We live on the cutting edge of Web 2.0 technologies. But we also face a number of economic uncertainties around the world.
These two factors are creating new demands on T&E expense management software as organizations struggle to do more with less. The edges are thin and there is no room for error or waste.
As a result, companies are trying to reduce their business travel costs without compromising the way they archive, manage and report their data. If anything, they want more granularity, modularity, and control without increasing their IT overhead.
So this is what the ideal T&E software of the future should look like to serve an increasingly choosy and demanding clientele:
1) Multi-Policy Capability. Most companies today do not have a clear business travel policy in writing. Even when this is the case, most of the time their T&E software is designed around a single “standard” policy that applies to everyone from the CEO to the graphic designer in the multimedia department.
Great T&E software would allow managers to create different project accounts and then reconcile expense reports against different policies entered into the system. Why should the CEO be limited to the same flat rate for a room or rental car as the junior sales engineer who had just joined the company a week earlier?
2) Open horizontal integration. The T&E software of the future must be able to manage not only meal, hotel, flight and rental car expenses like most traditional T&E systems do, but also other types of expenses such as internet and web related expenses, Train and ship trips, training expenses, fees and even medical expenses, etc.
The program should be open enough to cover all cost categories without compromising scalability or reliability.
3) Vertical modularity. The ideal T&E software should be modular enough to allow managers to choose their own level of vertical integration when managing their corporate travel accounting.
For example, at one end of the vertical integration spectrum should only be the application for submitting and reporting travel expenses and travel expenses.
On the other hand, the program should be able to connect to any hotel or car rental booking program or credit card module on the one hand, and to the company’s accounts payable or payroll modules on the other.
With such software, a company would not have to pay for unnecessary modules since the program does not come as a take it or leave it piece.
For example, why should a company pay for an expensive hotel-flight-car booking module when all travel arrangements are already made in-house? If a customer just wants the bare T&E features, they should be able to get just that and save money.
4) Platform Independence. The ideal T&E software should be platform independent. That means it should not only run on any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux), but be accessible on any device, ranging from traditional desktops to PDAs and iPhones.
It should also be browser independent (IE, Firefox, Safari) so that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world via the Internet.
5) No local IT overhead. The T&E software of the future should make the purchase of expensive software and hardware and their local maintenance superfluous. It should be necessary to download security updates or patches and not hire a team of highly paid engineers just to keep the T&E servers running properly 24/7.
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution delivers on this promise by offloading all IT responsibilities to the provider. For this reason, if the issue of data security is properly addressed and resolved, an ideal T&E software will likely be delivered as a SaaS product over the Internet.
6) Audit-ready compliance capability. We live in a post-Sarbanes-Oxley world in which all public financial institutions in the United States are required to document their business transactions. Because company directors are personally liable under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 for unauthorized and abusive expenditures within their departments, they take the need for consistent, secure and systematic record keeping very seriously.
A good T&E software must therefore generate detailed reports showing which travel requests were approved or denied, when, by which manager based on which policy, etc.
7) Secure, unique and time-stamped tagging. Also, each transaction (including T&E related email inquiries, expense reports, fax receipts, etc.) must be time-stamped with an encrypted, unique code to prevent fraud and subsequent changes.