Cloud-based expense management is the way to go

Financial leadership in Corporates needs to look at smarter solutions

Digital technology has enabled consumers to make purchases and engage with businesses in new ways. With new options so prevalent in their daily lives, many consumers now expect the same level of capabilities and convenience from the Travel & Expense (T&E) solutions and policies at their workplaces.

Employees’ expectations about processes and systems for spending are constantly changing. Spurred by the advancements in digital technology, changes in employees’ spending preferences have put greater scrutiny on existing T&E processes and inefficiencies, including the large time requirements to submit needed documentation and approvals, the high number of inaccuracies due to manual data entry, the lack of mobile connectivity with T&E solutions, and the overall lack of visibility into travel spending.

The advancement of mobile and digital technology has put more purchasing power directly into the hands of employees. For financial leaders, this disruption makes the job of managing employee-generated spend, particularly travel-related expenses, significantly more challenging. The challenge seems to be more pronounced in the APAC region compared to the overall global statistics.

Today, these challenges have created a dilemma for modern financial leaders who find themselves much more strategically involved with other parts of the business and with less time to focus just on managing employee expenses.

Need driven

Today’s financial leaders need to embrace T&E solutions strategically to help drive growth and innovation in the business while also managing the typical finance responsibilities related to cost management, controls and compliance.

Keeping track of employee-generated expenses is a big task for any financial leader, yet as these leaders become more embedded strategically in other aspects of their businesses, their availability to devote time directly to expense management has been reduced. This has spurred the desire to find more efficient tools to simplify the T&E process.

A key objective is better enabling employees to make smarter spending decisions and to operate in compliance with T&E policies. According to a recent survey by Forrester that was commissioned by Concur, 73% of companies are actively updating or planning to update their T&E system within the next six months. The survey also came up with some interesting findings in relation to the acceptability of new T&E tools.

Building consensus

Finance leaders today agree that empowering employees to make smarter decisions and comply with company policies is key to effective travel and expense management. Hence, companies need solutions that are user friendly and easy to implement and integrate with the existing systems.

Capabilities such as integrated travel booking and expense systems and receipt capture which auto-create expense reports are critical in helping to unify the employees’ experience and drive spending compliance.

As technology continues to disrupt, companies need to look at implementing new T&E tools that are both user-friendly and easy to implement and integrate with existing systems. The solutions need to simplify the T&E process for employees, by reducing the number of manual steps and giving employees new tools (such as mobile connectivity to T&E solutions) to help monitor their spending more efficiently. Other capabilities include mobile receipt capture and access to integrated travel booking systems to help unify the booking experience and drive lower travel costs (i.e. fares, hotels, and rentals).

Impact on business

Benefits of improved T&E solutions extend beyond just financials. Modernising T&E processes through cloud-based technology solutions help financial leaders achieve greater leverage and control over corporate travel expenditures, while enabling their employees with a better experience to manage travel needs and report expenses quickly and efficiently.

Further, it helps the financial leader to demand from the data by leveraging T&E system’s reporting and analytics capabilities to not just understand what is being spent, but where it is being spent, and by whom. A modern system also helps automate data collection, report processing, approvals and reimbursement.

Above all, it actively involves employees in expense management. Digitally savvy employees will be receptive to a T&E solution that has a consumer-grade user and mobile experience. This also enables them to book travel easily, record expenses with minimal effort and get reimbursed quickly.

Ultimately, concerns about cost savings will always be present, as financial leaders must answer to the bottom line. New T&E investments do lend a lot of savings, but these savings will be better realised as companies implement the tools needed to help employees making smart spending decisions.

Madanjit Singh is the Regional Director – South East Asia at Concur Technologies Inc., based in Singapore