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4 Technologies Shaping the T&E Industry

Expense management is going through a transformation

Corporate travel is a fundamental part of the business world, and it’s only growing from here. According to the Global Business Travel Association, business T&E spending is expected to grow 6.1 percent in 2018 (up from 3.5 and 5.1 percent growth in 2016 and 2017).

Not only that, but T&E costs are on the rise too. We saw airlines cut back most free amenities over the past few years (even free bag check), and hotels are expected to follow suit. Traditionally free perks like parking, Wifi, cancellations, early departures, and so on now come with fees in many chains across the world.

We compiled the top 4 challenges and trends faced by business travel managers; take a look:

  1. The proliferation of blockchain and cryptocurrency 

Cryptocurrency and blockchain are buzzwords in every industry for 2018, and it’s leaking into accounting and expense management too. In fact, corporate travelers using T&E funds are most likely the earliest use cases for these technologies. Travel and expense management can be a headache, especially when traveling abroad due to currency exchanges.

Both Visa and American Express are rolling out blockchain solutions, and MasterCard isn’t far behind with several blockchain patents being filed. These companies are hoping blockchain technology will streamline the T&E process, along with costs of exchanging money across borders and currencies.

And that’s just the established players - blockchain-based startups like OmiseGO are focused on disrupting financial industry giants. OmiseGO not only works for Fiat and cryptocurrencies, but also with reward points, loyalty programs, and more.

Accenture PLC, for example, is using blockchain to shorten security checkpoint lines. Winding Tree is disrupting travel booking sites and apps with a blockchain solution, Cool Cousin uses blockchain to match travelers with guides, and so much more.

If you thought cryptocurrencies and blockchain were fads that are going away, you’ll be sorely disappointed to learn they’re gaining a more prominent role in the expense management process.

  1. Accepting the shared economy

Ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft, along with the hotel alternative Airbnb are continuing to gain acceptance in businesses. In fact, a recent study of T&E reports by FreshBooks found that small businesses choose Uber over taxis at the rate of 3 to 1. In 2014, that number was flipped to the advantage of taxis.

While that same study found Airbnb has yet to dethrone conventional hotels, it has closed the gap from 16 to 1 to 6 to 1 since 2014.

It’s more important than ever to have business expense tracking software that can accommodate modern travel apps and services like these. Product functionality is key, and the best app for tracking expenses and receipts these days can handle such P2P economic trends in T&E reporting.

A recent Business Insider study found that Uber is cheaper than traditional taxis in almost 90 percent of cases (unless stuck in an NYC traffic jam). That’s why it’s often preferred by accounting controllers everywhere. A switch to the sharing economy can save businesses a lot of money.

  1. Autonomy and A.I. are relieving pain points 

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is going to continue disrupting the travel industry. Uber, for example, already has 24,000 self-driving cars being prepared for a 2019 public launch. Google, Intel, Apple, Nvidia, and more tech companies are deeply partnered with car manufacturers, and marketing firm ABI estimates there will be 8 million self-driving vehicles on the road by 2025.

Autonomous cars aren’t the only use of A.I. business travelers will see. Travel industry companies are increasingly releasing A.I. travel bots like Amtrak’s Julie, Expedia’s Facebook Messenger bot, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s Carla that can help people book travel, pack, stick to itineraries, and perform other travel-related tasks.

Top expense management software (even free expense report software) is starting to implement A.I. and automation too. From the ability to scan a receipt using a mobile phone and OCR to automated approval, rejection, and reporting, the expense management process is being streamlined like never before.

Tradeshift Go even goes one step further by using an A.I. virtual assistant to provide consumer-grade services to business travelers.

If you haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon, 2018 is the year to get involved with automation and machine learning. These key A.I. technologies can remove the headaches involved with business travel.

  1. The importance of mobile cyber security 

Cyber security attacks are getting more sophisticated, often using many of the technologies outlined in this post to launch attacks on unsuspecting victims. A recent report by the cyber security firm Webroot found that 91 percent of security professionals are concerned about hackers using A.I.

The city of Riverside, Ohio is the latest organization to be affected by a ransomware attack. In these attacks, cyber criminals seize control of a device through malicious software that locks the user out and demands payment in order to unlock valuable data.

To combat the situation, Europe recently started more heavily enforcing it's 2016 General Data Protection Regulation to foster a more secure business environment. Yet a recent Forrester report found 80 percent of companies are not yet in compliance, despite the rules going into effect May 2018.

Make sure you’re running a VPN for all mobile devices used by your business travelers. Increase security and end-to-end encryption on your business network to prepare for the next cyber attack.

Conclusion

Business expense management and travel are important, but it can also be a hassle if not done correctly. Even the simple process of tracking a meal receipt for reimbursement can be a costly endeavour when business expense tracking software isn’t used.

New technologies are out now that make it much easier, and business travelers can leverage blockchain, A.I. and more to make the process easier.

Before taking your next business trip, ensure that you have a solid platform in place for your company to handle it.

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