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In an ideal world an expense report would be submitted without any help from the traveler in order to mitigate unnecessary work and facilitate timely reimbursement. The information contained in a company’s expense system would be robust enough to provide vital data that helps shape policy. It would show us the hard value of policy compliance and duty of care. 

In the real world, it’s a little more complicated. It’s time consuming and often inefficient. Travel data is fraught with inconsistencies. While on the surface, expense submission seems straightforward but the fact is that most companies purposely dilute the capabilities of data capture for ease of use. It’s hard to quantify value that lies in the eye of the beholder.  As experienced travel managers we can demonstrate the return on investment of a well managed program and the value of an optimized system. 

Why Doesn’t the Expense Report Work for Today’s Corporate World?

  • It’s an antiquated model. It doesn’t make use of myriad technology options that can streamline the process and provide accurate reporting data that often goes uncaptured. 
  • It’s inefficient and expensive. A Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) study done  in 2022 reported that it takes an average of 20 minutes to complete a manual expense report, $58 cost to manually process a single report, and 19% error rates within submitted reports with a $52 cost to fix.  Pain Points and Expense Reports – GBTA
  • It’s not capturing important data. Our own client data at CapTrav and most other studies show that approximately 20% of airline bookings and 50% of hotel bookings are happening outside the channels used to track expenses.  Rail and rideshare are also not typically included. To get actual spend data on hotel costs, users must input a folio with line-item detail for things like amenities and surcharges. We’re missing the complete picture if we don’t have all the data. 

How Does Expense Automation Serve Us?

Ideally, automation is giving us the accurate data that drives policy. In 2024, there are a variety of options when it comes to automating the expense process.  Content suppliers– including air and hotel can automate expense receipt population through a direct connection via a user’s loyalty account or corporate payment solution. Some credit card companies can populate expense reports and aid in data reconciliation. Travel Management Companies (TMC’s) facilitate the process through third party online booking tools.  In a lot of these cases, the result is clean data populating expense reports along with the added benefit of providing meaningful and actionable data for travel analytics in support of a company’s travel program.  

A combination of expense submission processes described here still yields some inefficiencies that were intended to be mitigated. While the benefit of expense automation remains intact, optimization is still elusive. Historically, even well-run travel programs suffered from lack of data access due to non-compliant travelers.  Most would not acquiesce to the idea that they’d never be able to reign in travelers who insisted on booking on their own, typically through supplier websites.  In some cases travelers can find better fares on supplier websites and that reality has  forced most category owners and TMC’s to recognize that 100% program compliance is a fool’s errand and may not even be in the company’s best interest anymore.  KesselRun Consulting  is here to tailor an expense automation program that meets your needs. 

Why Travel and Finance Should Be Symbiotic

In many organizations, the travel and finance functions are at  arm’s length. They shouldn’t be.  Most expense items are travel related. Every single travel booking ends up in expense for reimbursement. Category owners for travel rely on TMC reporting to optimize the functional areas associated with travel including preferred supplier negotiations, management reporting, duty of care, sustainability, and more.  Yet, the data available is insufficient as most travel category owners can only see that portion of travel that is going through the TMC.  Studies have shown that automating travel expenditures into expense tools results in cost savings.  If we consider employee time spent on each submission, involvement by finance to review and approve, and the cost of mistakes or fraud, simple math shows that many expense companies say will drive efficiencies by 40% or more through automation.  Why Every Organization Needs Expense Management Automation – Emburse

Expense data should be a panacea for travel category owners.  Unfortunately, most expense processes take a minimalistic approach. They enable the user to input the bare minimum of data required for expense purposes.  Aside from automation directly from the TMC, most expense submissions suffice for purposes of reimbursement but the resulting data are generally useless to the travel program.  The arm’s length relationship between finance and travel can be blamed even though most travel category owners scream for better travel data to support their programs.  Even for programs that require better data for expense submission, the data integrity and normalization across disparate sources (TMC, card, direct connect) is lacking and without this key ingredient, travel is unable to leverage this important data resource.

When Travel and Finance Are Coordinated

Aggregating, normalizing, and automating travel expenses no matter where or how a traveler books enables finance departments to maximize the ROI they seek when automating expense while concurrently providing travel the best possible picture into travel data for program optimization.  While most expense solutions focus on the needs of employee reimbursement only and most travel solutions are limited to those bookings made through the TMC of record, KesselRun Consulting realized that valuable data analytics should be coming directly from expense and, in fact, expense may be the only place to marry travel data with other organizational data points that will enable smarter business decisions generally.

How KesselRun Can Help

Technology is evolving rapidly and that opens up enormous opportunities in expense management. KesselRun Consulting is dedicated to staying at the forefront of the wave. We have the time, the experience, and the resources to lead the industry in harnessing these new possibilities and making them work for you. You want a travel management company with a proven track record that you can rely on to help you navigate and optimize these tools. 

Why Clients Choose KesselRun

As the oldest management consulting firm specializing in business travel, KesselRun Consulting offers a level of expertise that only comes with time. We’ve been in business for more than 20 years and we maintain valuable relationships with industry vendors such as TMCs, but we also remain objective. We have no stake in the market supply chain. This is the big difference between us and the TMC consulting branches. We act solely in your interest. Kesselrun business travel consultants will ask the important questions to define the needs of your company and then offer customized solutions for you.

If you want to learn more about Kesselrun’s business travel consulting services, contact us online.

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