Mobile expense management helps support travel policy

Experts from OpenText and Concur weigh in on the increased interest in mobile expense management.

When considering mobile expense management, experts say you should make certain that you are not expensing the cart before expensing the horse.

“Nobody is buying it [expense management] for the mobile solution,” said Todd Oberg, director of wireless services for Runzheimer International. Instead, end-to-end mobile expense management software providers are adding a mobile user interface because “we hear our customers clamoring for it,” he said.

Other mobile expense management application providers, including Concur and OpenText, agree. Business travelers want their business apps to be as easy to use as consumer apps. More importantly, they no longer want to be chained to their laptops when it comes to travel and expense management, according to Mike Hilton, co-founder and EVP of worldwide marketing at Concur. “They want to use the power of a smartphone to accomplish that task.”

But before an organization considers mobile expense management for its business travelers, experts agree that the company first must look to its core travel and expense (T&E) business processes and solutions -- and start eliminating paper.

Digital receipts with mobile expense management

Enter the digital receipt. With modern T&E applications, receipts are digitized and stored where anyone in the approval and payment workflow can access them at any time for travel expense reporting.

Companies are optimizing T&E applications for smartphones and tablets, says Thomas Walker of OpenText, which offers T&E management software sold through SAP. These devices have cameras that enable business travelers to capture and post the receipt at nearly the same time, using an app, email or SMS.

The majority of business travelers today have smartphones. However, by extending mobile expense management apps to these devices, are organizations able to maintain compliance while discouraging fraud?

Compliance with mobile expense management

Mobile expense management applications “actually improve compliance to policy,” said Hilton. For example, the Concur application enables customers to book flights, hotels and taxis using the smartphone, he said. The workflow connects directly with corporate policies and corporate-approved vendors.

Mobile expense management apps also make it convenient for business travelers to stay within policy, as they can find out whether an expense is appropriate with just a few clicks. Thanks to smartphones and  24/7 accessibility to T&E policies, the days of employees pleading ignorance to corporate policy are disappearing.

Fraud prevention for mobile expense management

The standard rule of the thumb is that 5% of corporate revenue is lost to fraud, and much of that comes from employee travel and expense. “When times get tough, one area you’re likely to have problems in is travel,” said OpenText’s Walker.

While technology has changed, experts say the types of fraud have not changed. They include:

  • Inflating expenses, such as an employee reporting that they paid larger tips for meals than they actually did.
  • Disguising personal expenses as business, such as purchasing home cleaning supplies and gifts for friends along with legitimate business expenses at an office supply store.
  • Faking travel expenses, such as employees taking a blank taxi receipt and claiming the same ride as the colleagues who rode in the same cab with them.
  • Collusion, where an employee and expense authorization manager conspire to cheat the system, such as the manager approving an employee’s out-of-policy meal that he, the manager, attended.

Mobile expense management applications are no panacea to fraud. “Nothing is going to keep you from taking a blank taxi receipt,” said Walker. Fraud protection occurs on the back end of most modern expense management applications, which now enable more eyes on the receipts. While the accounts payable staff checks business travel expenses, so does the approval manager, who now has access to the same digital receipts.

Determining the right fit for mobile expense management

For most companies, mobile expense management is an extendable feature to the existing T&E solution provider. Business travelers demand it, but before making it available, industry experts suggest you ask these questions:

  • Is the user interface intuitive and simple?
  • Is it platform neutral?
  • Does the solution have all the features you require? For example, if you have a workforce that travels by car, will it track driving miles?
  • Have you checked with the legal department? Some companies require paper receipts regardless of what technology is available.
  • Is the solution scalable and does it comply with T&E regulations in other countries?

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