Travel Expense Reporting

Read about the latest desktop and mobile expense management systems offering a variety of handy expense reporting tools.

Naeem Ahmad, global administrator for corporate travel with Zarlink SemiConductor, headquartered in Ottawa, sounds triumphant as he recounts how he now spends 10 to 15 minutes a week processing travel expense reports when not so long ago the same task took four to five hours. Reimbursements take about a week now instead of four to six weeks. Users submitting their expense reports for business travel have equivalent time savings. Zarlink had already been using an expense management system but it wasn’t linked to their travel program and it required manual entries onto an Excel spreadsheet. They waited on receipts, had to sort out inaccuracies, and waited on approvals.

Sound familiar?

Desktop and mobile expense management systems offer a variety of expense reporting tools to ease the tension that can exist between business travellers and their accounting departments. “We wanted something more robust,” says Ahmad. Four years ago they switched to Concur Travel and Expense because, explains Ahmad, “It was the only product we found that combined travel booking in the same application as expenses.” It also integrates corporate credit card transactions and e-receipts. Zarlink integrates its own travel policies, bookings and billings into their system. “It makes it easy for everyone,” says Ahmad.

Scott Newell, Concur’s GM for Canada, says the product is unique in the way it connects the travel process and expense process. “It’s one hundred per cent web based and in a single platform you can book travel and manage expense with a wide range of configurability.”

David Barrett spent years on the submitting end of expense reports and describes the experience as, “Usually horrible. I knew there had to be a better way.” The self-confessed ‘alpha-geek’ is founder and CEO of Expensify, which brands itself as Expense Reports That Don’t Suck. Expensify has attracted about 400,000 users since its launch in 2009. Barrett says he pays particular attention to developinga product that works as well for the people submitting expense reports as it does for finance departments. Completely paperless, Expensify features include receipt scanning  and capture, and online reimbursement payments.

A year ago UNIGLOBE Travel International partnered with MobileXpense, which centrally calculates business travel costs and expenses entered by employees anywhere in the world, in real time. MobileXpense appeals mostly to multi-national companies and operates in 25 countries around the world, including Canada.

Two Sides
While mobile expense reporting is gaining traction in nearly 50 per cent of companies, there are some drawbacks for business travellers and the travel program, this according to results from a February 2011 AirPlus Survey entitled, Expense on the Go.

40.7%   Policy configurations within the tool not as robust as the full desktop version
21.2%   Approval routing not as robust as full desktop version
23.9%   Travellers seem less vigilant about accuracy when reporting via mobile app
27.4%   Approvers seem less vigilant about reviewing documents via mobile app
23.9%   Receipts are more of a problem
20.4%   Travellers/approvers do not pick up messages/notifications in a timely manner
38.1%   I don’t know

By Pauline Mitchell

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