< PrevNext > T&E Tech: Travel ROI & Spend Optimization Will Come into Focus By Chrome River co-founder & CEO Alan Rich / 29 January 2018 Share Nearly every industry undergoes major evolutions as technology evolves. Television shifted from scheduled viewing to time delays, then on-demand. Automobiles have changed from internal combustion to hybrid and are now facing their most dramatic paradigm shift with driverless technology. Employee expense management has seen similar evolution: The first era of expense management was receipts stapled to forms. These were a pain for business travelers to create and equally cumbersome for approvers. The second era introduced expense report software, which “automated” the paper process. It was easier for everyone to use and enabled workflows, but productivity gains were questionable. The third, and current, era focuses on simplifying the expense management process with mobile apps, receipt scanning with optical character recognition data extraction and expense item creation. Integration with credit card and travel providers provides real productivity gains. Automated enforcement of expense policies and business rules provides risk and cost reduction. ACH payments to employees and card providers streamline business processes.Each iteration of expense management technology has focused on cost control and compliance, and each has succeeded. With the help of automation, many organizations have minimized process costs, maximized expense policy compliance and reduced fraud to the point where continued efforts to improve further will produce diminishing returns. Enter the Next EraThe next era for expense management will focus on actionable spend intelligence; the emphasis will be less on reducing spend and more on making it impactful. This doesn’t just mean leveraging spend data to negotiate vendor discounts; it is about obtaining information on the outcome of T&E spend to optimize future spend. Cloud-based customer relationship management solutions, integration between applications via application programming interfaces, mobile capture of spend information and geographic encoding of spend data are some of the underlying technology and environment changes that make this new era possible.Sales and account management teams are typically responsible the majority of T&E spend in an organization. In their CRM solution, these teams log every prospect and customer interaction like meetings and meals. The CRM system also contains data on the outcome of these interactions, whether an opportunity was won or lost and how much revenue was generated. An expense system contains details of spend incurred by the sales and account teams. Unfortunately, these are two application silos, often owned by different parts of the organization. The disconnect makes it difficult to provide context on the outcome of T&E spend and impossible to analyze how sales teams’ T&E spend impacts revenue generation. Answering Tough Questions & Allocating BudgetsAs we move into 2018 and beyond, expense solutions that integrate CRM sales data with spend data to deliver actionable intelligence will usher in the next era of expense management. This will have a major impact on how organizations create and distribute T&E budgets. By allocating each spend item to a specific sales opportunity or account within the expense solution and combining this with revenue data, sales and finance leaders can obtain granular detail on specific opportunities and activities. Organizations will be armed with answers to questions like: What is an optimum amount of T&E spend to deliver a dollar of revenue? Which activities are more or less likely to deliver successful sales outcomes? What spend is least efficient in generating new revenue?As organizations adopt expense management solutions less as spend reduction solutions and more as spend optimization solutions, we’ll witness a real impact in the way finance teams view T&E budgets.