The latest data on corporate travel and expense management trends was released today (Feb. 9) as T&E firm Certify published its newest report.
The company analyzed data from its clients and found new patterns in how companies manage expenses incurred while employees travel. For instance, there was a 4 percent reduction in the number of companies using a manual expense management system compared to the 2016 report — though, still, 46 percent of businesses today depend on manual tools to manage expenses.
The number of businesses using manual solutions for T&E needs increases as the company gets smaller, with 64 percent of small businesses using some kind of manual process, compared to just 20 percent of “enterprise” companies.
And while new technologies have overhauled the way businesses are able to manage expenses, there are some challenges that have remained over the years. Certify analysis found that something as simple as an employee losing a paper receipt remains a top challenge, cited by 52 percent of businesses (more than in 2016). Failure to submit expense reports on time was also cited by more than half of the companies analyzed, while the time it takes to reconcile, review and approve of expense reports is another key hurdle for businesses today.
Still, businesses seem to be adequately mitigating the cost of expense reporting, with nearly a third spending less than $7 per expense report — that is, for the businesses that know their costs. Nearly half of businesses (44 percent) aren’t even tracking how much it costs them to process and handle expense reports.
Many of these obstacles, like cost of mismanaged reports, are due to discrepancies in how companies actually handle their T&E strategies. According to Certify, there is a significant disparity across businesses in their use of manual or automated expense tools. Today, the firm said, even smaller businesses are running out of excuses not to go digital.
“It might be easy to think larger companies are better able to make the investments in software automation over their smaller counterparts,” the report stated. “However, many automated solutions today are available on a per-user or per-report fee, making even the most sophisticated technology affordable for the smallest of companies.”
And many of the manual processes deployed by companies, especially smaller ones, are struck with the hidden costs of this process in the form of paper and postage, items that are more difficult to track, thus making it less obvious just how much businesses are spending on each expense report filed.
Those seemingly little inconveniences are adding up to big costs and time wasted for businesses, too, Certify concluded, and cannot be solved via manual processes.
“Covering every aspect of the process from receipt capture and report creation, to workflow automation and expense reconciliation, the key to gaining efficiencies in T&E expense management, is all about integration,” the report stated. “Connecting company systems and data to a central expense reporting platform reduces data entry requirements for employees, and it improves accuracy and access to analytics for accountants and system administrators.”
But other challenges, like losing a paper receipt, are less easy to solve. Even the most automated and digital of tools cannot prevent a store from issuing a traveling employee a paper receipt, though solutions today that can support automatic data entry, for instance, if an employee takes a picture of a paper receipt, can reduce the chance of that worker losing the receipt later on.
According to Certify, it is the fear of the unknown that is a major obstacle in the way of businesses looking for a better way.
“Many organizations are resigned to struggle with outdated, inefficient processes rather than risking any disruption by introducing a procedural change with unknown and perceived risks,” the report declared, adding that each company has its own, unique motivations to make the leap to a digital, automated T&E solution.