When I first started out working in corporate travel in Asia, it was almost impossible to get local companies to even talk about Travel & Expense (T&E). A lot has changed since then, but T&E still tends to be overlooked as a budget priority – particularly when it comes to IT spend. With the right technology, businesses can turn T&E from an administrative function into a source of competitive advantage and a powerful use-case for wider digital transformation. Here are five reasons why a dedicated IT budget can significantly improve the way T&E is managed:
1. It gives employees the user experience they want
The T&E experience affects everyone in the business: all employees, no matter their seniority, must submit expense claims through the one system. Most of these employees, especially millennials, will be accustomed to a seamless digital experience of handling their personal finances. Companies which can use the cloud and mobile to provide that same experience for corporate T&E will find these employees more satisfied with their workplace – and more productive as well.
2. It informs far wiser – and more cost-effective – decision-making.
7 in every 10 businesses in Asia spend 5% or more of their company revenue on T&E. The more insight a company has into that spend, the more efficiently it can reduce its overall operating costs. Analytics and reporting technologies can give businesses the insight they need to tweak policies, advise employees, and significantly cut the costs of travel – by up to 10%, for some of our largest customers. T&E data, if properly analysed, can also reveal new business opportunities.
3. It reduces risks of non-compliance.
Our research also found that 1 in 2 Asian companies fail to capture the data needed to adequately respond to compliance and fraud risks. Traditional T&E systems – based on spreadsheets or manual imputation – will always struggle to track even a fraction of that data. With a dedicated IT budget for T&E, CFOs can invest in the analytics, automation, and reporting abilities needed to flag potential risks amidst increasingly complex volumes of transactions – even before they pose a threat to the organisation.
4. It makes complex cross-border transactions simpler to manage.
Traditional T&E systems also tend to break down when faced with complex cross-border transactions. Introducing analytics and automation to T&E, and merging it with other financial platforms, can help boost international tax reclamation and reveal other “money on the table” opportunities that may not be otherwise apparent.
5. It gives employees the flexibility they want.
Like with BYOD for mobile devices, employees increasingly demand the chance to choose how they travel for business. Cloud-based T&E platforms can help businesses accommodate those choices by automatically capturing employees’ trip expenses from numerous travel providers, and providing options to instantly log any overseas spend on the go. Regardless of whether employees opt for Airbnb and Uber or standard hotels and taxis, the business retains full visibility over their travel spend and full control over its reconciliation.
T&E can be a powerful test-bed for any organisation’s digital transformation strategy. To do so, it needs its own dedicated IT budget for technologies like cloud, analytics, and mobile – all of which can quickly reduce costs and improve employees’ happiness. We may still be in the early days of digitising T&E across Asia, but the pace of change is only going to accelerate. The earlier businesses invest in the right technology, the better.
Laura Houldsworth is Head Enterprise Sales, SE Asia at SAP Concur based in Singapore.