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    How to Set up a Seamless Travel and Expense System

    February 3, 2023

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    Steps to Set up a Seamless Travel and Expense System
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    Business travel expenditure is expected to cross $1 trillion very soon, and reach pre-pandemic levels by 2024. Is your travel and expense management (T&E) system prepared to keep up? Learn how to level up your T&E system, and the must-have features in a T&E enterprise product. 

    In 2023, business travel will experience a massive revival. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) forecasts that travel expenditure will surpass $1 trillion in 2022 and revert to pre-recession levels by 2024. This makes it essential to have a seamless travel and expense (T&E) system. 

    Even if only a dozen employees travel annually, controlling travel and associated expenses may be a hassle. From ensuring that travel expenses are within budget to collecting receipts for tax deductions, you need an automated system to expedite the process. Let's talk about how your organization can streamline expense management and what to look for in an enterprise T&E software. 

    Understanding the Role of a Travel & Expense Systems in an Enterprise 

    Travel and expense management (also known as TEM or T&E) is the practice of managing the budget for business travel in order to gain visibility over spending and proactively decrease it. In order to determine how these expenditures will be controlled, organizations develop travel policies and expense policies to inform employees of how much and on what they may spend. 

    Budgeting, expense control, seamless scheduling, preventing interruptions, financial accounting, and negotiating with third-party suppliers are some of the goals  of travel and expense management. 

    Now, considering the efforts spent on arranging, booking, monitoring, completing expense reports, and ultimately obtaining reimbursements, organizations are digitizing their travel and cost management operations. 

    This helps with the following: 

    1. Expense reporting: Employees need to be able to report expenses, ideally through a mobile app using the camera to scan receipts. The T&E software utilizes Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to automatically classify expenditure entries and deliver them to the office's travel manager. 
    2. Setting up custom policies: An organization may establish policies and guidelines about the amounts and place of employee spending. In order to detect fraudulent and duplicate transactions, a system may also highlight unnecessary spending. 
    3. Configuring prepaid cards: The travel and spending management system is capable of generating virtual cards and importing actual cards. All purchases made with these cards may be automatically submitted to the centralized database. 
    4. Integrating with other systems: T&E software must also allow integrations with accounting, human resources, and travel solutions to simplify your organization's existing processes. 

    Learn More: Rethinking Your Travel & Expense Management With Smarter Technology 

    Options for Digitizing Your Travel and Expense System 

    There are three options to choose from when selecting a T&E system – you can partner with a travel management company, you can give employees access to a self-service travel booking platform, or you can implement a travel and expense management platform that unifies all of the above. 

    Typically, larger companies with thousands of workers globally use travel management agencies. Global TMCs like American Express and BCD Traveloffer branded software and a department of experienced travel agents. 

    The next alternative is to establish a travel booking system. As a self-service option to travel management companies, booking portals provide access to special hotel and airfare deals and expense reporting capabilities. 

    Lastly, T&E platforms exist independently for organizations seeking to incorporate a more suitable third-party solution into their online travel ecosystem. Sometimes they are offered by vendors specializing in financial management or as comprehensive solutions by HR solutioning partners. 

    Companies of all sizes may profit from T&E systems due to their unique and customizable features – for example, Darwinbox employs the AI technique, OCR, to enable receipt scanning on the go.

    Learn More: Make Your Business Go Places With Darwinbox’s Brand New Travel Module!  

    What to Look for in an Enterprise Travel & Expense System 

    There are 14 must-have features in a T&E enterprise product: 

    1. Mobile app

    If your company's travel and expense solution lacks a mobile app, then employees will have to wait until they get back to their hotel to submit their charges, rather than doing so in real-time. Look for an enterprise travel management system that has a light and easy-to-use mobile app. 

    1. Automated approvals

    Ambiguous approval procedures are among the causes of the delay in employee expense reimbursements. Choose a T&E system that has multi-level, clearly-structured approval processes. The program may configure and automate the travel and expense process based on department, employee level, expenditure type, and so on. 

    1. Easy implementation

    If the implementation of your business's travel cost solution is time-consuming, your IT team may have challenges setting it up and having it ready for usage. Therefore, it is necessary to have a T&E enterprise solution that is simple to install and connects effortlessly with other software applications. Also, ensure that  the provider offers additional training support as necessary. 

    1. An engaging UI

    The arduous and time-consuming process of entering each cost into spreadsheets or tabular systems is a major challenge for employees. Therefore, to make travel and cost management more efficient, look for a solution that is intuitive and provides workers with a dynamic user interface (UI). In addition, they should receive real-time alerts when submitting out-of-policy or duplicate charges. 

    1. Multicurrency support

    When employees travel overseas for work, they incur a variety of expenditures that are compensated in the local currency. Documenting these charges requires manually adjusting transactions into your domestic currency, which may be difficult and complicated for both employees and accountants . Multi-currency capability is among the methods used to circumvent this issue – and is an obvious must-have feature in a T&E enterprise product. 

    1. Expense dashboards

    Traditionally, finance teams performing assessments of travel expenses have to sift through a mountain of receipts and manage different spreadsheets. This approach often consumes a great deal of time and leaves ample room for errors. That is why customizable dashboards are among the features that make a T&E product the right fit for an enterprise. It allows finance teams to view employee and department expenses in a centralized location. 

    1. Reporting and analytics

    Reducing travel expenses, maintaining policy compliance, and avoiding fraud all contribute to optimizing your travel process. To achieve these objectives, you should have insights into the spending patterns of your employees. Select software that provides reporting and analytics in real time. The system should provide essential expenditure data, categorize expenses, and analyze spending habits. 

    1. Ready-to-use integrations

     Various business operations must collaborate with T&E software for automated data synchronization. For instance, you must interface the cost management software with your HRMS in order to retrieve employee information. management, to give you complete and granular visibility. 

    1. Travel inventory

    You require a platform that provides the best access to airfare and hotel providers, enabling you to compare rates, dates, and offers. It is essential to choose software that delivers the maximum value for your money and the smoothest travel and booking experiences for both your employees and travel management administrators. 

    1. Cloud-driven scalability

    As your business expands, so does the number of workers submitting costs. Therefore, the travel expense software must be adaptive to your organization's requirements. You should select a cloud-based software package that allows you to add an infinite number of users, giving equal data storage for each new user. 

    1. Cybersecurity and employee data privacy

    Expense management involves handling sensitive data like payment details, invoicing, and employees' personally identifiable information (PII). Consequently, your organization must manage the data with the greatest care. Look for certifications such as ISO 27001, PCI-DSS, etc. as a required element in an enterprise T&E system. You must safeguard employee data with the use of well-defined rules and access restrictions. 

    1. Compliance features

    Choose a travel and expense system, which ensures e-copies of expenditure reports and receipts are conveniently available, with spending accurately classified as travel, mileage, etc. In addition, the program should be able to determine if certain costs are not tax-deductible. This is a critical feature that makes a T&E management product the right fit for enterprises. 

    1. A good technical support team

    When choosing a new software solution, dependable technical support is crucial. It becomes much more critical in matters of spending and reimbursement, when an error might result in a significant taxation issue. The T&E provider you choose should offer help across numerous channels, including calls, emails, and chats, around the clock. In addition, they should have a team of industry-trained support personnel to resolve any issues with the expense software, reporting procedure, etc. 

    1. Multidevice compatibility

    Even if they do not have access to their work computers or mobile devices, your employees must be able to submit expenses whenever they want. Pick a reliable SaaS-based travel expense software that employees may use from any web-enabled device of their choosing using their login credentials. 

    In addition to these 14 capabilities, several other features make a T&E management product the right fit for enterprises: 

    • Developing uniform expense categories and audit standards 
    • Offering employee reimbursement via direct deposit 
    • Offline reporting of mobile expenses 
    • GPS, location-based services, as well as mileage tracking 
    • Real-time and post-trip assessments of business travel 
    • API accessibility for bespoke data integration 
    • Reporting as well as business intelligence benchmarking 

    However, knowing what to look for in an enterprise T&E software is only part of the process. In order to set up a seamless travel and expense system from the ground up, organizations need to follow a 16-step process. 

    Learn More: Travel and Expense Management: Definition, Significance, Benefits, Key Features & Best Practices

    15 Steps to Set up a Seamless Travel and Expense System 

    Here are the 15 steps you will have to complete to implement a travel and expense system in your organization. 

    1. Identify the goal you are looking to achieve with the T&E system

    Typically, organizations confront three primary obstacles in their T&E initiatives.  

    Business travel may be a stressful experience for employees, resulting in the need for clear regulations and a streamlined system. You may choose to use the travel information you have to organize future trips more efficiently. Or, it may be that the manual expense approval process is lengthy, or that your employees are slow at completing reports. Identify the bottlenecks so you know all your use cases. 

    1. Assess your requirements

    Determine your criteria and the type of solutions that will best meet your specific requirements at this time. How many workers do you have, and what percentage of them travel frequently? What additional services would you want a TEM solution to integrate? Who will manage your TEM initiatives, and will they require training? This will help narrow down your vendor selection process. 

    1. Explore your options

    This step starts with assessing options available in the market based on your organization's requirements. In order to properly identify which tool can offer the desired functionalities or user experience, you must have a thorough understanding of exactly what you want from the program. Your research must include market-leading solutions like Concur and Darwinbox — normally, a SaaS solution will be the  right fit for enterprises. 

    1. Define your T&E digitization budget

    The cost of setup, integration, support, customization, and the solution itself is largely dependent on the type of solution you're willing to invest in. There are three alternatives available: on-premise, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or bespoke deployment. SaaS options are the most optimal in terms of capital investments and operating costs. 

    1. Opt for a product demo

    Once you’ve shortlisted a few solutions, you must have the solution providers demonstrate the product and explain how the different functions operate. This will provide you with a sense of user-friendliness, while also seeing the capabilities in action might highlight functions you want to use in the future. The T&E vendor should have a team available for a guided demonstration, prepared to deliver an in-depth technical explanation, respond to your questions, and develop a distinctive strategy. 

    1. Finetune the solution

    After selection, you may collaborate directly with the service provider to personalize the solution as per your demands. There may be certain aspects that you do not wish to use , while there are others that you do. The solution supplier will have to  collaborate with you to configure the system to match your company's requirements. 

    1. Assess your IT and HR technology infrastructure for integration opportunities

    Most probably, you are currently using various technologies to manage your organizational processes. In addition to deploying the necessary functionalities in a T&E enterprise solution, these features must be interconnected with internal systems and other services. In this phase, the T&E solution provider will outline in detail how they intend to synchronize your data, the duration of the integration, and the system requirements for the program. 

    1. Evaluate the vendor’s adherence to security norms

    What steps are you taking to protect organizational data and confidential documents? How can a vendor protect your personal data on the cloud? Examining certificates, accreditations, and standards is the simplest approach to evaluating a vendor's security profile. ISO27001 is the most effective information security standard, along with GDPR compliance. For example, Darwinbox Travel and Expense meets both these benchmarks, in addition to being SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2 certified.  

    1. Conduct training

    Use user manuals, technical documentation, or hands-on practice to get more accustomed and comfortable with the program once it has been chosen and refined. During this process, you will identify potential questions that may occur after company-wide implementation. It will help you understand what else to look for in the enterprise T&E software you select. 

    1. Start with a pilot implementation

    Gather a select group of individuals to test the program in a pilot phase. Observe and document any early responses, frequent errors, questions raised, and other significant usage data. This is also an excellent opportunity to gather feedback in order to add or delete features as required. Before introducing the product enterprise-wide, update the instructions, training, or videos depending on feedback. 

    1. Make room for legacy data

    The process of transferring your legacy worksheets to a modern T&E system will require significant time and effort. Nonetheless, you should save historical data for upcoming audits. Consequently, information may be simply obtained and evaluated upon request. Before migration, convey your intent to use historical data for analysis and forecasting to the T&E product provider. 

    1. Implement change management in the organization

    Clarify the future changes, what it will entail, the purpose for the transformation, and the advantages the technology will bring to the organization prior to its company-wide implementation. This helps workers adapt, appreciate the decisions, and support the forthcoming implementation. 

    1. Have the resources ready for a remotely managed rollout

    Using a cloud service would mean that the provider will remotely oversee setup, deployment, and technical assistance. However, you must be updated with comprehensive instructions and frequently asked questions so that you can handle minor technical difficulties on your own. It is particularly advantageous if the manufacturer has an implementation model available, such as Darwinbox’s Inflexion, a unique implementation approach built based on lessons learned from more than 550 global enterprise-level installations. 

    1. Roll out the travel and expense system

    Choose an implementation date that covers training, questions, and comments. By ensuring that everybody is on the page – employees, HR, IT, and finance – communication, responses, and guidance can be disseminated in a structured and accessible manner. 

    1. Measure the outcomes

    Be careful to monitor the travel and expense management software's key performance indicators on a regular basis to determine whether or not it's meeting your requirements and whether or not any adjustments are necessary. 

    Learn More: How To Automate Travel Expense Reporting in Enterprises


    Prioritizing your requirements is the first step in selecting the travel and expense management system that will work best for you and your organization. In the end, efficient travel and expense management benefits both parties. When there is a clear policy and clear communication, employees are not confused. By automating repetitive processes, travel administrators may focus on more creative and complex responsibilities (such as travel vendor management). That is why enterprise T&E software makes such a difference and is increasingly becoming indispensable in organizations today. 

    To learn more about how to set up a seamless travel and expense system, schedule a demo with Darwinbox today! 

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