Demand for a transformation of the corporate travel and expense (T&E) experience is growing. While employees’ expectations have changed as a result of having grown used to the use of modern, digital tools both in their private lives and at work – including touchless payments, biometrics at airports, remote collaborative solutions or virtual cards – there is also a growing understanding among travel managers and finance leaders that there are efficiency gains to be made.
The issue was highlighted by the release of a new study from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by the Amadeus Cytric Solutions team. Researchers conducted a survey of 525 professionals across functions (finance, travel, procurement, IT and HR) at large enterprises in nine markets, and five ad-hoc interviews, with the work designed to explore the challenges leaders currently face when it comes to T&E.
The report revealed the post-pandemic hybrid world of work has left many organisations struggling to deliver the experiences employees expect. On top of this, there is a spike in expectations from leaders to enable employees to be able to do their best work – from anywhere.
What can be observed - without any major surprise - is that processes are no longer seen as fit-for-purpose by those who have themselves seen their own personal worlds evolve rapidly over the past two years.
On the corporate side, there is a growing awareness that, for their businesses to succeed, responsible stakeholders must design processes that support the workforce in the new world of work.
As a result, new systems are required to connect people and teams, to create and boost efficiency, to address collaboration and to create end-to-end journeys which map the reality of the world we now live in.
Those who do not adapt may face being left behind.
Calls for change
There has been progress in this area – but it has been slow.
Some 80 per cent of respondents to Forrester Consulting’s study said T&E is more digitised when compared to other processes within their companies. This compares to a figure of 67 per cent when the survey was last carried out in 2020.
Old, outdated processes in corporate travel, from paper receipts to manual reconciliation and time-consuming reclaim forms, or manual auditing of expenses, are gradually being replaced by new, cost-effective digital systems.
Yet, T&E management still presents several challenges.
A third of survey respondents cited managing compliance for travel, like visas and work permits, as well as privacy and security concerns, as issues today, while a similar number argued manual processes put a strain on employees’ productivity. Only 8 per cent of finance leaders reported being close to fully digitised expense reports. And just 41 per cent of 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.
The study found improving the integration between T&E technologies and other enterprise systems was top priority for more than two thirds. Improving the end-to-end experience and improving collaboration when planning travel are key priorities for 70 per cent of respondents.
Employee experience at the centre of the digital revolution
Most corporate leaders acknowledge 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.
So, how can technology help address some of the issues raised?
We believe corporations should leverage this unique post-pandemic period to improve employee experiences and, when we talk employee, we refer to all the corporate functions and not only those traveling for business! It should start with an end-to-end collaboration experience, this is what will be central to the new world of T&E.
Alongside Microsoft, we are working to build improved solutions that enrich, excite and delight, unlocking new ways of collaboration. Together we are addressing the need from corporations on how to be more productive and empowering them and their employees with a new experience.
A concrete example of this is Cytric Easy, the Amadeus online booking and expense management tool, which is now embedded in Microsoft 365.
There are two main areas where Cytric Easy can help – employee experience and collaboration, and sustainability.
Transforming the employee experience with integration into collaboration tools
With Cytric embedded into Microsoft 365, users can plan trips and share travel details with colleagues without leaving their day-to-day applications such as Microsoft Teams, making the overall planning and booking and expensing experience faster, easier and more collaborative than ever before. With this, toggling between applications is becoming a thing of the past, leading to improved productivity, and easier compliance with travel and expense programmes.
The main advantage for the user is twofold, first and foremost it is the reduction of time spent planning and discussing trips with colleagues, as well as offering options to boost chances to connect and collaborate by sharing an itinerary with a colleague/customer or even matching that trip with a single click. And second is the ability to be reminded and finalise expense reports all in Microsoft Teams on the return from the trip.
Helping travellers make more sustainable decisions
Cytric Easy is also able to play a role in making travel more sustainable.
Using the solution, it is easier to book trips that minimise travel-related CO2 emissions to achieve sustainability goals. Corporations can embed sustainable travel content and policy into the tool.
And employees can also be encouraged to plan trips together. For example, Cytric Easy can suggest sharing a cab when colleagues arrive at the same destination at the same time so that they can travel more efficiently and sustainably, for example, by carpooling.
Change is coming
Accelerating the digital transformation of travel and expense will be vital to improving the employee experience and achieving corporate goals next year. As an industry we possess the tools to overhaul the travel and expense experience, creating an integrated, seamless and collaborative digital experience that meets employees’ expectations - watch this space.