Accelerating the digital transformation of travel and expense (T&E) will be vital to improving the employee experience and achieving corporate goals next year, according to a new study conducted by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Amadeus Cytric Solutions.
The study finds global leaders increasingly recognise that, for their businesses to succeed, they must design processes that support their workforce in a new, hybrid world of work.
It revealed there has been progress in the drive toward automation, with 80% of global respondents stating that T&E is more digitised compared to other processes within their companies. This compared to a figure of 67% when the survey was last carried out in 2020. But current T&E management still presents several challenges, including manual and fragmented processes, compliance and security.
When addressing the main challenges of T&E processes today:
- Managing compliance for travel, like visas and work permits (34%) (India: 34%; Australia: 31%)
- Privacy and security concerns (31%) (India: 36%; Australia: 28%)
- Manual processes put a strain on employees’ productivity (30%) (India: 23%; Australia: 26%)
The study also found that improving the integration between T&E technologies and other enterprise systems was a top priority (72%) (India: 72%; Australia: 71%):
- On average only 37% of systems integrate with organisations’ T&E solutions leading to sub-optimal performance and poor employee experience. (India: 36%; Australia: 36%)
- There was also a desire to improve the end-to-end experience for T&E (70%) (India: 70%; Australia: 74%)
- There was also a desire to progress the way teams collaborate when they plan travel (70%). In India, 100% of respondents agree vs Australia at 77%.
Digital transformation drives modern approaches to T&E
- Organisations overwhelmingly agree that improving their T&E processes and tools is critical to reducing cost and increasing efficiency in business operations (82%) (India: 91%; Australia: 84%)
- T&E management tools need to enable a collaborative and efficient travel booking, payment and expense experience. More than half of corporate leaders believe that improving the way they manage T&E is critical to improving the employee experience and acknowledge that challenges with T&E processes have a negative impact on employee productivity and engagement. (79%) (India: 73%; Australia: 76%)
Rudy Daniello, executive vice president, Amadeus Cytric Solutions, said: “Accelerating the digital transformation of T&E is a top priority for many organisations as we head into next year. As the world of work recalibrates for a hybrid future, processes, technologies and culture need to be updated to drive increased engagement and facilitate better collaboration among employees when planning travel.”
Successfully implemented, new solutions can increase compliance with travel management policies and ease reporting. The risk of not implementing digital solutions is also real, with surveyed finance and travel management decision-makers stating they audit all expense claims – leaving more than half open to fraud, human error, and compliance concerns (41%) (India: 38%; Australia: 25%).
Virtual payments are key to allaying employee concerns over T&E
Pressure for change is coming from several directions – from all levels of corporations. Employees’ greatest complaint comes from having to pay out of their own pocket for travel – a situation which can be overcome by the deployment of virtual cards and other integrated solutions.
For leaders, virtual payments are the most valued functionality in an end-to-end T&E management platform (76%) (India: 72%; Australia: 74%) In total, 50% of respondents believe that one of the biggest advantages gained from virtual payments is better visibility and control over travel spend. This is similar to India, 63% of respondents echoing the same sentiment.
Separately, 48% of respondents considered this technology to be helping them reduce the risk of fraud vs India at 41%. Slightly different is Australia, with 61% believing that virtual payments have the main advantage of reduction in risk fraud, among others. Meanwhile, almost half of the respondents said the tools improved VAT recovery processes (46%) (India: 38%; Australia: 42%).
Ingrid Picard, head of commercial development resellers & corporations APAC, concluded: “Auditing expense reports can be a lengthy and manual process, especially when employees need to submit paper receipts or when information is collected in spreadsheet-based solutions. Fully automated systems, including digital payments, can be an efficient answer.”
“Since the pandemic and the move to hybrid work, employee expectations have risen and there has been a considerable drop in satisfaction. A focus on employee experience using collaborative technology could help reverse these trends, driving engagement, contributing to a sustainable industry, and lowering costs for corporations in Asia Pacific.”
The study was conducted across Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Nordics, Spain, UK & Ireland and the US & Canada. Each of the 525 senior decision makers questioned represents a corporation with revenue ranging from US$100 million to US$5 billion and from 1,000+ to 20,000+ employees. The survey was carried out between July and August this year.