Editor’s note: CPO Rising is excited to kick off a new series of article focused on the travel and expense management (T&E) function that will help enterprises, regardless of size or region, better prepare for the future of this critical business category. From technology insights and strategic recommendations to guidance on how this category will be transformed over the next year, this article series will highlight the very future of T&E.
Business processes occur at a rapid pace in today’s consistently-shifting, cloud-based world. From finance to operations to cash management to strategic sourcing, there is any number of functional areas across the average enterprise that is running full-cylinder 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Managing the business travel category, along with associated expenses and expense reports, has certainly undergone a transformation over the past few years, with the spend category itself rising in strategic importance along with an increase in finances associated with business travel.
When peering into a relative “crystal ball” and attempting to foretell the future of T&E, the very notion of “visibility” immediately comes to the forefront. Unlike the business travel functions of old, the contemporary enterprise is faced with a variety of travel-booking options, as well as new technology “extensions” that are consistently in use across the company’s totality of business travelers. Although business travel budgets now approach pre-economic-downturn levels, visibility is and always will be a critical arena for finance professionals.
Cost and compliance are typically the two most dominant areas for performance measurement in the world of business travel and expense management. Regardless of just how efficient and “next-gen” a program truly is, an enterprise will always gravitate towards policy compliance adherence and the greater percentage of travel booked and executed against pre-existing corporate budgets. At the end of the day, without a top-tier rate across these two metrics, any T&E program will ultimately fail.
Now, onto the future of this function; what is the “visibility quotient?” Visibility, in the future of how companies manage their business travel, will require more than simple financial prowess. In fact, visibility must revolve around real-time intelligence that reflects not only cost and compliance, but also:
- How business travel is ultimately linked to core corporate projects, such as sales initiatives and business growth
- The true return-on-investment (ROI) of business travel
- How alternative booking options (such as Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, etc.) impact compliance and employee safety issues, and;
- The enterprise-wide impact of business travel across every business function, and how expense management processes affect financial reporting and ultimate planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
As business travel budgets grow and the expense management function is linked to more critical enterprise financial attributes, it is crucial for companies to ensure that visibility remains paramount. Stay tuned for the second part of our “futuristic” series on this important category.