Any expense management solution worth its salt these days will tout its mobile capabilities. Most of these solutions will highlight their iPhone or Android apps as a key selling point. However, for the both hard-pressed business traveller and the company for whom they work, apps aren’t always the best solution.
In much the same way that cloud solutions have largely overtaken desktop software apps for in-office offerings, a similar trend is emerging for accessing software on mobile phones and tablets. But since these iOS and Android apps are so widely used, why do mobile web offerings provide a better option?
However, before getting into the nitty-gritty, what exactly is a mobile web app? In short, it’s a cloud-based solution that is designed to work just as well on a mobile device as a desktop. In some ways, the user experience is similar to that of an iOS or Android app, from the moment you click on an icon on your device to open it, however in many others it offers a vastly superior experience.
Here are several key reasons why organisations are starting to adopt mobile web solutions in ever-growing numbers:
Same look and feel across any platform
As increasing numbers of employers have a BYOD policy and don’t provide mobile phones to their employees, there can often be a wide variety of devices in use across an organisation. While the gear-heads will be on the latest iPhone 7 Plus, or eagerly awaiting the Samsung Galaxy S8, there will be those languishing on venerable iPhone 4s and 5s, Android devices still running outdated versions of the operating system, and maybe even a smattering of BlackBerrys and Windows Phones. The challenge here is that while the apps are optimised for the latest and greatest iOS / Android phones running the most recent version of the software, another older device could experience a seriously degraded experience, which is slow, isn’t built for their screen size and may offer a considerably different experience for different devices. Of course, if you’re a BlackBerry or a Windows Mobile user, you’re out of luck.
Not only does this present a challenge for end-users, who may be forced to ensure a substandard experience, but it also becomes a huge headache for the organisation that needs to implement, provide training for, and support the solution, as there may be hundreds of different device type / operating system combinations to manage.
Mobile web solutions, on the other hand, work through the browser, so as long as users have an internet-connected smartphone, they will get the same experience. Technologies such as responsive web design mean that the solution will automatically adjust to the size and resolution of the screen that it’s being viewed on. Given that the solution isn’t held on the device itself, both users and administrators will benefit from the exact same experience, and aren’t constrained by the version of the app that they’re using.
Everything for everyone – immediately
Mobile phone apps do not generally offer the same experience for all users. However, one challenge that they all face is that no native iOS or Android app offers the same level of functionality as the full online version. While this may not present too much of a challenge for some users, there are many travellers within organisations who need to access the deeper functionality within a solution, and don’t want the constraint of having to lug a laptop around in order to access the full feature set.
Not only do mobile web solutions offer a deeper level of functionality, but as everybody is accessing the same solution, new features and functionality improvements are available to all users at the same time. With a native app, it’s possible that the change won’t be made available, and even if it is, users will need to wait for it to be added to the next version of their app, which could lead to a significant delay. If the update is related to new mileage reimbursement rates or a change in an international tax regulation, it could not only be frustration, but could lead to significant inaccuracies in the calculation of your reimbursement.
And what about offline?
Much has been made of the offline benefits of mobile apps, and their ability to let the traveller do their expenses where there is no internet connectivity, such as on a transoceanic flight. This may seem like a great benefit of an app. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that a mobile app only has a fraction of the computing power of the main solution, which can have a significant bearing on how travellers use it on a daily basis. For example, growing numbers of expense solutions offer optical character recognition (OCR) to extract transaction data from an image of a receipt. This processing is done on the server side, not within the app itself. So, if your mobile is offline, your option is to wait until you’re back online, or manually type out every piece of transaction data on your mobile.
Combining a mobile web solution with the ability to email a receipt to your expense provider for OCR extraction removes any perceived offline benefits that an app may offer. Your travellers can simply take a photo of their receipts, send them in an email, and as soon as your device is online, the email will go out. Chrome River’s powerful OCR engine can process receipts in near-real-time, so by the time your plane has got to the gate, your expense transactions will already be ready and waiting for you within the system.
With high-profile corporate data breaches become a near weekly occurrence, security has become even more of a critical concern for CIOs. A leak of expense data could cause anything from acute embarrassment (and probably a couple of firings) to major legal and financial implications. Given that all user details, such as corporate card information, are held in a mobile app, the risk of this data being stolen from a compromised device is significant.
However, an expense solution that uses the mobile web will not store any sensitive user or company data on the device itself. Therefore, even if a thief or hacker is able to gain physical or electronic entry to the device, no data is available to access without knowing the user’s credentials. Combine this with additional layers of security such as dual-factor authentication, and you can be reassured that your data is secure.
So, while your business travellers may like to have the Bitmoji app on their phones, they’ll thank you for giving them the ability to use a mobile web solution for their expenses.
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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.