Managing Travel Expenses with ERP Suites

Nagendra P. Bandaru, Sr. Vice President and Chief Executive, Business Process Services, Wipro

The dynamics of Travel and Expense (T&E) means constant change and innovation. According to reports, the Indian business travel spending is expected to treble from the present USD 30 Billion level by2030 and will grow at the rate of 12% over the next five years. This is largely boosted by the evolving Indian traveler who expects the same ease of use offered by online travel agencies in personal travel, in the business world as well. Today, one of the main expectations of business travelers is the ability to initiate corporate bookings and expense claims using mobile phones/ hand-held devices while on the go, as it is cumbersome to retain and submit hardcopies post travel. Today’s digital T&E systems have capabilities to manage travel, and capture and claim expenses on the go.

The Peremptory need of Digitization in T & E

Digitization is not optional anymore, it is an imperative. However, to derive the maximum benefits of digitization, various processes within T&E management – including planning, booking, travel receipt capture and expense reimbursement – need to be integrated. Data generated from digitization enables analysis of costs and expenditure to improve visibility and efficiency and, above all, aids efficient decision-making. An increasing maturity in integrating massive data and feeds from all parts of the enterprise allows companies to monitor and control overall spend, manage budgets and improve supplier relationships.

Corporate T&E Management is a complete ecosystem in itself with different personas involved in the travel lifecycle – such as traveler, travel agent, HR, policy team, finance –with each requiring unique services.

The case for T&E as distinct from add-on to ERPs

Though T&E is a separate business process, the dynamics are the same across enterprises. Nonetheless, integrating the process into the maze of the ERP system can make it difficult for travelers to find what they need and get on with their job. This can result in lower adoption, lower productivity and increased out-of-system activities. ERP suites are the primary “systems of record” within the organization and are core to managing direct spend, production and financial results. However, there is no good case for indirect spends to be supported as an add-on module within the ERP.

The ERP system, being complex and heavy, fails to deliver a hassle-free experience leading to a lot of manual work post travel. Hence, an easy-to-use system that can easily talk to the ERPs is a more acceptable solution. Digital solutions also have the ability to incorporate Artificial Intelligence, Big Data etc., which the ERPs are not geared for.

Keeping T&E in the Right Gear

The ability to take decisions will rely on real-time information, which will define the ability to make changes. For example, the ability to bring the right content and partner while ensuring upgrading and on-boarding of new vendors is significant. The market is continuously changing and there is a need for specialized professionals who are always scanning to ensure that they are constantly abreast of new offerings and getting the best for their employees. One major factor is keeping the employees motivated and satisfied; and ensuring best cost optimization practices by leveraging real-time analytics.

The new millennia employee will keep challenging the organizations to have best employee engagement space. Employee satisfaction at all points is paramount for retaining this talent while being cost sensitive. Such planning is crucial but it has to be nimble. We need to be able to see, forecast and plan on the go. Any company in today’s world cannot afford to go light on any of the above points. A smart combination of cost and experience can enable companies to overcome the challenges in this space. The ability to keep up with technology, data, and a seamless user experience is critical to keeping the corporate travel & expense in the right gear.