Mobility is one of, if not the most critical factor for assessing modern business travel apps. Travelers expect the same straightforward, feature-rich and high-quality, user experience that they have grown accustomed to with their favorite consumer apps. IT teams and system administrators need a solution that is easy to deploy and manage across the workforce. And, when it comes to expense management, finance and travel teams need a system that is cost-effective, enables timely submission of expenses, and doesn’t cause issues with business travelers.

There are two approaches to deploying enterprise apps to employees. The first, older, approach, is through native apps, which need to be downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores. The second, more modern, approach is web apps, where the software is simply delivered through a browser window on the mobile device.

For both approaches, the end-user experience is – at least at first glance – very similar. The user simply taps the icon on their device’s home screen to launch the application, and gets speedy access to the solution. However, that’s where the similarity ends, and the inherent weaknesses of native apps soon become apparent.

Related: Mobility Essentials for Expense Management

Lack of functionality and configurability

Enterprise expense management solutions have deep functionality, and many organizations configure the user interface to their own requirements, often based on regulatory compliance needs. This presents two key challenges for native apps. First is that for a native app to have the same amount of functionality on a mobile device as the full solution which accessed on a laptop, it needs to be so large as to be impractical to download and manage. Second is that, while expense software vendors may be able to configure the main user interface for different customers, as they only offer a single monolithic version of the native app available for download, there is no way for this to be similarly customized.

As a result of this, users may not be able to perform all of the necessary activities on a mobile device, and may need to log onto the full version to do some tasks. In addition, as they are unable to access their organization’s uniquely configured UI in the native app, there may be differences in look-and-feel and functionality, such as different fields which may not otherwise exist. With a web app, as the same version is delivered on any device through a browser window, full functionality is available to all users regardless of where they access it or how their organization has configured the user interface. This enables them to provide an identical, feature-rich, experience on any device.

RelatedThe Fallacy of Offline Expense Management

Mobility Attributes Chrome River Web App Other Vendors’ Native Apps
Accessible directly via home screen icon on mobile device Yes Yes
Accept receipts by email or within the expense solution Yes Yes
Capture and extract receipt data via OCR Yes Varies
Use of rules to interpret and improve OCR data accuracy Yes Varies
Same functionality on mobile as full desktop version Yes Varies
Complete customer / user configurations on mobile app Yes Varies
Approve / reject individual line items on expense reports Yes Varies
Always on the latest version Yes No
Single version of app for all users (train users once) Yes No
Same user interface across every device / operating system Yes No
Seamlessly move between any device for task completion Yes No
No mobile device app updates needed by users Yes No

Inability to support all global users effectively

Travelers in different countries can have significantly different mobile experiences, dependent on both the device they are using and also the speed of the network. While some will of course access the solution on a brand-new iPhone, iPad or Galaxy, on a high speed 4G LTE network, others may well be using older or less powerful devices, on slower networks.

This could present a significant problem when using a native app, as it could lead to a different user experiences and look-and-feel, dependent on the device, or the version of the app being used. Entry-level mobile devices with slower processors will also likely offer a degraded end-user experience.

Compare this to a modern web app, which is delivered within the browser itself, and scales to perfectly fit whichever device it’s being accessed on. As no processing needs to be done on the device itself, the experience is just the same on any device, wherever and whenever it’s being used. For travelers, this means peace of mind, and for administrators, it eliminates the headache of needing to deploy, train, manage and support multiple versions of the app.

Handling multiple languages can also be a challenge with native apps. While some vendors may claim that their solution is available in more than 20 languages, users may find that the native mobile app is only available in a subset of these languages. With a web app, full language support is offered across every device.

Related: Less Appy, More Happy: How the Mobile Web Can Lead to Better Expense Management

Inability to keep pace with innovation 

One of the big benefits of cloud software is access to innovation. The best, most agile, apps have frequent updates and releases, to continually improve the end-user experience. Whether this is adding new languages to the system, improving or launching a certain piece of functionality, or simply a good old bug fix, leading cloud software vendors can have new releases as frequently as once or twice a month.

Users who access these solutions in the cloud with a web app can be assured that they will have access to new innovation as soon as it comes out. However, those who use a native app will need to wait for the functionality to be coded into the app (if at all – not all new features are included in a native app), and it then needs to be approved by Apple/Google, before being made available to users. This could take several weeks for each new version, meaning that mobile users are always behind the curve for innovation.

Related: Why Mobility Is Key to Your Expense Management Strategy

Lack of security

Expenses can contain a broad range of sensitive personal and corporate information, which could cause considerable business or reputational harm if allowed to fall into the wrong hands, as well as causing employee duty of care concerns for corporate risk management teams. Travel planning details, names of clients or business partners who meetings were held with, and locations of meetings or hotels could also be harmful if accessed by third parties. Storing this data within a native app on a mobile device could lead to significant security holes should the device become lost or stolen.

Accessing an expense on a mobile device via a web app removes this concern, however, as users simply see an image in the browser window. As soon as they close the window, the image – and the expense – have gone. So, if a user’s mobile device is either lost or stolen, there is no potential for travelers’ or organizations’ confidential data to fall into the wrong hands.

Allowing employees to access the best expense report app on their mobile devices just makes good business sense. But giving them the most advanced web app for expenses means future-proofing your choice no matter which phone, tablet, or laptop we’ll be using next year.


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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. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
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. Ben Zastrow Zelle

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