iPhone App Spotlight: Abukai Expense Reporting

No one looks forward to monthly expense reporting. With new mobile apps hitting the market, though, this unavailing task could be a thing of the past.

You know the Sisyphus drill: gather all your receipts and type them into an Excel Spreadsheet or Web portal, in order to get reimbursed for corporate expenses. Next month, same thing. After a long business trip, expect to spend up to two hours performing this task.

Some companies don't even offer the luxury of Web portal expense reporting. Instead, employees are expected to print out the spreadsheet, staple receipts, and then send the package via postal mail to their managers. All of this seems downright primordial in today's digital age.

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Mobile app makers, however, hope to usher in a new era of expense reporting that is easier, quicker and more accurate. Abukai Expenses, which runs on the iPhone, is one of these new expense reporting apps.

Simply fire up the app, take pictures of receipts at the point of purchase—iPhones sure are handy!—and then send all the receipts to Abukai with a tap of the button. Abukai will put all the information into, say, the proper format of an Excel spreadsheet and send it back to you (including PDFs of the receipts).

I've tested the app and found it to be as simple as it sounds. The app's receipt recognition technology never missed, even recognizing handwritten notes. Sounds amazing, right?

But Abukai gets a little complicated on the back-end, namely putting receipts into the proper expense system and format used by the finance department. There are some 120 expense-reporting systems in the market today, says Philipp Schloter, CEO of Abukai. Some are complex, such as Concur and Oracle. Yet even a simple Excel spreadsheet is formatted differently among companies.

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Here's how Abukai handles (and charges for) this processing task:

Prospective users download and try out the app. If they like it, they send Abukai a sample of how they file expense reports. For instance, they could send Abukai a properly formatted Excel spreadsheet. Abukai will search its database to see if co-workers are using the system already or if there's an existing template. Abukai will also look at the size of your company as potential future users.

Then Abukai will reply with a quote for customizing the data processing to the reporting format. Generally speaking, Abukai charges up to $99 per year for an individual account. Around 70 percent of Abukai's user base is individual accounts, the rest are corporate.

That's a good chunk of change. But if you're always on the road and racking up expenses, you might want to see if your company already uses Abukai—or at least get a quote. After all, the upside is that the headaches of expense reporting and receipt collecting could become a thing of the past.

"I used to throw away receipts every month for taxis and other cash expenses," says Ryan Gamin of If Communications. "With Abukai, I'm recovering over $100 per month that previously went unreported."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkanshige@cio.com

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