How Does Your T&E System Stack Up Against 2019 Industry Trends?

How Does Your T&E System Stack Up Against 2019 Industry Trends?

Travel and expense spend is notoriously hard to manage. Forrester Research cites it as the second most difficult operating expense category to control. Yet business travel is on the rise. Data from the GBTA shows that in 2018 trip related spend rose from $292 billion in 2017 to $305 billion—and that figure is on track to grow in 2019.

For organizations wanting to drive efficiency and directly impact the bottom line, T&E is a key cost to measure and control. But how does your TEM process compare to your peers?

In the 2019 Guide to Modern Corporate Travel and Expense Management by Levvel Research, more than 300 business travelers were surveyed to uncover market trends in corporate travel and expense management. The report divides the findings into three key business segments—small to medium enterprise ($30m-$100m in revenue), mid-market ($101m-$2b), and enterprise (greater than $2b in revenue). It reveals trends within each segment and the state of digital T&E transformation—or the shocking lack thereof—within those markets.

We dove into the data and analyzed the findings for small to mid-sized enterprise. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. Most SMEs are held back by manual processes
More than half (54%) of SMEs surveyed by the report are currently using manual methods to manage expenses. Most of them (30%) are using a mixture of spreadsheets and scanned receipts, while 24% mail receipts to their AP department. Such methods place a burden of manual work on employees.

The difficulty arising from paper-based processes is evident in the list of key pain points for T&E management. The leading complaint is “manual entry and routing of expense reports” with 75% of respondents. “Lack of visibility into spend/travel data” was the second largest pain point at 30%, and “inability to enforce corporate travel policies” comes in the third with 28%.

Finance teams and business travelers are clearly mired in the drudgery of inputting data and chasing down approvals, when they could be using that time to dive into the analytics of their spend to spot overspending, potential fraud, or opportunities for vendor negotiations.

2. Travel remains largely unmanaged
Travel management trends are no better. A massive 60% continue to use a manual travel booking process according to Levvel’s data. This is defined as employees finding itineraries online and either booking that travel immediately or forwarding it to managers for approval.

In the Certify 2018 Expense Management Trends Report, we found that 39% of companies still use online travel sites to book corporate travel. Such processes are ripe for maverick spend, with policy control left to employees and the due diligence of approvers. Only nine percent in our survey used corporate travel software.

3. Teams crave better communication and automation
When asked how they would like to improve the situations in their respective organizations, three wishes tied for first place: “Better communication between management and staff”, “updated technology/more automation”, and “less manual activity/ hinderance on traveling employees”.

With such strong demand coming from within the company, what is stopping businesses from moving ahead with this?

The irony the report reveals is that despite the lack of visibility and sheer time wasted with manual processes, finance teams and CFOs still fundamentally question the ROI of automated TEM. The leading perceived barrier for automating travel management is “We do not feel there would be ROI/not enough of our workforce travels frequently” (56%). This matches the leading barrier for moving to cloud expense solutions: “We do not feel there would be an ROI” (25%).

But is that true? Research shows that cloud-based TEM solutions bring strong and swift ROI, to organizations of all sizes. And wouldn’t you want your teams to be enjoying their jobs more fully, breaking free of the drudgery, and gaining tremendous insight and control over this unwieldy part of the business?

Download your free copy of the 2019 Guide to Modern Corporate Travel and Expense Management here.