Business travel is a much-maligned activity. First, there’s booking the trip and the attendant worry that perhaps you’re spending too much or missing out on a good deal. The travel itself usually isn’t too much fun. Later, putting in for reimbursement tends to be a time-consuming chore. If business travel seems like a drag, then be comforted by the idea that the job of managing it is a whole lot less enjoyable—without the right tools, of course.
It’s a shame, too, because travel is not only a major expense category, it’s also an underappreciated driver of business growth. When people travel to make sales, the business grows. Customer relationships usually improve with a face-to-face visit, even if that visit required two connections, a long layover and a stay at a hotel that… we’ll we’re just not going there right now, okay?
Having worked with many customers on improving the efficiency of travel expense management, we are able to make a number of best practices recommendations. By embracing these practices, it will be possible to make business travel expense management less time-consuming for everyone. In the process, travel might get to be viewed more favorably as a force for business growth rather than just an expense.
#1 – Set Travel Policies and Enforce Them (nicely, of course)
You already have business travel policies, even if you don’t realize it. In the absence of formal policies, the phrase, “Tell me you didn’t spend this!” will suffice. Travel policies establish what the company will and will not reimburse. For example, most companies do not allow employees to travel first class. The best practice is to establish policies that are clear and fair—and then enforce them.
The best travel policies recognize the impact of longer trips as well as the importance of traveler experience. On a 10-hour international flight, a well-thought-out policy might allow for an upgrade to business class. Similarly, a policy might encourage direct flights to avoid changing planes. Such policies, which might actually cost the company more than available alternatives, are intended to ensure that the traveler not waste work time in transit and that he or she arrive in proper shape to make the company money. Being exhausted and stressed out doesn’t help the business.
#2 – Get A Seat at the Management Table
This may be difficult to achieve, but it’s worth trying. Business travel management should have a voice at the senior level of corporate management. This is a best practice because in well-run companies, the leadership recognizes the importance of travel for achieving sales growth and building customer relationships.
#3 – Automate Travel Expense Management
To be effective, a corporate travel program has to automate the expense management process. With tools like SAP Concur, it’s possible to avoid manual, time-consuming expense management. With SAP Concur’s automation capabilities, you can simplify your travel and expense process and place into a single integrated system.
Concur makes the back-end process go faster, establishing a three-way match between a traveler’s credit card, itinerary and e-receipts. The approver can sign off on expenses with confidence. Automated reimbursement and payment of credit card bills then follows, without requiring manual steps.
Putting travel expense management onto an automated platform like Concur also provides the travel data you need to enforce policies and report to senior management. You can get insights into how employees are spending money on travel. This lets you see whether they’re in policy, for one thing, but also provides visibility into whether travel expenses match defined business objectives. For instance, are people spending money on travel that’s connected with growing accounts? If not, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Wipfli LLP/Brittenford has been an SAP Concur partner for over 20 years. We have extensive experience in travel expense management. Let us help you realize these best practices by implementing SAP Concur and automated travel expense management.