Travel Planning

Unblurring The Boundary Between Business And Leisure

Call me naïve if you will, but I wondered why the woman booking my hotel for a corporate trip looked at me oddly when I insisted on a venue in a gritty industrial town rather than the beauty spot half an hour’s drive away.

I guess I was naïve; why would I chose to stay in a dowdy hotel in need of a thorough refurb over the swish place up the road? Goodness knows; apart from the fact that I’d chosen a hotel close to the following morning’s meeting.

But what would the alternative choice have meant for my travel expenses? The answer is obvious; the bill would have been bigger. And whilst that might not seem such a big deal, in the grand scheme of things the small increase, coupled with everyone else’s small increase, would amount to a lot of money – all of which comes off the bottom line.

Today, travel is easier, and on a grander scale. It’s easy to tag a few days in New York onto the back of a business trip to Philly. And because of that, the potential for overspend grows proportionally.

Companies should turn to travel and expense management software but need to embrace it in all its guises. The power of smartphone apps to record expense data in all manner of ways is well known, but the real benefits come before a business trip is even thought of.

Here are just a few:

1. Expenses policy: Good travel and expense management software will allow the development of an expense policy which is simple and easy to understand, so everyone knows what’s an acceptable claim and what isn’t

2. Card integration: An approved credit or debit card – perhaps a company one – can be integrated into the right software package. Use it for booking flights and accommodation, and there is no possibility of private and company money becoming mixed up

3. Simple operation: People are put off by complex technology. With good travel and expense management software all of the hard work has been done by the app developers, so calculations and filing are done in the background, leaving the individual free to record spending quickly and easily

4. Approval on the go: Claiming, approval, and payment can all be done remotely, making more time available for getting on with the primary business task – doing business.

5. Streamlined process: Bringing claimant, approval and payment closer together makes the travel and expense claiming process more efficient by eliminating unnecessary and expensive steps included in outdated processes, which also offer the opportunity for extra costs in overstaffed finance departments, where there are more opportunities for expense errors.

The theme running through all of this is control. Control of spending in the area of travel and expense management. For ‘control’, read ‘spending less’ – because that’s the way a company succeeds by maximising revenues. Earning money is hard to do; once that effort has been expended, it’s the really good companies that make sure none of it slips away without delivering the best possible value.

And whilst business expenses might seem tangential to overall business costs, pause to consider this: In America alone spending of business travel amounts to hundreds of billions a year – as much as 10% of a company’s costs. Isn’t that worth controlling just a tiny bit more, now that technology’s there to help?