Before You Slash Business Travel, Try New Methods To Manage It

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Consumer confidence recently dropped to its lowest level since 1980. U.S. stock indexes fell for a fourth consecutive week. Economic uncertainty has left companies in a state of panic, many predicting the worst is actually yet to come. And that means lots of scrambling to identify every possible way to cut expenses--headcount reductions, hiring and pay freezes, and even eliminating business travel altogether.

According to a recent study by the folks at Replicon, the market leader in web-based timesheet and expense management software, businesses spend an average of $440 per flight, an amount that’s more than 25% higher than the average cost of domestic airfare. Throw in hotels, taxis, meals, parking, and entertainment, and on-the-road business expenses can add up fast.

But before making major cuts to business travel, companies need to know what’s actually going on internally. Thanks to products such as IBM’s Global Expense Reporting Solutions, Oracle's Travel and Expense Management, and Replicon’s Web Expense, companies are able to automate and streamline their entire travel expense reporting process. They can access a real-time snapshot of where their money is going, something that would have been impossible if they were using Microsoft Excel or a paper-based system.

Web- and cloud-based applications make it possible to look at actual data and make more strategic decisions around where companies spend their money. That way, they can decide to optimize their travel dollars to support relationships with key clients by diverting them away from less profitable projects. "Sometimes high expenses might not be bad," says Lakshmi Raj, cofounder and co-CEO of Replicon. "Companies want to keep their best clients happy."

Automating internal controls can also lead to significant productivity gains. Employees will spend less time submitting and processing expense reports, will be less likely to lose those pesky receipts, and as a result can use the time saved on more value-added, customer-focused duties.

If you don’t have a web- or cloud-based travel expense management solution, no need to panic. Instead, look for other creative ways to maintain client relationships without having to cut your business travel altogether. Start by considering the following low cost alternatives:

  • Cluster visits around trips to meet with key accounts
  • Use web-conferencing applications such as GoToMeeting
  • If all else fails, just pick up the phone

What other strategies would you add to the list? Share your thoughts on what’s worked (and what hasn’t).

Pay Shawn's digital treehouse a visit at shawngraham.me or continue the conversation on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user runningclouds]

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3 Comments

  • Stephie Daniel

    From industry perspective the business travel should mainly focus on the expenses that are going to be at the top most priority terms. It has been seen often that the expenses flows on a steady manner which doesn't have any control and end of the day there seems to be much more hassle and confusions which ultimately speaks up about the financial strategies of the company.

    Based on the industry standard and requirement in today's competitive world, experts recommendation goes with the automated version of managing the business expenses on delegates traveling through out. When I joined my company as the first time to start up my professional I was traveling all around to grasp business and manages the expenses with the expense reporting app from Replicon - http://www.replicon.com/olp/ex... that helps me to keep track of the ongoing, upcoming and every sort of expenses. It was a real buddy through out my life in that company as I was with a hassle free experience with managing the things in a much better way during the travel. Even I implemented the same on my daily expenses as well and got organized in terms of finance and monetary aspects.

  • Angela Tuzzo

    Teleconferencing
    is an obvious way to cut costs, but it means sacrificing actual face time.
    Videoconferencing is more effective, as it allows people to connect from
    remote locations and speak “face-to-face.” This can easily save thousands and
    employees don't have to take time out of their normal work schedules,
    travelling to various locations for meetings.

     

    However,
    videoconferencing alone does not completely satisfy the same needs met during
    an in-person meeting. What if you needed to show someone a document that
    required edits from several individuals? Video functionality allows you to see
    someone’s face, but doesn’t allow you to make edits in real-time, unless
    you have other desktop applications available. While you can still get this
    task accomplished, not having these applications integrated into one
    solution slows down a process meant to save time. A solution to this problem
    would be to overlay video onto a unified communications (voice and data
    integrated) platform in order to give users those exact collaborative
    capabilities.

     

    By
    integrating your basic business-based technologies like your phone and
    combining that with your office communications (instant messenger, video
    conferencing, desktop sharing, telepresence, etc.), things that would’ve been
    challenging to explain over the phone are now much easier to share via
    videoconferencing, desktop sharing, or Live Meeting. You can overlay each of
    the applications with the click of a mouse and everything is integrated
    in one platform. You can easily overlay SharePoint on a video call with a
    click of your mouse and begin making edits in real-time.

     

    www.wvtcg.com

  • Nova Kopitar

    As someone working in the cloud spend management space, it’s not
    surprising to me that companies are over spending on business travel. 
    Business executives too often ignore the fact that it’s not their CFO
    spending money, it’s their employees spending money, and unless certain
    budget limits are set upfront when it comes to purchasing travel,
    employees will do whatever suits them.  While “just pick up the phone”
    may sometimes be the solution, that’s not always the case, so it’s up to
    businesses to build a cost-conscious culture company wide.  Our CEO just
    recently challenged us to individually spend the least amount on
    airfare for an all-hands meeting – a fun competition that is already
    working and saving us money.  Thanks for this article, Shawn, and for
    shedding light on an important business issue – maverick travel spend.