How automation can help in managing business expenses

– By Varun Rathi, Co-founder & COO of Happay

One might believe that adverse circumstances in recent years such as political unrest, raging pandemics and natural calamities would hinder business travel. However, current trend reports suggest the contrary to be true. Organizations show no sign of slowing down in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector and corporate travel spends continue to skyrocket.

All eyes will be on Asia Pacific over the coming years as India and China emerge as front-runners. Closer to home, the deeply entrenched practice of face-to-face interactions in business is playing the catalyst to India’s exponential rise in the travel and expense (T&E) marketplace. In 2015, India recorded $26b in business travel spending and is poised to grow by a compound annual rate of 11.5% through 2019 to $45b. At the same rate of growth, it could well mean a position among the top five markets -in terms of business travel spends – in the next 15 years.

Although the economy shows optimistic signs of recovery, companies cannot take the bottom line for granted. Business travelers of the future will be expected to be more conscientious and productive to make each penny count. From being a purely financial bookkeeping process T&E management will possess undercurrents of performance review. The spending patterns of an employee often provides the HR Department great insight into his/her loyalty towards the company or the lack thereof. Though expense-related frauds only amount to a fraction of the organization’s turnover, it is still a breach of trust that could potentially tarnish one’s career in the long run.

What can you do better as an employee?

Do your homework and plan ahead: Account for every expense you may encounter from the minute you board your flight, including on-ground transportation and accommodation. Even if you are traveling with a corporate credit card, be prepared with cash at hand for incidental expenses such as parking fee, tipping etc. Enquire around the office for recommendations on pocket-friendly places to eat so that you can avoid exorbitant options available in the hotel.

Stay in the centre of the spending spectrum: Even if it is tempting to pamper yourself during an arduous business trip, it is in your best interest to be frugal. It is very easy for employers to sniff out those who spend out of entitlement from those who do out of necessity. While it is acceptable to have a fancy meal in an expensive restaurant in the context of a client meeting, it is questionable on a daily basis. The same can be said about hotel room service and access to the mini-bar, which in most cases, don’t count as essentials for doing business. The rule of thumb in such situations is: if you wouldn’t do something with your own money, don’t do it all. Similarly, one should refrain from pinching pennies off the company for minutiae such as bottled water or a pack of mints. Though it may seem like a legitimate ask in theory, it will make employers doubt even a well-meaning employee’s intentions.

Know the policy: Even the most seasoned road warriors hit bumps when they encounter tricky expense situations. Knowing the company’s policy thoroughly is the surest way to know the right thing to do. Greater levels of compliance can be achieved when organizations invest in educating their workforce about the policy.

Document like a pro: In India, the concept of receipts is still catching on in lower tiered cities. However, maintaining them as proof of your expenses is crucial to expense reporting. The best practice most busy corporate travelers swear by is filing expense reports is within the first three days of their return to the office. This allows the finance team enough lead time to reimburse expenses incurred.

How can automation help you improve your expensiquette?

In the years to come, traditional expense reporting will no longer be feasible due to the sheer volume of data emanating from every business trip. This trend calls for a huge overhaul of the current archaic T&E management systems in place today.

Organizations that have gone the automation route tangibly have an upper hand in handling T&E challenges. Imagine the ease with which the trio of employees-managers-finance team can operate if they are freed of piles of manually entered expense reports. With pre-paid corporate credit cards, companies can efficiently disburse cash to their employees irrespective of geography.

Receipts can be snapped immediately as photographs on smartphones without the need for cumbersome bits of paper clogging the wallet till the trip ends. Managers back home will always have end-to-end visibility into their employees’ offsite spends and can approve in real-time. What’s in it for the finance team? They don’t have to wait for the employee to return to office to begin the process of reconciliation and reimbursement.

Apart from better T&E hygiene, automation technology presents a ‘win-win-win’ of sorts by helping all parties achieve more on the company’s precious dime.

Expense ManagementHappay
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