Emerging technologies, shifting employee expectations, and continued globalisation are driving rapid evolution in the business travel, expense, and invoice landscape. Businesses will gain even greater efficiencies and clearer visibility into expenditure, letting them manage costs more closely and streamline operations.
However, this will only be possible for businesses that embrace automated, sophisticated expense management tools, according to Concur.
Matthew Goss, managing director, Australia, Concur, said, “Concur brought its expense management experts together to identify some of the key trends likely to emerge in 2018. Businesses that can understand these trends and adapt their operations accordingly will likely achieve a competitive edge compared with businesses that continue to cling to the status quo.”
Concur has identified five key trends for businesses to consider in 2018:
1. Conventional expense reports won’t exist in a paperless world
As advanced technologies become further integrated into travel and spend management software, expense reporting will automatically happen in the background, saving employees’ time to focus on business priorities. Manual expense reporting tasks and paper receipts will become obsolete. Already, countries like France, Spain, China, and Japan have deregulated paper receipt documentation and validation: e-receipts are the new standard.
Machine learning and automation will also make it easier to spot patterns and prevent expense fraud. Similarly, new payment technologies like blockchain and vCards will fundamentally change how transactions and reimbursements are managed.
2. Small businesses will become more sophisticated
The rise of cloud-based apps means small businesses can access enterprise-level solutions that were previously out of reach due to high price tags and long implementation cycles. In the coming year, small businesses will continue to adopt cloud-based enterprise tools at a faster pace. This will also let small businesses take advantage of emerging technologies and adopt tools that can grow with them.
3. Preferences, predictive analytics, and personalisation will change everything in business travel
Predictive analytics will anticipate, recommend, and book optimal travel itineraries based on past experiences, calendars, user profiles, and preferred loyalty programs. Advanced technologies will take personalised travel experiences even further with customised room temperature, amenities, and entertainment preferences ready on arrival. And, virtual concierges will offer 24/7 assistance to book dinner reservations, reschedule meeting spaces, and request rides. All of this will optimise the travel experience for business travellers while freeing them up to focus on business activities.
4. Business traveller safety will be easier to manage
Businesses have a duty of care to manage travelling employees’ safety but too many travel managers don’t know it long it would take to confirm the safety of every employee after an incident. In the coming year, duty of care will remain at the top of C-level priorities and businesses will continue scrutinising their data, systems, processes, and procedures to improve their ability to locate and communicate with their employees in case of emergency.
5. Employee spending will become more visible
Company spending has become decentralised with employees using more payment methods across different spend categories. Employee-initiated spend has fast become the largest unmanaged spend category in almost every company’s financial program because there is minimal or no forethought or oversight from finance and procurement managers. However, the technologies available to automate and track this spending have now caught up with the technologies used to spend the money. With a better understanding of where employee spend is really happening, and the categories it comes from, finance and procurement managers can develop a strategy to better manage spend proactively and, ultimately, save money.
Matthew Goss said, “While saving money is a key outcome of better spend management, the real benefits of these trends is the ability to strip away the manual and distracting elements of managing travel and expenditure to let employees focus on doing their jobs better and more efficiently. Companies that spend less time managing reports and more time identifying ways to save money or improve efficiencies will naturally compete more effectively.”