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Insights into the Digital Transformation of Travel and Expense

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Digital transformation is a vital consideration for businesses across all industries looking to drive growth – but companies can be put off by the disruption that comes with upgrading and integrating existing systems. The impact of the COVID-19 situation has presented a rare opportunity for large corporations to tackle travel and expense (T&E) management tools, ahead of business travel opening back up.

It is in this context, Forrester Consulting, commissioned by travel technology company Amadeus, has conducted an in-depth survey of over 550 key decision makers involved in T&E solutions at large enterprises globally, complemented by in-depth qualitative interviews with senior decision makers. The final report Digital Transformation For Travel & Expense: Balancing Process Efficiencies, Compliance, And Employee Experience’ sheds light on the need for businesses to rethink their travel and expense technologies as they look to return to more frequent business travel in a COVID-19 world.

1. Outdated systems are widespread

Even at large companies, there is regularly reliance on basic systems to manage travel and expenses. More than one in five (22%) of centralized companies are still using spreadsheets to track expenses, while between 28% (for travel) to 30% (for expenses) of decentralized companies indicated that travel and expense management tasks are mostly, if not fully, manual. This adds to the workload of employees, managers, auditors and accountants, with the average end-to-end process of travel booking-related tasks taking 13.6 hours in total for all those surveyed.

2. The improvement of T&E is a key objective for business leaders

Three quarters (74%) of respondents agreed that improvement of T&E management processes and tools is critical to reducing costs and increasing efficiency in business operations, accelerating digital transformation and improving employee experience – the top three business objectives for those surveyed. Respondents are eager for guidance and support in rolling out improvements, with 74% agreeing that technology providers have a significant role to play here.

3. Integration of tools is key to solving T&E issues

The research found that corporations without an integrated platform for T&E receive a higher level of complaints from staff.

Just one in ten companies without an integrated T&E tool had zero complaints from employees, compared with more than a quarter (27%) of those that did. Without integrated solutions, business travelers also miss out on added-value information or on-trip service, while expense processes take too long to submit and approve on their return. Those companies that have integrated tools are almost universally (96%) satisfied with overall T&E processes, with almost three quarters (73%) planning on expanding or upgrading their platforms further.

4. Specific takeouts for roles within an organization

  • Travel managers desire integrated solutions that tackle content fragmentation

75% of travel management leaders prioritize the implementation of an integrated solution, while a similar number (74%) say they are keen to increase automation to reduce manual tasks. These priorities mirror key ongoing challenges outlined by this group, including difficulties around compliance-related expense tracking,  reconciliation and auditing; a lack of a global solution across entities managed, and a dearth of comprehensive content that can be easily compared when making bookings.

  • Finance leaders report significant positive business impacts from integrated solutions

Firms without integrated solutions report significant negative impacts, with a 29% increase in delays in reimbursing expenses, coupled with a 40% decrease in productivity among employees observed across the board. In fact, almost a third (30%) of finance and accounting leaders are not satisfied with the current level of automation, integration and reporting/analytical capabilities.

  • HR leaders have a front row seat to employee issues caused by poor T&E processes

The impact of outdated T&E can be a major headache for HR managers, who note the potential for negative impact on staff. T&E management issues cause a 40% decrease in productivity, and 36% decrease in employee retention, engagement and overall satisfaction with work technology.

  • IT leaders focused on best-in-class solutions

Nearly a quarter of IT leaders are not satisfied with overall T&E technology and processes, with the most important features in any integrated solution being an intuitive UI (40%), and better analytics and data reporting (38%). With cloud solutions in T&E only used in 15% of those companies surveyed, IT leaders are focused on upgrading to best in class technology, with 75% saying this is a top priority for their teams, closely followed by improving end-to-end experience of T&E processes (74%), and improving integration between T&E tools and other systems (73%).

  • Procurement leaders search for standardization of T&E to drive digital transformation

More than four out of five procurement managers see improvement of T&E tools and processes as a key part of the digital transformation of their company, the highest of any group interviewed by Forrester. More than a fifth (21%) see their biggest challenge as a lack of a global solution across all entities they manage, and are not satisfied with the level of automation and integration with other enterprise systems. A similar number (20%) do not feel reporting and analytical capabilities are up to scratch, despite this being one of this group’s top priorities.