HR & Management

Innovations changing the travel and expense landscape for finance

5 min read

22 February 2018

While technology has made travelling easier, it can cause a headache for finance departments. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these hurdles.

Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Booking.com have provided people with unprecedented power over their travelling. With just a few touches on their smartphones, they can easily book a holiday or a ride to the next business meeting. Unfortunately, while this wealth of options has undoubtedly made it easier for people in their personal lives, it can cause companies considerable headaches when it comes to managing employees’ travel spend.

For starters, it may lead to a lot of frustration when employees can’t use the tools they use in their personal lives to book business trips. Initially, it can be hard to justify why they can’t benefit from finding cheaper and more convenient flights time that also gives them air miles with their preferred supplier.

But there’s good reason for finance departments to be cautious with employees booking from external suppliers. If your finance department can’t see the spend until after the fact it can’t be certain that appropriate travel and expense policies are being enforced. A recent study from SAP Concur, the software company tracking employees’ travel spend, found that 68 per cent of finance leaders aren’t confident their employees comply with travel and expense policies. Employees may not be aware of the company travel policies and any violations won’t be identified until they’re back from their trip and submitting their expenses. By then it’s too late.

Another problem is that businesses can’t be 100 per cent certain about the accuracy of data provided by external sources. If finance aren’t able to capture travel-booking data regardless of where it’s booked, they have to rely on other departments or third parties to provide booking data in a timely manner. If finance can’t access the data they need when it’s needed, they won’t be able to predict company cash flow on a month-to-month basis and accrue accordingly.

Fortunately, challenging as these hurdles might be, there are ways that business leaders can overcome them. The first step to doing that is to ensure travel-booking data can be incorporated into their expense processes regardless of how it was booked. You need to be able to see this spend as early as possible to be able to accurately report on travel booking spend and forecast related expenses.

There are solutions out there that can help finance leaders do just that. These solutions can capture data from flights, hotels and other forms of transportation, no matter where travel was booked, and put them into a single itinerary. Not only does that make it easier for your employees but also makes life easier for your finance department. By doing that, business leaders can see what’s booked, compare it against the company’s policies and reveal patterns and trends that better enable you to act far earlier in the process.

But that’s not the only way tech can help boost companies’ control over employees’ spend. There are solutions to ensure that expense claims are automatically populated no matter how travellers use their company credit card or which travel provider they book with. Employees just need to validate and submit claims with a few clicks. Managers don’t have to wait until they are in the office to approve employee claims either as they can review and approve on the go. Managers can review and approve on the go, instead of waiting until they get free time in the office.

Embracing technology can also make life easier for everyone concerned in more ways. For instance, it enables travellers to take pictures of receipts with their phone and ditch those papers, which are notoriously hard to keep track of. Those pictures can then be uploaded via an app straight to expense claims without the need to scan or email. Moreover, smart technology can even read the data on the receipts and automatically fill in expense-claim forms. This saves your staff precious time: the expense claims almost literally write themselves.

So while technology may have caused some frustration, it can also help ensure that keeping employee spend is a smooth ride.
For more information contact SAP Concur.