By: Neeraj Dotel, Managing Director, India and SAARC Concur Technologies
A few decades ago, one would have thought that innovative technological advancements would make business travel obsolete over time. In today’s world, while long distance communication like web conferencing continues to gain adoption, many enterprises are not ready to let their employees stow away their suitcases and get on Skype calls to make business deals. Employees are clocking in more miles than ever before. A Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Report states that enterprises worldwide are spending more than a record $1.25 trillion on average, sending employees on work trips. This largely reflects a growing business confidence despite innumerable economic downturns. While suspending travel jaunts may seem like a good way to cut costs for enterprises, those looking to grow, continue to send employees out to build business liaisons. The present business eco-system is seeing favourable growth with businesses expanding their footprints across multiple locations. This upward trend is resulting in enterprises increasing business travel budgets yearly.
The Indian sub-continent recorded $26 billion in business travel spends in 2014, and with a CAGR of 11.5%, is expected to grow to $45 billion by 2019. Even as enterprises place greater importance on face-to-face meetings and increase their budgets, corporate travel managers continue to seek ways to balance employee travel spend. An Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) survey found that enterprises have become restrictive about letting employees upgrade their flights or hotel rooms, and stricter about demanding travel trips go through their centralised booking systems. While this holds true for many, major trends driving business travel today are an increased emphasis on mobility and a growing concern over non-compliance.
Corporate Travel goes Mobile
According to Sabre Corporation’s 2017 Asia Pacific Corporate Traveller Study, corporate travellers are increasingly prioritizing mobile solutions to enhance and support business travel. In fact, 80% of travel managers stated mobility as their biggest priority. That includes the ability to book travel via a mobile device, manage itineraries while on the go and ensure travel managers keep in touch with travellers through mobile devices. All this in light of the fact that smartphone usage continues to grow at an astounding rate as fast mobile Internet access transforms nearly all facets of life. There are no boundaries today on when, where or how information or services are accessed. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly prevalent and smartphone adoption is more ubiquitous among young adults or Millennials. What’s more, the Strategy Analytics 2017 Report from Wireless Smartphone Strategies shows a 44% smartphone penetration rate worldwide, which is expected to increase globally to 59% by 2022. More interestingly, today’s mobile landscape is dominated by multipurpose apps. ComScore’s Mobile Hierarchy Report 2017 found that apps make up 87% of total smartphone minutes with users spending 73 hours on average a month, on apps.
Smartphone-Smart App Shift
It’s not surprising then, that people rely on their mobile devices for more of their daily interactions, whether at home, at work or on the road. This is especially true for business travel. Today’s business traveller wants the freedom, connectivity, increased flexibility and familiarity smartphones provide. Smartphones and apps can quickly hail an Uber, serve as an airline boarding pass, book a dinner reservation or even help find a last-minute hotel room when travel plans change. In fact, GBTA’s Travel Manager 2020 Study revealed 80% of travel managers are implementing mobile strategies due to increasing adoption and in-policy compliance. Mobile capabilities such as booking, itinerary management, payment and data capture have become must-have tools for business travellers on the go. As more Millennials move into the workforce and the business traveller population grows younger, mobile technology will play an even larger role going forward.
Integrated End-to-End Travel Solutions
Sabre’s report found travel managers looking more closely at mobile payments, signalling interest in alternative forms of payment technology. This emphasis on mobility and payments technology coincides with a growing demand for end-to-end corporate travel solutions that combine booking, payments, risk management and expense reporting and management. Such integrated solutions could help with the growing concern of non-compliance with corporate travel programs. Enterprises can strongly influence adoption of their preferred travel and expense platforms by enabling mobile interactivity and ease of use. Business travellers often prefer to manage their journeys themselves through self-service technology, and a mobile traveller experience with seamless expense management from pre-trip to expense reporting can result in increased policy compliance.
Effective Travel and Expense Management
An effective travel and expense program provides the visibility needed to drill down into employee spend and keep business travellers happy while reinforcing policy compliance and protecting the enterprise bottom line. It integrates all enterprise travel and expense data, providing a single, scalable way to manage spend, no matter where or when it happens. It provides visibility into total spend down to each detailed transaction, so travel managers can correct policy violations before spend occurs, better manage budgets and forecast more accurately. It also makes processes effortless, making it easier for enterprises to focus on what matters most.
A Single Connected Platform
Travel and expense management solutions work with ERP, HR and accounting systems to consolidate data and create a single, connected process for managing enterprise spend. They support an ecosystem of partner applications and services that result is a connected approach. Thus, creating an effortless user experience that provides complete transparency into spend.
Data Capture at the Right Place
Users can book airfare, hotels and cars from their mobile device, take a photo of their receipt and move along with their day. Travel and expense management solutions load receipts alongside credit card purchases, freeing employees to get back to work, while CFOs see every slice of the data. E-receipts from suppliers and partners automatically populate in expense reports with electronic receipts from airline, hotel, car rentals and taxi suppliers. This means more accurate expense reports, done right the first time. And managers win because they can make approvals while being mobile.
Enhanced Compliance Controls
When enterprises leverage Travel and Expense platforms, company policies can be enforced before violations occur. No matter which booking channel travellers use, they have the tools to make compliance with travel policies a breeze. Expense rules are incorporated in the reporting process and out-of-policy spending is quickly flagged, giving leadership peace of mind knowing that travel and spend aligns with company policies. Employees benefit because compliant and in-policy spending results in faster reimbursement.
Metrics that Matter
Travel and Expense platforms can also offer reporting solutions; intelligence that puts the enterprise in control of its expenses. The result is actionable analytics that allows for negotiation of better deals with suppliers. With integration and organization of travel, ERP, invoice and credit card data, they can provide accurate, proactive insights to help control spend as it happens or even before it happens and to manage total spend.
Mobile Computing is the Future
Today, consumers want to be able to access information and interact with products and services at all hours, no matter where they are. We live in an instant-access, always-connected world. Today’s savvy business traveler wants the convenience of self-service solutions that work around the clock, right in the palm of their hand. To meet these consumption trends, organizations across the globe have arisen to the cultural challenge of mobile computing, and have started to adopt mobile technology innovations to enhance client convenience and employee productivity.