Travel expenses might not be the largest cost component in your company’s accounting books, but it’s definitely a difficult one to track and control. Even after laying down a clear set of travel policies, ensuring that every corporate traveler follows the best practices is not certain.
To ensure that corporate travelers are following travel policy guidelines, managers need visibility into their spending patterns and purchase decisions. The management needs to set up approval workflows to verify that travelers are purchasing from the preferred carriers and suppliers. Finally, spending limits need to be defined and expenses tracked for compliance reporting.
Managing all of these tasks manually can be a huge administrative burden for managers. To drive efficiency, they should use travel management software that comes with functionalities such as approval workflows, booking, and expense reporting.
In this buyers guide, we’ll take a closer look at the features and benefits of travel management software to help you find the right one for your business.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What is travel management software?
Travel management software is a tool used to manage business travel requests and expenses. Corporate travelers can use the tool to self-book flights, cars, and hotels from approved providers via their profile dashboards, while management can use it to check employee compliance with travel policies, analyze expense trends, and identify cost improvement areas.
User profile dashboard in Concur (Source)
Common features of travel management software
Travel management software comes with functionalities that reduce the administrative burden that arises out of messy paperwork. Let’s look at some of the common features:
||Set up approval workflows based on different parameters, such as corporate traveler groups, business departments, countries, and budget.
||Allow users to upload receipts, invoices, and related expense data such as credit card transaction details into the system.
||Book flights and hotel accommodations for single or multi-destination trips, while automatically finding the best rates from preferred providers.
||Inform users on whether their travel choices match company policies and allow managers to quickly view the same information. Track policy compliance issues by departments, traveler groups, and expense amounts.
|User profile dashboard
||Allow users to open new travel requests, track approval status, make bookings, and upload expense receipts on a single dashboard.
|Reporting and analytics
||Understand the expense trends, policy non-compliance, and cost improvement areas for individual or group travelers with the help of visual reports, such as charts and graphs.
What type of buyer are you?
Travel management software can be used by small and midsize businesses (SMBs) as well as large enterprises. Let’s look at the chief concerns of these two buyer groups:
- Small and midsize businesses: Since travel expenses of SMBs are not the largest cost component in their account books, these buyers shouldn’t select a travel management solution simply because it's rated highly by other companies. They can start out with a cloud-based tool that offers the basic features and are available on lower monthly subscription plans. Correspondingly, integrations are something these buyers can overlook at the initial stages, until they are confident that a dedicated tool for this function is useful.
- Large businesses: Typically, these buyers already have software tools to handle core functions such as human resources (HR), accounting, and customer relationship management (CRM). Travel management as a function needs to be closely tied to these core processes to ensure transparency and consolidation of processes. Thus, extensive integrations with other business applications become a key requirement for this buyer group.
Benefits of using travel management software
Travel management software helps in automating the management of corporate travel booking, allowing your finance department and team manager to focus on more strategic tasks rather than manually tracking expenses and compliance issues for every employee.
- Improves travel policy compliance: The tool offers reporting dashboards that allow managers to track and trace the causes of non-compliance with their company’s travel policies. Managers can quickly identify areas where most users find it challenging to follow compliance, and suggest appropriate remedial actions.
- Lessens administrative burden: By allowing users to self-book, raise approval requests, and upload expense receipts, the tool relieves the finance team from repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on analyzing expense trends and suggesting cost improvement strategies.
Key considerations when selecting travel management software
Besides analyzing the features and understanding the benefits, businesses should keep a few additional factors in mind when purchasing travel management solutions.
Let’s look at some of them:
- Mobile access: Does your business need to allow users to book and manage travels while on the go? If yes, then you should check whether the software is accessible from iOS and Android mobile devices. Using the mobile dashboards, travelers will be able to book flights and accommodation, capture and upload travel expense receipts, and receive booking status alerts directly on their phones. One caveat is that you should check whether the features of the mobile version are at par with that of the web version.
- Integrations: Integrations become important when you’re managing large user groups. For instance, with a travel management software that integrates with your company’s HR solution, you’ll be able to seamlessly share details of employees between the two systems. Likewise, integration with accounting solutions allows you to update your company's account books with travel expense data imported automatically from the travel management solution.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They were obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.