Inefficient travel and expense (T&E) management is one of the biggest obstacles organisations face when managing budgets, and subsequently, it can hamper value creation. The digitalisation of the end-to-end experience for travel and expenses – including in-trip spend management – is therefore crucial.
With CFOs financing these trips, it is imperative for them to look at how to streamline processes for efficiency, and how to improve value creation from business travel.
In the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic, many organisations have made a shift toward a focus on value and return on investment (ROI).
According to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by the Cytric Solutions team at Amadeus, employee expectations have changed over the past few years, with calls for more flexible, hybrid modes of working, coupled with the significant amount of pressure companies are under to accommodate shifting employee interests.
The study also found 81% of corporations agreed that improving T&E management is critical in accelerating digital transformation, improving the employee experience, and meeting sustainability objectives.
“The current approach to travel expense management is no longer fit-for-purpose,” said Rudy Daniello, executive vice president at Amadeus Cytric Solutions.
“If we can improve this process, we will drive value from business trips. With a more streamlined and automated T&E management system, organisations could maximise the value of their travel budgets more effectively and save employees throughout the organisation countless hours of administrative work.”
Getting ahead in business travel
As there has been tremendous change in the way we work, the same applies to how we travel. As more teams are dispersed, “digitisation must be a key priority for businesses” Daniello comments.
Tedious and ineffective T&E processes not only affect the employee, but it also impacts managers and finance teams, with one of the most common complaints being business travellers must pay for expenses upfront and are reimbursed after.
“Meanwhile, finance teams bear the brunt of auditing each expense for accuracy and to avoid fraud,” Daniello explains.
“Finance teams cannot proactively control how much company money is spent on travel because employees use their own payment methods – this increases the opportunity for error, while reducing adherence to company travel policies.”
Daniello says it is time that legacy procedures, such as paper receipts and inefficient payment methods, are replaced with digitalised and automated solutions.
He adds that today, end-to-end spend management will give companies the ability to give employees virtual payment cards with a pre-determined amount of money, instead of the traditional ‘claiming expenses’ route.
“Company travel policies can be programmed into these digital cards to ensure travel policies are met,” he says.
“These digital cards eliminate the need for traditional travel expense reports because payments are made from the company’s own bank, greatly simplifying expense management for travellers, their managers and finance teams.”
When employees get the right experience, they are more productive and engaged. This plays into social capital – the value of networks -, which in turn will improve ROI.
Rebuilding these employee networks in those new hybrid workplaces should be a top priority for leaders, Daniello says, as social capital has a “high positive impact on productivity, innovation, employee retention and engagement, while lowering absenteeism.”
The improved access to information from colleagues, business partners and stakeholders, is a key benefit of social capital, and with more information and better networks to turn to in times of need, finance teams can make more strategic decisions, identify potential risks and take advantage of new opportunities.
“Investing in social connections and strengthening employee networks could be the difference between a thriving organization and a struggling one,” Daniello states.
But it is finance leaders that will “need to balance the needs of employees with the needs of the business, while recognising that some elements of social capital – like trust, employee wellbeing, and a collaborative culture – are hard to earn and easy to lose.”
Fostering this culture of collaboration – where teamwork and open communication is encouraged – is a must for businesses.
Technology will play a key role in reaching social capital objectives because, as Daniello notes, “the virtual workplace can recreate those watercooler conversations that we took for granted before.”
Daniello explains that at Amadeus, the company are working with Microsoft “to reimagine the corporate travel experience, reinventing the employee experience and changing the way users meet, collaborate travel or claim expenses.”
The Amadeus platform for online booking and expense management, Cytric Easy, allows users to plan trips and share business travel details with colleagues without leaving their day-to-day applications, like Microsoft Teams, making booking business travel faster, easier, and more collaborative than ever before.
“Savings for corporations are also enabled with ShareMyTransfer, the latest feature we introduced in Cytric Easy,” adds Daniello.
“It makes it easier for collaborators to share rides at destination and enables both corporations and business travellers to adopt responsible and sustainable behaviours.”
The solution also takes this one step further and displays collaborators that are nearby so they could be met at the destination, fostering relationship building.
Amadeus are also working in collaboration with Microsoft and Accenture on developing a new Generative-AI powered tool for Cytric Easy that will assist corporate travelers with all elements of their journey.
It is one thing to forecast how much value a business trip may bring, but it is another to accurately measure that value.
Daniello states that employee retention, well-being and job satisfaction are all things that can be tracked by HR teams, and by using Cytric Easy, employers will be able to highlight where in the process that value lies.
“We are working on creating a solution that will proactively solicit feedback from its users so that it is constantly measuring recommendations, and identifying which prompts helped people connect with colleagues or customers so that it can improve efficiency and effectiveness over time.”
Amadeus has partnered with AppZen to offer Artificial Intelligence-powered auditing of expenses within Cytric Expense, meaning 100% of expense reports can be audited highlighting only those that need to be reviewed by an author.
“This value-add feature in Cytric, streamlines the expense auditing process in real-time, minimising lost spend, non-compliance, and potential risk factors in the expense reporting and reimbursement process,” Daniello says.
Utilising technology for business travel management
End-to-end digital spend management is a relatively new concept in business travel, but the benefits are already clear to see.
Aside from the time-saving aspects of digitalising expenses, end-to-end digital spend management presents an opportunity for transformation with a digital native solution.
Expenses can be done on the go, and company business travel policies will be clearer, as they can be programmed into digital cards to ensure they are only used with certain merchant categories or for a certain amount.
Utilising technology and the solutions available to us has been accelerated because of the pandemic, which digitalised both our personal and professional lives.
Those organisations who use this to their advantage will flourish as Daniello believes end-to-end digital spend management is here to stay and corporations can use it to their benefit.
“In the future, more and more of the travel experience will be automated— Outlook will proactively suggest meeting times to meet colleagues and clients abroad with a selection of flights and hotel bookings to get us there on time” he says.
Legacy systems of the past are rapidly becoming obsolete as superior solutions enter the game, and as Daniello states “before we know it, our next work trip will be booked with just a click of the mouse.”
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