This old German quote is true not only for tourists, but also for business travelers. While some enjoy the anticipation of booking destinations and hotels, others see it as a cumbersome task. In addition, business travelers need to collect a large number of receipts, allocate them to the correct expenses and wait for reimbursement.
For many companies, travel represents a very big portion of their costs. However, it can be extremely difficult to manage. As in many secondary processes, the areas of travel expense management and new ways of working have seen significant changes in the IT support available for companies and travelers.
IT can help improve approval, booking and payment of expenses, as well as increase transparency and profitability of the entire process.
In some cases, the usual call to the travel agency is replaced by a website search for transport and hotels in the same way as with private travel. With business travel, though, the results can be based on a framework that takes into account the company travel policy. The travel plan can then go through a company-defined approval workflow. The approved budget is supported and will not change, thus avoiding unpleasant surprises after completion of a trip.
In this process, the employee can choose different transport options, and the company gets increased transparency of planned travel and travel budgets, as well as the knowledge that travel policy is upheld. The company also gets comprehensive reporting – with detailed information on the hotels, car rentals, etc., used – which can have a positive impact on the travel budget for the next year.
Many tools offer additional services over and above the travel booking. They may offer integrated expense payment, replacing the glue stick for paper receipts by a photo of a receipt uploaded to the cloud. They can automatically display the invoices for items from the trip booking. Interfaces, apps and common smartphones provide additional receipt input for items such as taxi or meal receipts. As these travel expenses are entered dynamically, the static ERP restrictions are replaced by flexibility provided by apps on smartphones or tablets. They allow employees to enter the expense items during the trip and thus do away with the additional effort and difficulty of entering these after-the-fact on the following day or at end of the month. Even in this environment, support is available for workflows, reporting and approvals by managers or travel accountants.
Improvements are also possible for long-suffering IT managers of multinational companies. Previously, they had to integrate complex legal requirements, perhaps with the aid of custom development and complicated configuration work on ERP systems. More tools offer country templates for quick implementation and integration. Project timelines and integration efforts are reduced substantially. As such, a smart travel expense solution is not hampered anymore by considerable implementation costs.
In recent years, many classic software vendors are changing to full-service providers, selling software and cloud hosting as well as expense-payment and tax-reimbursement services that are billed as a service. For the IT and business departments within a company, it is important to understand not only the basic functionality, but also the additional services offered when selecting a tool.
Learn more about Travel Management in the next blogpost (Part 2) – coming soon.
Robert Betz is Practice Partner CEE for “New Ways of Working,” which includes consulting services for Real Estate, Human Capital Management and IT Workplace solutions. Additionally, he is heading the SAP practice in Austria.