“Feeling overwhelmed by options and daunted by organizational hesitancy to shred the spreadsheets is the issue du jour. But if you think of it as an investment with an exciting ROI, you will see the benefit of technology solutions for travel and expense management.”
Sales road warriors detest travel expense reimbursement lag time. Conference panelists bristle while navigating third-party payment systems and wonky spreadsheets. Office managers spend frustrated hours returning incomplete or incorrect expense reports.
It’s time to ditch the complicated scenario we have all made for ourselves.
Technology holds the answer, yet few companies use it to its fullest potential when it comes to expense reports.
Up to one-third of large businesses still use spreadsheets and rely on manual number-crunching to submit and approve expenses. These steps make it nearly impossible to gather forest-for-the-trees perspective on business policy, accurate expense data, and practice gaps within the organization.
Gaining this technology perspective is important as you look to optimize your processes in 2019. Global travel costs are expected to climb 4% this year, yet businesses are continually pressured to cut costs wherever possible. Solution: manage your expense and meeting data better.
The industry needle is moving in the right direction as some companies are embracing emergent technologies designed to save time and money, such as using virtual credit cards. Convenient for employers and employees, these on-demand cards offer red-tape-free spending and zero wait time for reimbursement. As an added benefit, company’s control spending thresholds, purchasing categories, eligible suppliers, merchants, etc.
The question remains: if companies are willing to adopt some travel and expenditure technology, why aren’t more pursuing automated tracking and reporting? Again, think about the data you can glean on top of the convenience factor. How else are you going to exactly detect where to cut expenses?
One of the major obstacles we see for this adoption is the enduring hope for one simple solution that addresses every issue: different needs and scenarios for expenses, options for employees and non-employees, a diversity of user profiles, singing angels when you press enter, etc. In the global meetings & events industry, we understand that every company differs when it comes to their travel and expenditure management needs. No two companies compare one-to-one for size, scope, and maturity. One company may require an enterprise system for consistency and access to data while another may already track metrics but now needs to increase payment turnaround time.
In addition, most automation options on the market today only allow for a single user profile, among other constraints.
Yes, the software limitations today are real, but in our experience, it’s also organizational obstacles that prove the most difficult to get around.
Like any major management change, it’s not easy to spur large groups of users to adopt new processes. The challenge for any new system is particularly difficult for back-end support teams that process payments, conduct compliance audits and are called upon to support each new policy and procedure. Friction and frustration often rear their ugly heads when teams are asked to embrace completely new workflows and data elements, especially when, at the same time, their systems and roles may be upturned.
Between the challenges of change management and lack of a one-size-fits-all solution, it can be surprising companies adopt travel and expenditure automation software at all.
Clients with whom we work—companies small and large who make the transition—cite several advantages when they do make the switch. They tell us they are gathering better data and gaining the ability to react more quickly. A central way of processing helps identify where and why employees have trouble understanding expense policies in an insightful way that spreadsheets to do not. When companies have insight into this type of information, they can act on changing policy and roll out training to address those issues.
We are told that automated travel and expense management tools do help employees report more clearly and efficiently, in real time while they are traveling. When data is clear and agile, managers can adjust for employees vs. non-employees and account for an array of currencies and per diems. Robust software analysis tools enable companies to compare overall company expenditure trends over time as well as track trends for an individual employee.
The right software not only grants a greater wealth of information, but it also enables strategic analysis and planning necessary for a cost-efficient organization.
The many emerging solutions for travel and expense management can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep a focus when deciding which might be right for your company.
Our advice: stay connected to your organizational priorities. Focus on hot-button issues while keeping an eye on longer-term goals. Perhaps your most urgent need is quicker reimbursements for your international sales team. If the company is growing or globalizing, longer-term needs must be considered as well. Invest the time upfront to identify most pressing and anticipated needs and priorities, then compare this list to available products. Which platform’s bells and whistles are helpful; which are nice-to-have but not adding value? Are the most fundamental issues being addressed?
Feeling overwhelmed by options and daunted by organizational hesitancy to shred the spreadsheets is the issue du jour. But if you think of it as an investment with an exciting ROI, you will see the benefit of technology solutions for travel and expense management. Re imagine the panacea of finding the one and only product as a fix-all and instead focus on finding the right tool for your company.
Learn about the benefits of BCD Meetings & Events’
technology solutions for travel and expense management by visiting bcdme.com/technology.
By Jeannie Griffin, VP, Product & Technology Solutions at BCD Meetings & Events
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