Considering investing in a tool to help manage your organisation's travel and expense process? Don't know your API from your SaaS? That's OK, we're happy to help with this essential 7 step guide to identifying your ideal Travel and Expense Management - or TEM - solution.
Companies often spend a large chunk of their IT budget maintaining on-premise systems. After all, the total cost of ownership, such as support, hardware updates, maintenance and so on, can add up significantly over time. In contrast, the total cost of ownership or cost per user of cloud-based Solution as a Service (SaaS) tools is significantly lower than that of on-premise solutions.
Cloud services allow you to only pay for what you need and/or use. They’re reliable in case of a disaster and allow you to easily scale your operations, offering you flexibility. Updates are automatic, requiring no input from you, and don’t entail additional expenditure such as hardware replacement.
A good API - or Application Program Interface - is the behind-the-scenes technology that ensures your application is able to communicate with other programmes you use, even those not in the cloud. Make sure you know which other programmes you want your TEM tool to interact with - such as payroll, HR or ERP - so you can make an informed decision. There’s no point investing in a tool that generates automatic information, only for it to have to be uploaded manually elsewhere.
Your needs here will vary depending on your business, however being compliant with your country’s legal requirements is the bare minimum. The stakes are even greater if you represent a multinational organisation with activities in many different countries.
You should never get in trouble with local authorities for not properly declaring an expense. Nor should you have to worry about the legal mileage in Germany when you’re based in The Netherlands. Assess your needs and choose a TEM solution that adequately covers them.
Sophistication varies a lot between different solutions, along with what happens to the captured images. This last point is particularly important for European customers as data protection laws in the EU have become a lot stricter following the introduction of GDPR in 2018.
As for sophistication, digital receipt capture can mean anything from a simple scan to taking a picture of the receipt with your smartphone. OCR technology can read a handwritten note and extract the information into a draft expense report. Your pick will depend on how much you wish to automate the process for your users and whether you are looking to go paperless.
As with the last two points, your needs for automation when it comes to policy enforcement may vary. Some categories of users may be under more scrutiny or require more levels of approval than others. It may also be that your approval process goes through multiple departments or entities.
All this and more can be adapted in a flexible TEM tool. But keep in mind that when it comes to your company policies and needs, not all TEM tools are alike. Whichever you choose, your tool’s complexity (or lack thereof) should never impede on your end user experience.
When looking at TEM solutions, the choices of organisations similar to your own can provide a lot of insight. From industry to country or size, these all matter when it comes to indicating how well your TEM provider will serve you.
Flexibility might be a key point for you, whereas others may be best served with an out-of-the-box solution. Whatever your needs or expectations, a good TEM supplier will be happy to provide you with references of past projects and can explain how their tool will best serve your organisation.
Again, your reporting needs will influence your TEM supplier choice. If your TEM tool needs to handle your reporting and give insights on spending behaviours, you will need a more powerful tool than if you are using your ERP for spend analysis.
After all, data analytics is hot. And whether you’re going all-in on customer driven marketing or are simply looking to uncover exactly how your internal spending measures up against turnover, gaining insight into your data is essential. As such, the depth of analysis and configurability of reports is likely to affect your decision.
Finally, a TEM solution is software and you should try before you buy. Ask your supplier for presentations or even a demonstration of the tool. Ask for trial accounts to familiarise yourself with the solution and ensure it’s a good fit. And don't be shy about asking for references: a successful provider will vouch for themselves through their happy clientele.
Doing your research beforehand based on the functionalities above will help you make the right choice for your business. Once you think you’ve found it, test it to be 100% sure