According to a study commissioned by Concur, the sophistication of travel and expenses (T&E) management systems remains relatively low in Asia, with only 18 percent of businesses in Asia adopting fully automated processes.
This means that the majority of businesses are still relying heavily on manual or semi-automated processes, but this is set to change with over half of such organisations (52 percent) planning to leverage the business benefits of full automation.
Conducted in April to July this year, the survey polled 363 executives responsible for travel and expenses policies and processes in organisations across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, China and India. The respondents largely comprised of Chief Financial Offers and Finance Directors, as well as other C-level executives and business owners.
Commenting on the overall T&E management systems landscape in the region, Barry Padgett, Chief Product Officer of Concur, said that Asia has a very "traditional and heavily managed expenses culture".
For instance, businesses in Asia tend to have strict corporate travel policies, he explained. Firstly, employees have to go through an approval process in order to obtain permission to go on a trip. Even after approval, they have to undergo a strict buying process for their flight tickets, travel insurance, accommodation, transportation and such. Above all that, they also have to report to the finance department to know their budget allocated for the trip.
In addition, the Asia region also seem to see a low adoption rate of corporate cards, noted Barry Long, Senior Director, Solution Consultant, Asia Pacific, Concur. This is however only applicable to less advanced countries in the region such as Thailand and Indonesia.
"Unlike Singapore which is gearing itself towards a 'cashless society', these underdeveloped countries are still using cash so expenses cannot be automatically charged to a card. It's also much more difficult to get validation of expense receipts in these countries because their cabs, and even some shops, do not practice issuing receipts," said Long.
Another notable trend is that the use of mobile technology in T&E is still nascent in Asia as 61 percent of the polled executives said they do not have any access to mobile T&E capabilities, according to the survey.
On the flipside, out of those companies that do deploy mobile capability, 28 percent allow approval of T&E through mobile devices, 16 percent uses it to scan and upload receipts for reimbursement, while another nine percent reads T&E reports and dashboards via mobile apps.
Despite this nascency, Padgett finds that the region is witnessing a rapid proliferation of mobile devices in the region, which in turn has had a massive and positive impact on the T&E landscape.
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