In this day and age of technological advancements, when access to knowledge and information is only a click of a button away, the world seems to be constantly changing and moving at a more rapid pace. Globalization, transportation and rapidly developing electronic and mobile technologies have not only changed the way people live but have also changed the needs of businesses of all shapes and sizes, all over the world.
One such need is the efficient and effective management of business travel-related expenses, which is an integral aspect for many companies, as it can take a large portion of the corporate budget.
Maintaining a detailed and organized travel and expense record is a crucial part of any organization, yet the processing it has to go through can be tedious, often time-consuming, and extremely prone to human error if done manually. That’s why many businesses these days have turned to Travel and Expense Management (TEM) systems and TEM mobile applications to gain more control over the outward travel expenses their company spends, as well as to cut down on processing time and costs.
TEM solutions and mobile applications boost productivity by allowing the company and its employees to manage their travel expenses without having to fuss over paper receipts and spreadsheets, a task that is not only tedious and inconvenient but is also stressful and largely inefficient. Using the TEM system moves the approval process every employee needs much faster, helps prevent spending over the company limits and identifies any fraud (whether intentionally or not) immediately.
Reliable, efficient and cost-effective, TEM technologies are some of the most widely used back-office process systems today.
But are Travel and Expense Management Solutions really necessary?
For many organizations, travel is an important part of their operating mode — from distribution to consultancy to healthcare. In a survey conducted by Paystream Advisors, they found that while 40 percent of their respondents’ organizations send their employees on at least one business trip per year, 60% of the remaining organizations have employees that travel multiple times a year. This, in itself, is already a significant number.
When it came to each organization’s travel spend, many of the respondents, roughly 71 percent of them, had stated that their organizations don’t measure the costs involved in business travel. As for those SMB’s that do measure their company spends, these organizations could expend as little as $1 million a year on business-related travel and expenses, to as much as over $5 million annually.
When we take all these numbers into account, however, it doesn’t come as a surprise that companies that do their travel and expense reports manually face a significant amount of challenges with regards to productivity, efficiency and cost control, when compared to companies that do use some form of TEM solution or mobile application.
The most common challenges non-TEM automated organizations face are usually:
● Inefficient processing with manual data entry
● Lack of spending visibility
● Unenforced corporate travel policies
● High expense report processing costs
● Dragging reimbursement processes
● Uncontrolled travel and expense increase
The prominence of each challenge mentioned above, however, will largely depend upon the industry an organization is involved in, as well as the organization’s size. Nevertheless, using Travel and Expense Management systems and mobile apps work to circumvent these challenges and are specifically designed to make things easier for organizations to keep everything organized and their expenses contained.
To sum it up, Travel and Expense Management solutions are useful hands-off tools for organizations, large or small, as it saves them not only time and improved overall employee productivity, but it also provides the transparency they need to manage the amount of company travel spend properly.
Travel and Expense Management Features
Manually submitting a travel expense report can be a long and arduous process, one that involves a careful attention to detail, organization, time and efficiency, and this can be a stressful, time-consuming task for a business traveler, who generally has more critical tasks to address rather than submitting expenses. One of the most common ways of doing this is by having paper receipts or having spreadsheets with images of the receipts collected throughout the duration of the business trip sent to the AP department for auditing. It’s a method that is ultimately inefficient, both temporally and financially. It also runs the risk of data errors and even expenses submitted that are out of compliance with company policy.
Fortunately Travel and Expense Management systems are designed to avoid this kind of confusion by providing companies with various tools that can help control travel expenses. Below are a few of the key features and functionality of various TEM solutions:
● Pre-trip Authorization
One of the most difficult things to enforce when it comes to managing company travel expenses is the company’s travel policies. With the Pre-trip authorization feature, employees can lay down their travel plans well in advance for efficient and easy approval, eliminating the possibility of reimbursement requests after a trip for unauthorized expenses. It also sets a proper spending limit that coincides with the company’s travel expense policies. Users are notified whenever overspending might occur, and managers are given the ability to approve or deny any requests that go well beyond the authorized spend limit.
● Online Booking
This feature provides companies with easy access to preferred airlines, hotels or transportation companies. This goes hand-in-hand with the pre-trip authorization feature as it provides expense managers more control and visibility over the travel expenses. Through this, users can look into competitive rates in the market, as well as make use of frequent traveling discounts and rebates, which helps cut company travel costs significantly.
TEM mobile functionality provides users a real-time dynamic that proves to be very valuable. Travel is inherently a mobile task, and with the Travel and Expense Management mobile apps, expense managers are given the capability to see accurate and real-time information on travel spending, as well as give expense approvals at a much faster rate. TEM mobile apps also give employees the ease and power to submit their expense reports anytime, anywhere.
Mobile apps with TEM solutions also have other useful features, such as its receipt capture functionality, which allows users to pictures of their receipts along with their expense reports, or OCR scanning. Expense reports can be done on any type of device, by phone, tablet or a laptop computer without losing any data.
● Expense Approval and Reimbursement
This feature takes away the time-consuming process involved when it comes to expense approvals and reimbursement requests that companies or organizations often go through. As information can be sent between managers and employees real-time, managers can easily send in approvals or denials on any mobile device, as well as do administrative tasks with the help of key support features like bulk actions, comment fields and many more. The easy flow of information also makes the reimbursement process quicker, which increases employee satisfaction and productivity.
● Post-Trip Analysis
Travel and expense management systems also have Post-trip analysis tools that present invaluable information on the overall travel expenses of the company, as well as a detailed view of its employees’ and departments’ spending habits. TEM systems provide these companies with real-time access to metrics, data, and analyzes the spending levels of its employees and its departments. The cohesive data collected can ultimately help companies identify their own focus problems and weaknesses, paving the way for improvements in spending policies for organization.
Maximizing Travel and Expense Management with Mobile Apps
Smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life. You can rarely see anyone without this handy handheld device. In the current information age, it has become the world’s most reliable personal assistant. They have made the world a smaller, faster and a more efficient place to live. Mobile computing is an industry that is rapidly and continuously evolving, which has paved the way for many industries, including the business industry’s evolution, especially with external information coming in and out at such a frenetic pace.
As there is now an app for anything and everything, Travel and Expense Management providers have also made sure that travel and expense management and control is also within reach, even when the employee and managers are outside of the office. With the help of mobile apps with travel and expense management capabilities, back-office processes, expense reports and reimbursements can now be done remotely and more efficiently. Past information through digital records can also be stored and retrieved easily, even while on-the-go. Information between the traveling employees and the expense manager flows more easily and swiftly with mobile apps’ real-time feature, and efficiency is readily achieved.
Travel and expense management has now been made a lot easier, and a lot less tedious and time-consuming. Gone are the days where paper receipts have to be stressed over, and back-offices are filled with unauthorized expense and reimbursement requests, making it more likely to have inaccurate and unreliable data. Travel and expense management mobile apps make the workflow more transparent, reliable and spending more visible. Employee productivity is also increased by their rapid and real-time exchange of information with the administration.