There aren’t many people these days who at some point haven’t had to submit an expenses form. For some it’s a rarity, and the processes are unfamiliar and a hassle.
For others – many others – it’s commonplace. But that doesn’t make it any less of an annoyance: there are forms to fill, categorisations to make and different processes to accommodate. And then there are the receipts. So many of them. Some of them electronic, some of them hard copy. They need to be sorted, and copied or scanned, and submitted with the claim.
If we travel regularly for our employer we’re going through processes like these every week, or some poor soul is doing it for us. And if it’s a burden for the people submitting claims, it’s of course a burden too for the people processing them.
It may be a chore for all concerned, but to my mind it’s also something from which we can learn a useful lesson – not just for us as individuals but for the organisation as a whole. The efficiency of the travel and entertainment (T&E) function is one of the best indicators of the soundness of our processes that we have. Seemingly small things such as these can speak volumes – and what’s more, they may not be so small anyway.
To begin with, T&E is usually after payroll the second largest controllable expense for corporations and so is a critical yardstick of financial prudence. Next, it is a mark of good governance: it shows the board and the rest of the world how robust the organisation is in the face of error and fraud.
It’s also a sign of corporate responsibility. For instance, if systems and policies limit travel to journeys that have to be justified against accepted criteria, the enterprise can demonstrate it is taking its environmental responsibilities seriously.
It’s a demonstration, too, of an organisation’s commitment to its people. Employees may often be late in submitting their travel booking requirements and expenses claims, but they expect the response to be prompt, fair and efficient. These things are important. They contribute significantly to the corporate sense of wellbeing.
What’s needed – and what’s available
What’s needed is a robust and cohesive approach to travel and entertainment that brings together people, processes and technology in a way that can be managed, that makes sense, that can be measured and that delivers results.
The approach we take at Capgemini meets this brief. Our T&E services are delivered “as-a-stack” –an integrated mix of layers including services, processes, applications and infrastructure that deliver business benefits from the outset. It means organisations can avoid the hassle of sourcing infrastructure, applications and business process services from separate service providers and instead buy a fully packaged business process as a service.
Each T&E stack is bespoke, but within it you’ll typically find:
Mobility services incorporating mobile digital technologies (a) to improve travel safety and make life easier for employees and (b) to address immigration, tax-related and group reporting requirements for senior management
Light travel-desk support to provide guidance on the use of T&E tools to the end-user
Personal Assistant support to give senior managers time to focus on the value-adding aspects of their roles
Additional analytics functionality to aid contract negotiations with key suppliers
Financial and other benefits
Many of the best outcomes of an approach like this relate to the character and reputation of the organisation. For example, by reducing the scope for fraud and policy abuse the enterprise can protect and even enhance its brand. The organisation also benefits from sustaining or improving goodwill among its employees, who will appreciate the promptness, clarity and ease of use a cohesive system can deliver.
But there are financial advantages too. We’ve found our model can reduce total T&E cost of service by up to 35% and reduce T&E spend by at least 5%. When you consider – as I mentioned earlier in this post – that travel and entertainment can be one of most significant controllable costs, these figures are pretty significant.
So, is T&E really such a small thing? No, not at all. It’s as important to the bottom line as it is to corporate culture. Effective T&E control says a lot about how an organisation functions – and in this case, how a business addresses risk, compliance, cost control, employee satisfaction and environmental sustainability.