How to Choose Travel and Expense Management Software
If you’re looking to get a handle on travel and expenses at your company, you’ve come to the right place. Rocketrip has a number of resources that will help you establish an effective process for managing your employees’ travel booking, spending, and expense reimbursement.
Our free example travel policy takes care of the heavy-lifting and eliminates the need to write your own from scratch. It’s a customizable template that can be tailored to match your organization’s specific requirements.
The first step to efficiently managing employee expenses is having the right tools at your disposal.
But with so many competing solutions on the market, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Expense management has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, and software providers like to trumpet the ever-increasing sophistication of their products.
The irony is that the complexity of these technologies, while undeniably impressive, can be unbelievably confusing to someone who just wants to spend less on – and think less about – employee expenses. If that describes you, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will help you cut through the clutter and identify the most important components of managing your company’s expenses.
Rocketrip is a flexible platform for managing travel costs while rewarding employees for spending less on their trips. It’s not a full-suite expense reporting solution, but it does work in tandem with all the major providers, such as Concur, Expensify, Certify, and Chrome River. Our customers use a wide range of expense solutions. At the end of this post, you’ll find a list of some of the most popular travel and expense management software, as well as some additional resources to consult for user reviews.
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What’s Travel and Expense Management?
There are many categories of employee expenses, but in practice the most significant is travel. The typical organization spends 10-12% of its total budget on expenses related to travel and entertainment (T&E). Flights, hotels, and rental cars account for the majority of spending. Other common expenses include meals, client entertainment, and conference fees.
Expense management software allows companies to submit, process, reimburse, and report on employee spending.
From the employee’s perspective, these systems should provide a convenient way to record spending, organize receipts, create expense reports, and collect reimbursement. Some systems also let employees book trips and manage their travel itineraries.
On the organizational level, companies need a way to approve trips before they happen, reimburse employees through a central payroll system, and report on overall spending.
Important Features of Expense Software
You don’t have to understand the fine points of cloud-based deployment, mobile capability, or ERP-integration to find an expense management solution that makes sense for your company. Think in terms of functionality. What are the biggest challenges faced by employees and administrators, and what features would be most helpful for them?
Submitting and Tracking Expenses
- Integrated Payment – To prevent expenses from slipping through the cracks, it’s important to automatically collect transaction records from multiple sources, such as an employee’s personal cards, his company-issued card, or a shared corporate card.
- Receipt Tracking – Only a few years ago, being able to digitally capture and parse receipts using a smartphone camera seemed like magic. Now it’s a standard feature of all the major expense tracking apps. Another essential method for tracking receipts is email forwarding, especially for hotel and flight bookings.
- Itemized Expense Report Creation – Organizing expense reports is easier said than done. Should an employee submit separate reimbursement requests for his flight, hotel, and other purchases on a trip? Should he consolidate expenses on the individual trip level, or include multiple trips that occurred within a given time period? Some of this is a matter of company policy, but it’s critical that your expense software has an intuitive way to categorize expenses.
- Automated Reimbursement – Reimbursement can occur through the company payroll system, or direct deposits into an employee’s linked bank account. To ensure that reimbursement occurs in a timely manner, many expense apps send reminder notifications to submit receipts.
Some expense software doubles as an online booking tool, allowing employees to make their travel arrangements, then automatically submit their trip details for approval and reimbursement.
The integrated approach can work well for companies that utilize a travel management company, such as Direct Travel, Carlson Wagonlit, or Travel Leaders. When trip booking is linked with the expense reimbursement process, employees can only choose between options that comply with company policy. For instance, booking tools can be configured to only include airlines and hotels with which a company has a negotiated rate.
The downside is that employees might feel overly restricted, and go outside the official booking channel. For this reason, your company’s expense system has to be adaptable, and capture spending information from many sources.
- Booking – In-app booking brings together pre-trip planning and post-trip reimbursement.
- Itinerary Management – In addition to receipt scanning, some mobile expense apps give travelers a way to organize their trip details, manage boarding passes, and even receive notifications about flight delays.
- Mileage Tracking – Another feature enabled by mobile technology, mileage tracking uses a phone’s GPS to automatically calculate how much reimbursement an employee is entitled to based on distance traveled.
Approval and Reporting
The features above affect how employees track and submit their expenses. The ones listed below relate to the back-end of expense management: that is, how a company approves, reimburses, and reports on expenses.
- Integrations – Expense management intersects with several finance, HR, and CRM systems. When an employee submits receipts after a business trip, this information should result in an adjustment to the company’s general ledger, reimbursement through the payroll system, and possibly a record being entered into Salesforce.
- Automated Approval – Many expenses can be automatically approved based on preset filters, while others should be flagged for further review.
- Reporting – Custom reports and dashboards give a clear picture of spending on the employee and departmental level.
Prioritize User Experience – It’s worth noting that the major expense management services are more similar than dissimilar when it comes to administrative functionality. It’s expected that expense software will integrate with a payroll management system, or provide departmental reporting. These considerations are important, but ultimately, the success of your company’s expense management system depends more on whether it works for employees.
How to Pick?
There’s no such thing as the best expense management software, only the one that works best given your company’s needs. Here are a few widely-used, well-regarded providers:
Expense Management Software Providers
Reviews and Additional Resources
- G2 Crowd Guide to Expense Management – A comprehensive overview of expense management best practices, as well as a breakdown of the major systems based on market presence and consumer reviews.
- Consumer Affairs Expense Management Sotware Comparison
- Capterra’s Top Expense Report Software Products