Travel and expense (T&E) automation: Guide for businesses

Apr 05, 2024

The corporate travel industry is on a rapid rise and the technology related to travel and expenses is getting smarter and more efficient with the passing of each day.

This implies that corporate travel is an essential element for businesses and needs to be systematized in order to maintain productivity and cost-effectiveness.

To structurize and properly construct the T&E policy for your business travel and expense automation is crucial. A T&E management system takes care of everything right from booking tickets to organizing paperwork and managing the payments.

Not only does this travel and expense automation software automates employee expense reporting, but also minimizes administrative efforts, maintains policy compliance, and digitizes all the paperwork. travel and expense automation is a must for every company.

Traditional T&E tools are still used by enterprises

T&E is a major part of any company’s payroll and operational expenses. This means that more and more steps need to be implemented in order to reduce the cost and eliminate any hurdles in the process.

It has been recorded that the majority of CFOs shared that in their organizations, the finance, and the approving team manually check all expense receipts against the company policies.

Fewer than 35% of companies have implemented an automated T&E management system. The manual process includes gathering expense receipts manually and attaching them with appropriate papers for submission. 

The traditional process of T&E management also includes the retrieval of the spending or expense data from the previous years for auditing purposes.

The information retracting process tends to be burdensome and extremely labor and time-intensive, which affects the overall productivity of the financial team and other related departments.

Whereas in comparison to these manual processes, automated cloud-based T&E management systems consume colossally less time and effort because the integrated accounting feature can easily extract the previous year's information in a matter of seconds.

Hence, companies still using traditional T&E tools, extremely lag behind when it comes to efficiency and productivity. 

Even if the traditional management tools are working, the employees aren’t exactly facilitated with approval status visibility or timely reimbursements.

Along with this, the lack of transparency also means that the expense vouchers are manually approved, data is manually entered, and receipts attaching becomes a nightmare.

Ultimately, all the traditional tools lead to an increased workload on the finance team and all the approvers. 

Challenges faced by organizations in managing T&E expenses

1. Vague T&E policy

Vague and improperly defined corporate T&E policies mean that your employees don’t have the correct and accurate information for making precise submissions.

This also means that your company will constantly bear unknown charges and pay for unauthorized expenses.

If the company’s T&E policy is difficult to understand, your finance team will be spending a huge amount of time double-checking submissions and policy compliance.

An accurately written policy would facilitate your employees with the exact steps and requirements for making travel requests and reimbursement claims related to it.

With this, you save time and increase team productivity.

2. Lack of transparency

In a company, a lack of transparency or visibility comes from improper management of employees’ expenses. Without an up-to-date report regarding the travel expenses of the employees.

There is no way a company can make further decisions and improvements related to policy changes, management techniques, and forecasting

Which is the highest spending category? How much are the employees spending on leisure, food, etc.? How much does a business trip cost on average? What should be the T&E budget?

There would be absolutely no way to get answers to all these questions without precise and automated data recording and entry.

3. Delays in reimbursements

Delays in reimbursements can be highly discouraging for employees and may affect their productivity. They may not exactly bother you every day for knowing the status of their reimbursement claim.

They might not be able to properly comprehend that the delays are not intentional and are being caused due to the immensely time-consuming manual process of chasing employees for receipts, making proper submissions, maintaining policy compliance, and then the whole approval process. This becomes an all the more essential reason to implement travel and expense automation in your company. 

Explore how to streamline your reimbursement workflows and enhance financial control. Dive into our comprehensive article on travel and expense reimbursement to unlock the power of effective reimbursement management today.

4. Error in data entry

Manual data entry is bound to be filled with many errors and incorrect information. This means all the data is handled through spreadsheets, which is an extremely inefficient way of managing travel expenses and maintaining records.

A large amount of data requires many many hours for sorting and organization, which can cause frustration and management issues in the team.

This also means that there is practically no accurate and error-free information and things can go wrong at any minute. 

Benefits of travel and expense automation

1. For Employees

With travel and expense automation, employees are facilitated with the feature to take snapshots of their expense receipts and simply upload them to the system through mobile applications. If the receipt is an email, it can directly be submitted to the system.

All the hassle of carefully storing and carrying the paper receipts, submitting those with other documents required for reimbursement claim approval, and then waiting for many days till the claim is approved and then receiving the money, is all eliminated. 

This digitized way of making reimbursement claims not only reduces the time and labor invested but also speeds along with the approval process giving the employees visibility into the approval status.

Receipts can be uploaded from any location, the employees just need to have an internet connection. All the documentation is done automatically and the submission is done accurately because it is automated.

Through a T&E management system, adding expenses or editing previous claims because the employees may have forgotten to add some data, is also possible.

Plus, as the T&E software can automatically enforce the company policies, anything going against it or missing details will automatically be flagged.

2. For finance team

Travel and expense automation is literal blessing for the finance team of your company. T&E management software is efficient, reliable, and a centric information source.

Every expense information is automatically recorded in real-time and stored properly in accounting sheets. This minimizes the time invested in manually entering data and makes information easily accessible by creating a searchable database.

Auditing becomes simpler and future financial forecasting can also be done smoothly with all the precise information available in just one click. 

T&E software is flexible and can seamlessly integrate with a business's exciting system and keeping track of the “what, where, how much, when, and by whom” becomes a matter of seconds.

This gives the finance team the scope to respond to changes and make any regulatory implementations without any complex operational process following.

Along with this, as any claim which does not properly follow the submission policies is flagged, the time spent in making sure that all expenses are genuine and according to the company policy is saved. 

The finance team is given the space to utilize their knowledge and expertise in other important tasks which require a human touch. 

Switching from manual method to integrated T&E solutions

In the aftermath of the pandemic, companies have been challenged to revolutionize and adapt to the rapid digital transformations all around the world.

Flexibility, operational efficiency, and cost control have become necessary features for all businesses.

The major T&E-related objective every business has is digitizing the traditional T&E management system because the concerns for cost control have increased widely. 

Every organization all around the world very well comprehends that travel and expense automation is essential and this requires careful analysis before choosing a T&E management software.

However, still, many companies utilize manual traditional methods like excel sheets and paper receipts documentation.

Burdensome and long processes along with traditional tools don't only become tiring but also reduce the end-to-end employee experience and hamper business operations.

The employees, managers, and everyone associated with the process are loaded with the extra manual burden.

An integrated T&E management system can take over all the challenges, increase efficiency, improve user experience and make data analytics more practical and cost-effective. 

The major challenges companies are facing is the transitioning of manual labor-intensive tasks like travel expense management, data collection, and sorting, integration with travel tools, and many more.

To eliminate the inefficiency caused by these, travel and expense automation software that can easily integrate with your existing system.

They can also Sort and organizes data in one centric searchable database, update information in real-time, make the payment process easier, and take over all the other time-consuming tasks is the one which you need for your business.

Even though corporate business travel may have reduced after the pandemic, still with situations getting better, and the whole digital drive throughout the world, it is crucial for every business to automate their T&E management system, and be on top of the game. 

Choose the right solution to automate your T&E expense management

1. Mobile compatibility

To have the best and most seamless experience the key is to automate for digitizing anything and everything possible.

When choosing a travel and expense automation solution look for the one that provides your team the facility to make claims, book tickets, access schedules, help in company policy compliance, approve requests and get customer service anytime from their mobile devices with an internet connection.

It may seem that there are so many ready-to-use travel apps and websites for these functions, but you are looking for the one which provides all these and some extra payment and management benefits, all in one platform.

Mobile compatibility is important because it is a long process to go to your manager, make a travel request look for the most cost-effective travel options, get it approved, then make the reimbursement claims, etc.

The whole process can be transformed in just a matter of a few clicks by integrating with the right T&E software. 

2. Easy-to-use

Along with mobile compatibility, the T&E management system you choose for your business must make everything easier for your employees.

It's not just about booking tickets, it is about easy access to information, better-streamlined processes, seamless integration with the business’s current system, flexibility to integrate with other tools, and all other features required to render the best corporate travel experience.

Once T&E software checks all these boxes, business travel would become easier for your employees. The whole purpose of travel and expense automation is to make the corporate travel process error-free and less tiring for your employees. 

3. Easily accessible to employees

Whatever T&E system you choose for your company, make sure that the system is not just designed for approvers. The software needs to be accessible and easy to use for your employees.

Your employees must be given visibility into the approval status, they must be able to go through the company policy at any given point of time, and they should be given the feature to make claims easily and also be reimbursed as quickly as possible.

The T&E management software of your company should cater to all the needs of your employees and streamline the travel process for them.

4. Integrate seamlessly with other tools

A system that would not integrate with your business’s system, won’t allow you to import or export data directly, won’t retrieve information from other sources, and won’t facilitate data organization, is of basically no use.

The T&E management system you decided upon for your company must have the flexibility to integrate with other tools used by your business like payment or data management tools.

Business-wide interconnectedness of the tools is important to maintain stability and consistency of information and business data. 

How does Volopay help with travel and expense management automation?

Travel and expense automation is one of the best features offered by Volopay. From integrations with travel and accounting software to an easy reimbursement process, we provide all features to streamline your travel and expense management, business travel and create the best experience. We offer cards that can be specially conditioned for your travel and entertainment management.

For example, you can create virtual cards and assign them to your employees for specific purposes like booking hotel accommodations and airplane tickets.

Along with this, the physical corporate cards offered by Volopay can be used to make payments on the go. It can be used to draw money from ATMs internationally.

Plus, all FX transactions made through Volopay are guaranteed to be at the most competitive remittance rates. 

Furthermore, with Volopay you can easily reimburse your employees, they simply have to take pictures of the receipts, upload them on the system, fill in the appropriate details like vendor, and spend amount, and just submit it.

The OCR feature reads the receipts and flags any wrong or missing information. For the approval process, you can add up to five approvers, and once the claim is approved it can be settled by the settlement user.

The accounting software integration acts as an added bonus, where every transaction made is recorded in real-time and entered into the journal automatically.

This means the whole long cumbersome task of matching receipts and entering the right amount under the right field, and making sure everything tallies up correctly is gone. Everything becomes automated.

Related read - How to manage petty cash transactions in India

Automate your travel and expense management today with Volopay