How will T&E Expense Management shape up in India in 2019: Trends & Predictions 2019

82 percent of Indian companies either partially or entirely lack T&E process automation

With corporate travel spending on the rise, travel-related technology getting smarter every day and millennials entering the workforce, the onus is on businesses to deliver sustainable value in T&E in 2019. Keeping this in mind, Happay conducted a benchmark study to determine where along the curve Indian companies stand till 2018 in terms of being ready to deliver this value.

Surprisingly, the report found that 82 percent of Indian companies either partially or entirely lack T&E process automation, despite it being the second largest operational expense following payroll. The good news, however, as per our report is that about 50 percent CFOs are planning to completely automate T&E expense management processes over the next two quarters. That said, CFOs, CHROs and CIOs will play a crucial role in enabling digital transformations in T&E in 2019.

Six T&E trends that will take off in 2019

Great employee experience (EX) and greater mobility in T&E
While businesses made considerable progress in terms of managing T&E data in 2018, user experience, was to a large extent, neglected. Despite the widespread penetration of mobile devices and desktops, merely 12 percent and 27 percent of the companies reported that they permit employees to use these devices for travel requests and expense claims.

However, we expect this to change in 2019. Mobility will be one of the most-desired capabilities of expense management solutions. As BYOD and company-provided mobile devices become increasingly common, employees will be able to submit expense reports quickly in the same instant that they receive an invoice, and track approvals via mobile apps.

There will be greater reliance on the auto-extraction capabilities of T&E apps - these will include OCR, import of data directly from email inbox and SMEes, integrations with travel apps such as Uber and Ola, and integrations with TMC solutions.

Death of partial automation in T&E
21 percent CFOs from our Benchmark report cited that their biggest concern with their current systems today was the manual nature of the claims process (including data entry, submission of hard copies of receipts and vouchers, and physical policy checks and reconciliation).

The report also found that 33 percent of the companies were still grappling with GST compliance due to a lack of digital transformation of expense management, particularly T&E. Complete and end-to-end automation of the T&E process will not only address all these concerns but will also significantly reduce unnecessary hassle for employees and finance teams – thus enhancing end-user experience.

Effective regulation of expense frauds with AI and ML
One of the most serious and challenging issues that companies faced in 2018 is the misappropriation of funds. According to international studies, one out of every five expense reports is fraudulent in nature.

Surprisingly, about 49 percent of CFOs interviewed in our benchmark study were unaware of this – though the number is expected to reduce considerably over the next year to just 33 percent. 2019 will demand greater monitoring and regulation of expense management, making it as transparent as it should be time and cost-effective.

With AI-powered automated T&E solutions, companies will be able to automatically monitor, track and approve expenses, with compliance and discrepancy-related issues being immediately flagged and weeded out. AI-powered and automated systems will ensure transparent, error-free processing.

Eliminating fraud is a journey – with just the first step of automation, companies will soon be able to effortlessly identify and track large numbers of claims and receipts, ensuring corporate compliance, preventing duplication and saving millions in lost revenue.

Real-time expense management and faster data recovery
Audits are often very painful for many organizations. Besides the difficulty of facilitating the task itself – right from recovering past data to getting hold of accountable people – there’s the very real stress of waiting to find out whether or not everything is in order.

Many CFOs in the Happay study revealed that their finance departments found it challenging to retrieve the previous year’s expense data during audits. In fact, 55 percent of the CFOs stated that recovery of past data was too time-consuming and people-intensive. On the other hand, 44 percent of CFOs with cloud-based systems/ custom software, accounting packages and ERPs could retrieve historical data within mere seconds. Thus, real-time expense management will not only help control expenses but also ensure compliance and easier data retrieval.

Convergence of booking and T&E systems, and more integrations
As user experience gains importance, streamlining different parts of the T&E process onto one platform will also become important in 2019. With business travel becoming increasingly common and frequent and many employees booking tickets by themselves, there’s a significant opportunity to better support it via integration of booking portals with related expense management systems - such that employees are able to plan their trips, book their tickets and report their expense claims from a single place.

2019 will also see more seamless integrations of T&E systems with Enterprise softwares such as accounting, ERPs, HRMS, TMCs, etc.

Shift from in-house/on-premise to Saas and cloud-based solutions
As the demand for more streamlined and centralised processes increases, organisations will start switching to SaaS, cloud-enabled models that not only automate, optimise and accelerate several functions but also ease the burden on IT personnel. What’s more, these solutions can be deployed by companies of all sizes, making it possible for nearly anyone to leverage their extremely economical, customisable, scalable, accessible and agile benefits.

-- Anshul Rai, CEO and Co-Founder, Happay.

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