When you’re putting together the best technology solutions for your business, you often have two choices: a large behemoth that can – nominally at least – do everything you need it to, or a more nimble, task-specific solution. The bigger solution is often the safe pick, as it may not be quite as specialised in one area, but it does everything passably. But you’re drawn to the more modern solution because it has more innovative features, more customer success initiatives and really listens to your concerns.
So what happens when it’s time to streamline your expense management system for your global operations? You have the same dilemma: Should you go with a one-stop-shop or best-of-breed solution?
Go for a one-stop shop and you’ll have single vendor providing your global expense management solution and travel booking offering. However, if yours is the type of organisation who is always looking for the latest technology, the most innovative features, the most agile approach to integrations, a best-of-breed expense management system might be best for you. You can plug in your favorite travel management company / online booking tool, your corporate card program, bank feeds, and be more agile in your approach.
So now what? Answering the following five questions can help you determine if a one-stop shop or best-of-breed solution can best fulfill your global expense system needs.
1. How well does it really integrate?
This question obviously applies to best of breed solutions, where the different parts are actually designed and produced by different companies. But it can apply one-stop shop solutions as well who have acquired much of their technology.
Software development can be a long and costly process, and some one-stop shop vendors may have simply acquired other vendors to fill gaps in their service portfolios, and then rebranded them as their own solutions. What appears to be a single, wholly integrated system may have actually started out as multiple software systems that have now been cobbled together, not unlike Frankenstein’s monster.
The results, too, can be monstrous if the different software solutions were written in completely different software languages, making it tough for them to communicate and work in tandem. Since one of the big benefits of a one-stop shop solution is ensuring seamless integration, making sure that’s the case is a top priority before choosing a single vendor over multiple best of breeds.
2. Does it work well for everybody?
In a perfect world, a company’s finance and travel departments would work together to select a solution that fits the unique needs of each department and even makes the business travelers more productive. For example, travel managers need more compliance reporting, more category volume reporting, and travel spend visibility for the CFO. Both departments want a solution that reminds travelers of per diem policies, of negotiated vendors. AP departments want solutions like bank card statement reconciliation that eliminates manual data entry. Then there’s reality.
All too often you may find company higher-ups making decisions without a lot of input from the departments or individuals who will actually be using the solution. They may instead be steered by various internal or external forces, resulting in a decision that pleases few.
One cause of displeasure can be ending up with a sub-par, jack-of-all-trades solution that’s definitely the master of none. While it can do a reasonable job with both travel booking and expense management, it doesn’t excel at either.
More displeasure comes from the departments that were slighted when making the decision. Not only did disregarding any input make it clear their needs are not a priority, but it also destroyed the chance of receiving valuable and well-informed input on what to look for in the best expense management software.
3. What happens if part of it doesn’t work for you?
Let’s say you do go for a one-stop shop global expense management solution, but you’re not happy with a certain function that doesn’t do the job you want. Would you be able to keep the system in place and simply disable that particular function, replacing that function with a solution from a different vendor?
The answer may be a resounding “no,” as some vendors offer all-or-nothing choices when it comes to using their software. You may then find yourself stuck using parts of the solution that you don’t like, or be forced the remove the entire thing and completely overhaul your entire travel and booking expense environment.
The vendor, of course, is counting on you being so daunted of the prospect of a complete rip-and-replace that you’ll end up sticking with them for the long haul.
4. Is a single support contact really better?
While having a single provider could mean a more straightforward support resolution in theory, reality can again rear its ugly head. Support teams for large organisations certainly won’t have as much in-depth knowledge about the specific components of your solution as you’d find with specialised organisations. With a single, large vendor, you may actually find it takes more time, not less, to identify and resolve an issue.
5. What Are the Real Costs Involved?
One-stop shops claim they can scale to fit your needs, with prices adjusted accordingly.
But look beyond the hype and price up the different features of a one-stop shop solution to get an accurate picture. You’ll note any economies of scale quickly disappear if you find yourself being nickel and dimed for every single feature, function and change that you make.
Is your organisation more comfortable with an older, rigid technology? Or do you look for agile, nimble technology that provides modern solutions for your stakeholders? When you’re next in the market for a global expense management system, these questions can serve as a framework for moving forward.
Keep these questions, and the needs of both your finance and travel stakeholders in mind, and you should be well on your way to choosing the best expense report software that is economical, fair, highly functional and serves the needs of those who use it most.
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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.