When water cooler conversations at office shift from pleasantries about weekend getaways to gripes about arduous expense processes, one can be certain that the most painful time of the month is looming large. Paper receipts fly out of employees' wallets in the bleak hope of speedy reimbursement, department overspends spring out at surprised managers and endless nights of expense spreadsheets sap the energy and patience of the Finance team. If this scenario had you sighing in the affirmative, you probably belong to the 8 in 10 companies that still live in the dark ages of manual travel and expense (T&E) management.
Agreed, India and the globe have seen a tumultuous state of economy over the past few years, thus pulling purse strings tighter for corporations. The result has been a great level of dissatisfaction in the areas of mobility, flexibility and control within these organizations. However, the grey clouds of recession seem to be parting and making way for a better economic climate. The Indian government has also rolled up its sleeves and introduced measures to uplift this growth, leading to a phenomenal uptick in corporate travel and hotel bookings.
Corporate travel has always been deeply embedded in our organizational culture, owing to the importance we give to proximity in professional networking. Despite the availability of sophisticated virtual conferencing technology, executives still believe in the power of face-to-face interactions to build the sturdy foundations of their client and media relationships. Thus, now is a better time than any other, to step out of archaic systems of T&E management.
But why is something as commonplace as travel and expense still the bane of corporate existence?
Perhaps it is because a multitude of companies today are going about it 'blindfolded'. You read that right. Lack of end-to-end visibility into a company's expenditure makes it a Herculean feat to enforce corporate travel policies and deliver within budget. The need of the hour, in order to stay afloat in a competitive business environment, is for organizations to have complete control over budgets even before they are spent. The good news is, this is no longer a Utopian state that corporate governance dreams are made of. Atleast not for the few companies that have made automated T&E management, a way of life and work. The benefits they reap from enhanced visibility into their finances are clear:
Early approvals and compliance
Meaningful visibility comes hand in hand with compliance. When corporate travelers are able to submit their itinerary for approvals much in advance, reimbursement times are slashed considerably. Most importantly, the company's travel policies are reinforced with greater vigour. Apart from significant cuts in cost and time, who can say no to an added bonus of rebates and discounts through online bookings?
Real-time expense reporting
An efficient expense reporting system makes all the difference to a memorable user experience. Pre-paid card-based expense management solutions issued to employees does away with the challenges of cash handling at different levels. As businesses are warming up to the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), receipts can be captured on the all-pervasive smartphone and sent directly into expense reports. This leaves little or no space for errors and frauds that time-consuming data entry processes are typically rife with. Similar to early approvals prior to the travel, post-trip data is a treasure trove of insights that throw light on patterns in travel activity and spending behaviour. Having an automated tool spell out these trends helps executives spot loopholes in travel policy adherence.
Enhanced visibility into company expenses works wonders on employee satisfaction levels and morale. Speedy approvals, reconciliation and disbursement cycles that result from the use of automation save employees the heartache of parting with their hard-earned personal funds for business travel. Frugal spenders can be identified and incentivized for being thrifty on behalf of the company. Ultimately, automated solutions do the most tedious parts of T&E management, taking the load off of employees, propelling them towards a better work-life balance as well.
Packed with mobile capabilities and intuitive analytics, T&E management solutions are a CFO's keyhole into the company's financial performance, enabling him or her to make informed business decisions. Not only does it make room for efficiencies, but also frees up employees' precious time to spend on more innovative pursuits.
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