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The Future of Expense Management: Travel Policy Compliance Remains a Vital Metric

Featured Guest   May 13, 2015      

If you’re waiting for virtual meetings and electronic correspondence to push out the need for face-to-face business travel, you’re going to be waiting a very long time. Not only is corporate travel expected to grow, but the expense management practices that go along with it are poised to undergo their own evolution.

Corporate travel is going to remain a large expense category within a company’s budget, and it’s expected to play an even more important role in the overall company strategy. A number of enhancements are expected throughout the industry in the coming years as organizations seek improved visibility into expense management processes. According to PayStream’s latest travel and expense research, recent years have seen an increase in interest and implementation of automation, see figure 1.

Expense Management

Expense Management Going Mobile

With streamlined and online expense management software and solutions, the industry has already largely embraced technology. That embrace is expected to grow bigger still with the continued introduction of mobile applications and portals to make expense management easier for everyone throughout the corporation.

The greatest ease may be seen in the life of the corporate traveler, who often has to alter plans, reservations and bookings on the go. Rather than fish out a laptop, they’ll be able to make changes using mobile apps installed on a smartphone. Additional benefits include enhanced travel booking, with various options at the traveler’s fingertips, and a linkage between travel and social media.

Travel managers will be able to enjoy instant and easy review of expenses from anywhere they happen to be, a major advantage when travelers need guidance or approval in a pinch. Executives can benefit by real-time information on spending, projects, budgets and initiatives related to corporate travel and expense management.

Increasing the Strategic Importance of Expense Management

Business travel and expense is consistently being perceived as holding strategic value far beyond swapping manual processes for automation to reduce the overall costs. Saving money is no longer the only bottom line. Increasing the strategic value and overall importance of business travel is.

Business travel spending is increasing in strategic importance across the board, with many factors playing a role in its new status. Cost and compliance have always been and will continue to be major factors when measuring performance in the world of business travel and expense management, but other elements are also entering the arena.

In addition to ensuring costs remain within budget and compliance adheres to company policy, business travel spending is increasingly being evaluated by factors that include:

– How the travel is associated with core company projects, such as business growth and sales initiatives
– The true ROI of corporate travel
– How newly introduced booking options, such as Uber, Airbnb and Lyft, play a role in both compliance and travel safety issues
– How corporate travel affects the entire company across every business function
– How expense management methods impact financial reporting, budgeting, planning and forecasting

Measuring Your Expense Management Performance

Companies are expected to turn to data and metrics to measure the performance of business travel, transforming travel and expense management into a series of beneficial processes that help an organization achieve greater overall success.

Travel data is expected to become as critical as other types of business data. Not only will companies analyze cost and compliance rates, but they will start to look at information that includes travel frequency, travel related to specific regions or departments and even management strategies for travel suppliers.

Expense Management Analysis

Company financial teams will start to monitor travel-related metrics as thoroughly as they have monitored other finance data. Revamped metrics are expected to enter the arena over the next few years, with information expected to include qualitative metrics, outlining the quality and effects of business travel.

Predicting Additional Improvements for Your Travel Expense Management Program

Existing travel expense and management strategies and procedures are predicted to continue to improve in all areas, from concepts to processes. Its role is also expected to grow in significance, along with its budget. As travel continues to consume a notable portion of the average company’s total budget, many businesses will be re-evaluating their existing programs with the aim of implementing more advanced strategies.

Rather than standing alone in its own category, travel and expense management is expected to be integrated into each and every department and category it overlaps. Sales teams, for instance, are typically a company’s most frequent travelers.

To maximize their effectiveness, sales teams may be able to integrate travel expense management with customer relationship management, establishing and analyzing the clear connection between the two. Go one better by integrating finance and expense applications into the mix, and larger companies will have keen insights for forecasting and budgeting down the road.

The travel and expense lifecycle is also expected to expand into the social sphere. Social elements, such as entertaining prospects and clients, have long been set apart from the T&E lifecycle. They were not included in the usual lineup of travel-related functions, such as expense management, analytics and travel booking.

Companies will start to look beyond tracking only expenses related to travel but to also track every sales or networking opportunity linked to every trip. This will enable enterprises to view a clearer picture of the true value of travel and expense, allowing them to amend their strategies accordingly.

Compliance Remaining Key in Expense Management

Regardless of how advanced travel and expense management may get, corporate travel policy compliance will remain the most vital metric within the entire industry. Making it easy, painless and rewarding for employees to adhere to compliance will thus remain another key for creating an effective travel and expense management program. PayStream’s 2015 Travel & Expense report shows that the number one benefit of automating T&E is the ability to enforce corporate travel policies, see figure 3.

Expense Management Compliance

Business traveler satisfaction needs to remain a priority. Offering alternative booking options is one strategy that can help, with employees able to use Airbnb, Uber and other services they prefer while still adhering to compliance. Encouraging and rewarding compliant behavior is another option, whether it be with upgrades to first-class flights or paid days off between trips.

Happy employees are more productive employees, and any newfangled developments throughout your travel and expense management system should be accompanied by strategies that continue to keep your corporate travelers happy.

This article was contributed by Connie Moser, Director of Marketing at ChromeRiver. Underwritten in part-by PayStream Advisors.

Chrome River provides a Cost Control Suite that includes Expense Reporting, Purchase Order, Invoice Processing, Audit and Analytics functions, so that all of an organization’s non-payroll expense spend can be managed in one place through a single intuitive interface. This service is configurable to meet the needs of organizations worldwide with complex expense management policies and collaborative approval processes and quickly solves the many issues of expense and invoice intake, compliance, routing, approvals and financial system integration. For additional information about Chrome River and its solutions visit http://www.chromeriver.com.

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