As it matures, your travel and expense management (TEM) process will go through various stages of development. If you’re feeling the equivalent of teenage angst in your organization, not to worry, there is light at the end of this tunnel.
In a study commissioned by SAP Concur, IDC identified five stages of TEM that frequently correlate to an organization’s life-cycle stage. IDC found that, typically, as a company expands its workforce, product lines and geographical reach, its less-mature TEM processes can become a mounting source of lost productivity and revenue, and increased employee dissatisfaction.
Below is a summary of the five stages of TEM maturity. If you recognize your organization as being in stages one through four, this will help you look ahead to the advantages of greater maturity and weather those growing pains.
Stage 1: Paper-based expense reporting
Using an expense report spreadsheet is a popular place for new companies to start with TEM. Employees are familiar with these applications, and back-office staff can keep both paper and electronic records. This approach quickly outlives its viability as a company grows. Manually reconciling paper-based reports becomes increasingly labor-intensive and errors mount when importing data from reports into a larger accounting system.
Stage 2: Automated expense and travel management processes
The next leap is often from spredsheets to expense management automation. One of the immediate benefits is the ability to insert customized accounting codes into the application template, which will reconcile with back-end accounting systems. This automation is a big step forward but employees are still tracking piles of receipts and accounting doesn't have visibility into expenses in near-real time.
Stage 3: Purpose-built mobile/cloud apps
This stage brings an organization into sync with the mobile realities of its workforce, enabling employees to efficiently account for their expenses on-the-go with a specific set of mobile applications. For example, apps that allow for receipt image capture, when linked to a cloud-based application, can automatically populate an electronic expense record, which immediately increases spend transparency across the organization, as well as encouraging employee compliance.
Stage 4: Platform ecosystem
If your organization operates internationally, within compliance-intensive industries, or has a large mobile workforce that often books travel outside of corporate booking systems, a platform ecosystem can deliver significant savings and productivity improvements. For example, employees can book directly and still benefit from the corporate rates, while the company gains near-real time visibility into spending. Reclaiming value-added taxes (VAT) from international travel is greatly simplified.
Stage 5: Intelligent/predictive processes
Full T&E management maturity enables an organization to gain more wisdom from experience. It also brings predictive powers that can head off unplanned or needless expenses before they happen, and drive smarter, policy-based employee and company decisions. For example, the SAP Concur platform can link an international travel itinerary to a third-party mobile data management service via an expense function. This provides pre-trip alerts which can prompt a user to switch data plans and avoid jaw-dropping roaming charges.
Maturity has its rewards
Never fear if you’re still working your way through the five stages. Each new level will bring new returns, including:
- Greater staff productivity due to automation, ease of use, efficient processes and mobile availability
- Reduced staff time to support T&E management
- Reduced travel-related costs due to greater visibility into employee spending
- Reduced risk due to enhanced audit capabilities
To learn more about TEM, download the full report here.