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Firms in Asia ready to move beyond spreadsheet reporting for T&E management: Concur

Zafirah Salim | Oct. 16, 2015
In this interview, Barry Padgett, Chief Product Officer of Concur, shares some key findings of a regional study on travel and expenses (T&E) management systems, and talked about the benefits of full automation and how managers should go about deploying it.

"You can say that the whole T&E process is mobile-enabled - everything can be done electronically through a mobile device. This includes conducting research for the travel, loading boarding passes, and even opening a hotel room door. Individuals can do so much with their mobile phone, and it also maximises their own satisfaction and allows them to troubleshoot their own problems when they travel," he said.

Lack of visibility a key challenge

According to the survey, some of the key challenges cited by organisations that are still using spreadsheets and semi-automated systems are inefficient manual-based processes (35 percent), absence of automated linkage between T&E and back-end systems (31 percent), poor visibility into T&E spending (29 percent), as well as lengthy expense reimbursements times (28 percent).

Breaking down these challenges, Padgett said that the current T&E management systems in Asia are very dated and laborious. Employees have to manually complete a spreadsheet and staple the relevant receipts of their expenses before submitting it to their manager. Without any automation, managers cannot gain any control or visibility into what's being spent, where and how it's being spent and who's doing the spending.

"It will be great if managers can obtain real-time insights from the time someone incurs the charge, as opposed to waiting for a monthly statement or a quarterly report. Instead of after-the-fact reporting, business intelligence (BI) and analytics can help managers to be more proactive and enable them to have more control on the budget, preventing overspending before it actually occurs. There are opportunities for real-cost savings and having more real-time access to that data," said Padgett.  

"But the real power happens when you connect these insights to other parts of your business such as your budget or ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. For instance, if I get a travel request, it will be great to know my allocated budget as a travel manager. A common problem is that managers nowadays are approving travel requests without having any knowledge of their budget. Then by the end of the quarter, I receive a report that says I have overspent and that I have to slash my budget for the next quarter to make up for it. This is a terrible way to manage the business," he added.

In fact, the Concur survey found that the majority of Asian companies fail to make full use of BI and analytics. They are not yet able to capture T&E information around tax refunds from employee travel (63 percent), savings related to early settlement of T&E bills (56 percent), volume discounts and supplier rebates (53 percent), as well as to leverage T&E spend data to enhance cost management and improve user satisfaction.

 

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