CFOs Agree Automation is Key to Managing T&E Costs

Research confirms that fully integrated travel and expense management yields higher satisfaction

London, May 21, 2009Concur (NASDAQ: CNQR), the world’s leading provider of on-demand Employee Spend Management services, recently surveyed 154 European Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) for their thoughts on managing travel and entertainment (T&E) costs through automated travel & expense management. The majority of the companies surveyed had revenues over 200 million euro, with over a third having revenues of over one billion euro.

The survey – in partnership with CFO Europe Research Services – reveals that many large, established organizations see the automation of travel and expense management as a way to drive down costs, with 53% already using automated systems, with a further 39% planning to do so in the near future.

While there is almost universal agreement among CFOs over the benefits of automating systems to reduce T&E costs (96% of respondents say that this is either important or very important to their company), only 60% believe they are performing well or excellently at managing T&E costs.

“Automated travel and expense management systems, especially those delivered via Software-as-a-Service, offer low capital expenditure and quick ROI, two critical factors for IT projects in today’s uncertain market,” says Barry Padgett, General Manager for European Operations at Concur. “And because these feature-rich solutions are now available on-demand or ‘in-the-cloud’, it’s easier than ever for any sized organization to automate. However, the research suggests that some companies have adopted a piecemeal approach to automation and are not taking advantage of the cost savings that a fully integrated and truly seamless travel and expense management system can offer.”

The accepted industry definition of a travel and expense management system being ‘fully-integrated’ is a single instance with one consistent user experience in which travel booking, expense reporting, auditing, reimbursement and robust intelligence and analysis tools are seamlessly rolled into one automated system.

According to the CFO research, two of the top four automation benefits are linked to audit and spend analysis: ‘Gaining visibility into spending by employees’ (31%, second behind ‘Reducing costs’) and ‘Helping to improve forecasting and budgeting’ (22% fourth behind ‘Preventing fraud’).

Yet despite this awareness, of the 53% currently using an automated solution, only one third have bought auditing and spending analysis into their wider T&E system, despite the survey showing that CFOs have a clear understanding of the benefits that a fully integrated system can offer.

“Having visibility into travel spend across the entire company makes clear business sense, adds Padgett. “But visibility is only half the story. Ensuring compliance with corporate policies and controlling fraud are key benefits, but the business intelligence to be gained by analysing travel data will deliver significant cost savings and improvements to the T&E process as a whole.”

The benefits of a fully integrated system are clear, with 90% of the companies using a fully integrated travel and expense management system reporting good or excellent at getting employees to comply with T&E policies compared to 60% of those that aren’t fully integrated.

However, it’s not just the failure to integrate that is holding companies back from enjoying the full range of benefits that comes with automation. Across Europe, the number one barrier was ‘collaboration with IT department’ (43%) followed by integration with existing ERP systems (25%) and ‘cultural communication’ (such as changing employee behaviour) at 22%.

Regarding regional attitudes, the UK is the most active in terms of live automation projects followed by Germany and France. Yet despite a seemingly positive attitude towards automated T&E systems, there are clear issues regarding barriers to deployment.

“Managing T&E spend is something that touches virtually every part of an organisation. So it stands to reason that the prospect of automating this process might seem daunting, especially for companies with few IT resources and little to no established policies,” said Padgett. “But that’s the beauty with today’s automated solutions – whether you call them SaaS, on-demand or cloud computing – they’re delivered online without costly infrastructure requirements. An entire integrated process leveraging industry best practices, from travel booking through reimbursement and spend analysis, can be implemented within a matter of weeks, with no hardware or software and very little upfront cost. Because it’s delivered over the Web and available through a simple browser, each stakeholder has access to the system and the resulting data, without placing undue burdens on any one specific area within the organisation.”

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