In uncertain times, business leaders need to control what they can – managing change flexibly and responding quickly to new challenges. Facing today’s unpredictable market forces, it can be more important than ever for companies to understand and make data-driven decisions about spend.
By exerting greater control of costs, enterprises can support a stronger financial statement that will position them for assertive action when the crisis passes. They can also redirect budgets to where funds are most needed. Active spend management helps companies identify mistakes, pinpoint fraud, and reduce unnecessary exposure to risk. And spend visibility provides new insights into costs that can spur stronger, more focused decisionmaking.
But what types of tools can help your organization become more responsive and flexible during times of disruption?
Modern travel and expense (T&E) management solutions can help you make the travel, expense, and invoice processes smoother and simpler for both employees and finance. By integrating travel and invoice management in the cloud, modern T&E solutions offer intelligent connectivity that lets employees efficiently record and manage every trip, expense report, and purchase order. And you can embed powerful analysis into everyday tools so finance can get a closer look at spending while empowering budget managers to more actively manage it.
What to look for in a T&E solution
Yet choosing the right T&E solution can be challenging. The market offers a variety of tools from different vendors and an even broader assortment of capabilities. How do you know which solution is optimal for your business?
IDC MarketScape reports that the best T&E systems “understand that . . . travel and expense is about moving data quickly, securely, and efficiently from one party to the next” – creating a “coordinated dance between dozens of systems and partner entities.”
To help enterprises choose the right T&E solution, IDC recommends that companies look for solutions with the following key functionality:
- Workflow automation to streamline expense reporting by automatically capturing essential information from sources such as e-mail, credit card accounts, or photos of receipts. Solutions can prepopulate fields in expense reports, so employees don’t have to type in that data. Applications can also make booking recommendations that consider company policies and employee personal preferences. And solutions allow managers to create rules that automatically execute processes such as expense approval or audits, helping reduce fraud.
- Advanced analytics to convert expense report data into actionable information and help companies better understand and control spending. Sophisticated tools give organizations the ability to identify common spending patterns, so they can adjust T&E policies to reflect reality.
- Conversational user interfaces to create conversational user interfaces using machine learning algorithms and natural language processing. Human-like interfaces make it easier and faster for employees to book travel and create or approve expense reports.
- APIs to interact with multiple external applications using powerful APIs that allow T&E solutions to connect directly to a multitude of different systems. These solutions allow information to flow quickly and easily by creating a more connected, seamless workflow with systems such as external booking tools, credit cards, travel apps, and internal systems such as ERP, finance, and human capital management.
T&E solutions should have modern capabilities
Next, you should evaluate the available T&E offerings. According to a new buyer’s guide for T&E solutions, enterprises need modern capabilities, such as ecosystem support, data security, advanced payment methods, and support for intelligence and automation. Read the buyer's guide for a more detailed list of critical features as well as a list of the top 10 questions you should ask solution providers.
After matching the available capabilities to your needs, you must evaluate the vendors offering T&E solutions. According to the IDC MarketScape report, “The best T&E systems are those that understand that at its most fundamental level, travel and expense is about moving data quickly, securely, and efficiently from one party to the next. As a result, the software vendors that provide the most tools for data management are likely the ones that are best positioned to deliver a top-notch experience.” To learn more about what to look for in a T&E solution or how to evaluate vendors, read the IDC report.
Choosing an integrated solution that makes spend data available to finance and reduces the administrative burden on IT will help you best share data quickly among all relevant parties. By automating and integrating expense and travel processes, the right solution can also help you bring risks under control by reducing costly mistakes, auditing expenses efficiently, and putting payment controls in place to improve compliance.
We can’t control everything in our world, our businesses, or our lives. But by embracing tools that enhance business flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness, we can best protect our companies and our employees during times of disruption.