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Bridging the T&E Compliance Gap in a New Era of Business Travelers
By Madanjit Singh, Managing Director, South East Asia, SAP Concur
For companies that are largely reliant on traditional travel providers and facsimile booking confirmations, the surge in out-of-policy bookings by employees via third-party travel providers such as Uber or Airbnb can be unsettling.Though these offer convenience to travelers, the lack of integration of third-party travel vendors within company travel policy creates challenges in compliance and can result in unexpected costs, higher risk of fraud and inability to forecast spending. Additionally, these hinder companies in fulfilling its duty of care in the event of geo-political and security risks such as political uprisings and terrorist attacks, as companies do not have visibility of their employees’ whereabouts. In the same vein, ‘Bleisure’ has seen a 45 percent jump in bleisure trips between 2016 to 2017 alone according to SAP Concur T&E data, as travelers seek to combine business trips with leisure. Although bleisure allows employees to make full use of their journey and experience another country themselves, companies need to be mindful of how business and personal costs will be segmented and tracked, and the related duty of care for employees while abroad. Navigating T&E compliance A key hurdle to managing T&E spending and compliance is that a significant portion of business travel is still facilitated by employees themselves, in the form of bookings or overseas expenses. Getting firm control over T&E requires finance professionals to focus on making processes more efficient and user-friendly for employees. Leveraging on technology can help to automate and simplify the claims process, not to mention make it more accessible for employees to track and log their expenses on the go. For example, employees can use their mobile to take a photo of their receipts and upload it instantly, eliminating the hassle of processing them weeks later back in the office. T&E platforms and expense tools also allow businesses to create a network of travel providers, enabling employees to capture all their expenses on a single platform even if using third-party vendors such as Uber. The process of tracking and managing claims thus needs to be a seamless, user-friendly experience, as intuitive as using a phone. Manual, paper-based claims submissions might prove cumbersome to the tech-savvy employee and room for errors and mislabeled claims. Ensuring a seamless user experience leads to greater participation and adoption among employees, and in turn improves compliance. An integrated platform also allows finance teams to manage expense, travel and invoice in one place via the cloud for real-time visibility over spending. Lastly, it is crucial to get employees, as the end-users, on board and ensuring that current travel policies are still suited to the needs of employees. Ensuring T&E compliance is not only essential on the legal front but also for the organization’s financial health and wellbeing of employees. If companies are able to adapt to the evolving business travel landscape and adopt the right tools, T&E will become a smooth process for both the employee and finance teams.
Finance departments still lag behind through the use of paper-based processes and outdated systems to manage T&E