While nearly all of the 348 financial decision-makers surveyed in February by Forrester Research indicated their organizations use a travel and expense management system, T&E is among the most difficult of expense categories to control. Conducted on behalf of Concur, the survey of finance executives around the world found that 24 percent views T&E as among the three most challenging operating expenses, second only to maintenance and repairs (cited by 25 percent of respondents).
Of those with expense management systems, whether custom-built or purchased from a supplier, 80 percent indicated the tool is not automated, requiring employees to enter expenses manually, according to the report. "This is time-consuming and increasingly leads to employee dissatisfaction," according to the report's authors. "It also introduces many opportunities for data errors."
When it comes to analyzing T&E expense data, 59 percent of represented firms still rely on spreadsheets and 42 percent can't import data from other systems. "This means that these companies are not able to fully understand their external travel spending, identify opportunities for negotiated discounts with vendors, or initiate supplier consolidation," according to the report.
When asked about desired capabilities of their current T&E analytics tool, 60 percent of the 169 responding executives indicated availability of reports and dashboards on mobile devices. That was followed by the ability to "quickly and easily modify reports" (43 percent) and the ability to import T&E-related data from other sources.
On an ascending scale from one to five (with five being "extremely important" and one "not at all important"), 80 percent of respondents rated as a four or five an ability to identify spend falling outside of their T&E program, according to survey results.
Being able to "identify and manage preferred vendor utilization" ranked second, with 78 percent of respondents rating that aspect as a four or five on the importance scale. Benchmarking program performance—whether spend or compliance—against similar-sized companies or those within the same industry ranked third, with 77 percent indicating a four or five.
"Most firms wait for their employees to manually enter their T&E data after the expenditure is already made," the report noted. "The resulting T&E reporting process focuses on retrospective compliance and budgeting. ... Companies are not realizing the benefits of visibility into T&E spending before it occurs."
For companies to gain better insight, Forrester suggested deploying a system and processes that provide informative reports to help managers monitor and control a firm's spend; leverage tools that identify cost-saving opportunities, provide negotiated discounts and present upgrade opportunities as employees book travel; integrate data regardless of the data source, including travel management companies, corporate card, booking tools and ERP tools; and have mobile capabilities.
Representing various industry sectors and company sizes, survey respondents were located throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia/Pacific.