The business travel, expense and invoice landscape is experiencing a rapid evolution, fueled by emerging technologies, shifting employee expectations, and globalization. SAP Concur experts have taken a close look at the trends that will shape business and impact employees most in the coming year. Below are our predictions for 2018 and beyond.
Conventional expense reports won’t exist in a paperless world
As advanced technologies become further integrated into travel and spend management software, expense reporting will automatically happen in the background and save employees time to focus on business priorities. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and scanning recognition technologies will continue to eliminate manual expense reporting tasks, while paper receipts will become obsolete with the standardization of e-receipts and countries like France, Spain, China and Japan deregulating paper receipt documentation and validation. Machine learning and automation advancements will also make it easier to spot patterns across data, leading to a decline in expense fraud. In tandem, non-traditional payment technologies like Blockchain and vCards will fundamentally change the way in which transactions and reimbursements are handled, becoming the new norm for managed travel programs. – Hendrik Vordenbaeumen, Vice President of Product Management, SAP Concur
The sophistication of small biz
Historically, enterprise tools have come with an enterprise cost, effectively pricing out many technologies for small businesses. Not anymore. The rise of the cloud has leveled the playing field by ushering in a world of web-based apps that are cost-effective for small businesses to deploy as they position themselves for rapid growth. In the coming year, small businesses will adopt cloud-based enterprise tools at a faster pace to enhance business functions. For example, we expect technology will help small businesses tackle traditional functions such as corporate travel management, as well as take advantage of emerging technologies like chatbots. We will also see small businesses prioritize enterprise tools that are built to scale, poising them for growth while growing alongside them. – Christal Bemont, SVP and GM of the Small, Midsized and Nationals Business Unit, SAP Concur
Preferences, predictive analytics and personalization will change everything in business travel
Technology is surpassing business travelers where they are and forecasting their next move. Predictive analytics will transform the traveler experience by anticipating, recommending and booking optimal travel itineraries based on past experiences, calendars, user profiles and preferred loyalty programs. Advanced technologies will take personalized travel experiences even further with customized room temperature, amenities and entertainment preferences ready upon arrival. On top of that, virtual concierges will offer 24/7 assistance to book dinner reservations, reschedule meeting spaces and request rides. – John Dietz, Vice President, Concur Labs
It’s 10:00 pm and an incident or natural disaster has occurred somewhere in the world. Do you know where your traveling employees are? Could you determine in the next hour those who were impacted, safe or might need additional assistance?
In light of recent events and natural disasters, business traveler safety is a growing concern. When employees are traveling, the business is responsible for their well-being and safety, and yet GBTA found that nearly one in three travel managers do not know how long it would take their company to confirm the safety of every employee after an incident. This is a c-level responsibility and executives need to be assured their company can reach and account for their travelers during emergencies. In the year ahead, we expect duty-of-care to remain at the top of c-level priorities. Businesses will continue scrutinizing their data, systems, processes and procedures to determine how they can improve their ability to locate and communicate with their employees when the unfortunate occurs. – Mike Eberhard, President, SAP Concur
Invisible employee spending becomes visible (and manageable)
Employees are gaining more access to and will spend more of corporate funds across more spend categories using more payment methods than ever before. This trend is poised to heat up as even more GenZ workers hit the workforce and are paying more supplier invoices directly with company checks; booking and managing travel directly on their mobile devices; and using corporate, ghost, virtual or even personal cards for just about everything. This employee-initiated spend has fast become the largest unmanaged spend category in almost every company’s financial program largely due to the fact that there’s minimal or no forethought or oversight from finance and procurement managers into this spending. It doesn’t have to be this way. The technologies available to automate and track this spending have caught up with technologies used to spend the money. The future is here. With a better understanding of where employee spend is really happening and the categories it comes from, finance and procurement managers can develop a strategy to better manage it proactively and ultimately save money. – Guy La Corte, GM of Americas Enterprise Business, SAP Concur