automatically informs an employee or manager if an item violates a rule. A manager can override the system and approve the item but must provide reasons, he said.

Implementation took place in the last three months of 2012 and Diversicare was especially diligent about the financial statements, which are split among nursing homes in eight states mostly in the Southeast and Southwest. The expense management software was extensively tested before it went live but no bugs were found, he said.

The system integrates well with the company's Epicor ERP software for the general ledger, Weishaar said. However, Diversicare needed to have individual expense reports coded to their specific location and the particular operations or administrative responsibilities. For example, an employee might be assigned to one nursing home but the company wanted expenses to be designated to another location. "We had to make sure it was all flowing correctly," he said.

Cost was the biggest reason for choosing Certify over Concur. "Certify did everything we needed for a reasonable price," he said. "Concur may have had more bells and whistles, but it wasn't necessarily something we needed for the price they wanted."

Weishaar said Diversicare chose per-user instead of per-expense-report pricing and currently pays about $1,700 a month for around 200 users. With the per-user model, a user can create an unlimited number of expense reports per month at no charge beyond the flat monthly fee.

Diversicare also paid $5,000 for implementation, he said.

Certify starts at $8 per user per month or $6 per expense report, according to an email from Certify CEO Bob Neveu. With any subscription, support services are free and include support from a Certify employee, online video training and access to a web portal and online knowledge base, Neveu said.

Weishaar said Diversicare rarely needs any support with the software. Certify also created a training webinar and most employees picked up the software with little explanation, while others received one-on-one help from a couple of Diversicare leaders who became adept at using the system, he said.

Certify designated an implementation manager and an account manager, but the project was completed over the web and with emails, he said. No one from Certify was on site.

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