The last year saw an incredible upheaval to work as we knew it. The sudden influx of remote workers created an urgent need for tools to maintain business continuity. Now, as the world grapples with the challenge of returning to work, the need to have accessible solutions is equally crucial.
According to Gartner, T&E spending will be one of the first areas of spend that will be restarted once revenues return, just slightly behind hiring. This shows how much value organizations find from their employee-driven travel and expense. It isn’t simply the cost of doing business. It’s a value driver and a significant differentiator for some. While the return to travel isn’t as straightforward as we’d like, equipping your employees with the right tools will make the transition easier.
Expense management is often one of the most widely used apps across an organization.
Mobile functionality can’t simply be a checkbox on an RFP—it should be assessed as an integral part of your review of global expense management solutions. This requirement is heightened because business travelers are increasingly ditching laptops for business trips in place of tablets and smartphones. Responsive design gives you can have the same functionality on a tablet or smartphone as a laptop, without the need for a dedicated app.
Related: When Will Business Travel Take Off Again?
To ensure you empower your organization with an accessible and user-friendly solution, here are the features and functionalities you’ll want to consider:
Let employees capture receipts anywhere
The most critical element of a mobile expense solution is receipt capture. You don’t need to keep your receipts incurred on the road if properly documented. While most solutions offer this to some extent, there can be differences in how you can enter them into the system. Look for a solution that provides you multiple ways of uploading receipts. And be mindful of how data is extracted from the receipt.
Equally as important is what happens to the receipts once you’ve sent them into the expense system. Having to manually enter vendor, cost, and amount against each receipt image can become a real drag on long trips. A solution that uses OCR (optical character recognition) to read the receipt and populate the expense report automatically is a big help.
For items such as hotel bills, these capabilities can go even further. Simply forward the email with your hotel folio from your smartphone, and it will be parsed and mapped directly into your expense report automatically. Each element (room, tax, parking, food, etc.) then appears as individual line items in your report.
Simplify expense report creation and submission
Finance depends on the accuracy and timeliness of spend data to make informed decisions. And for expense submitters, getting reimbursed quickly requires submitting your expenses promptly. This can be slowed down if you have to go back to the office to submit an expense.
A better direction is selecting a solution that employs a web app and responsive design to give you the same user experience. Regardless of what device they use, the app will be just as easy to work on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Create smart expense approval workflows
Although most users only need to create and submit expense reports, line managers also require the ability to approve reports on the go to avoid slowing down the process.
Therefore, approving expenses needs to be simple and hassle-free. This means having the ability to approve directly from an alert email or being able to quickly drill down and view and approve individual line items in your device’s browser. Keeping all of this information stored digitally provides an audit trail to back up any approval or rejection.
Require pre-approvals for better budgeting
As business travel returns, finance teams and budget holders will likely have a more stringent requirement for approving a trip. Some may even be asked to seek an alternative if the opportunity doesn’t have strong ROI potential.
With Chrome River pre-approvals, you can track spend before it happens. You can proactively, rather than reactively, enforce corporate policies and budgets. Employees can create requests for categories such as airfare, hotel, meals, and rental car services which route automatically for approval based on your custom business rules.
To gain additional visibility and control, administrators can easily issue or reload employee spending cards directly from the pre-approval module. These virtual or physical cards enable more granular policy controls, real-time alerts, and insight into pending transaction details.
Robust booking and travel management integration
Almost every business traveler has a tale of having to change plans halfway through a trip. Extend or cut short the stay; tack on another stop on the itinerary, and so on.
Online booking tools (such as Sabre’s GetThere and TripCase) enable you to make itinerary changes from your mobile device but lack a robust expense integration. This makes the process of updating your expense report unnecessarily complex. The ability to seamlessly move booking and travel receipt data between your booking tool and expense management system can make your travelers’ lives significantly more straightforward.
Access to all capabilities—online or in-app
While most of us have grown to rely on richly designed apps, apps rarely give the same level of functionality when it comes to accessing business tools. Besides, the ever-growing lineup of peripherals, combined with several mobile operating systems, means that there could be a range of different versions of the same app across a large organization.
This presents a considerable training and support headache. But it also means that your users may well be missing out on much of the solution’s functionality unless they are back at their desk. Therefore, you should look for an expense solution that allows you to deliver full functionality on any device.
It only takes a few moments of system downtime before a business traveler loses all their receipts. Certain expense management solutions are notorious for being unavailable. And every minute a user can’t add a receipt or send in a report further multiplies the potential for non-compliance.
The lack of reliability also adds an unexpected challenge to user adoption. If a system isn’t operating, word will get out and damage the solution’s reputation. How often have you tried to implement a change only to hit a wall of user complaints? A solution like Chrome River has a nearly unbeatable 99.5% uptime, mitigating the issue for millions of users worldwide.
Mobile payment integration
Although Apple Pay and Google Wallet have been relatively slow to catch on, mobile apps with integrated payments—such as Uber—have become phenomenally successful for both personal and business travel. On top of automatic payment, users can set up their Uber business profile to automatically forward receipts, along with ride maps, into their expense report the moment that the journey is complete.
Issuing virtual and physical cards
Corporate cards have been around for ages, but haven’t always been the best choice for every use case. Some employees have such an infrequent need that the cost outweighs the benefit. Others simply don’t want to cover the business expenses on their personal cards. Given how lengthy some reimbursements can last, this is a valid concern.
With an integrated card issuing platform, you can supply every employee with a pre-funded card tied to their expense account. You can also connect the card to a pre-appoved business trip. This allows greater visibility over upcoming liabilities and ensures that every trip is worth the cost.
Be sure to take stock of all the features your workforce will need in an expense report software. And certainly, emphasize whether the tools in question will work where your employee work. Not the other way around. Your team will thank you for caring.
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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.