The Complete Guide to Business Travel Reporting
Corporate travel reporting is a game-changer for travel managers and their travel stakeholders. It makes the demanding job of keeping tabs on employees flying around the world, 24/7, so much more efficient and scalable. Companies approach travel reporting in different ways: some handle their business reporting with a dedicated in-house travel manager, a COO, or an HR person, while others outsource to a travel management company (TMC). Others are simply unmanaged. It largely depends on the company size and demand for travel.
Business travel reporting is essential, but it’s not straightforward. There are budgets to track, last-minute changes to accommodate, and travel policies to comply with—to name a few. And with global business always increasing, employees are on the move more than ever before.
Despite its complexities, business travel doesn’t have to be complicated. Automated business travel reporting has become the go-to solution for those managing business trips, with real-time updates, in-depth data analysis, and centralized information. -
In this guide, we’ll run through everything you need to know about business travel reporting, from common challenges faced by companies coming from unmanaged or managed setups to their best practices if you’re looking to manage your travel better. Along the way, we’ll explain how choosing the right travel reporting tools can ensure that your business trips continue to be a success.
Ready for a deep dive into all things corporate travel management? Let’s get to those reports!
Why is effective reporting on business travel so important today?
Thorough, detailed business travel reporting is essential to maintaining your company’s financial health. Comprehensive data can help travel managers identify trends in spending patterns and traveler behavior. This enables managers to analyze the efficiency of business trips made by employees and to optimize future company travel.
Here are the top advantages of effective reporting for your business:
Improved budget management
The cornerstone of effective reporting is budget management. Finance teams need comprehensive expense reports to understand where the budget is allocated and to make sure that expenses align with corporate objectives. The bottom line is to ensure finance teams know exactly where money is being spent—and where they’re overspending.
Spotting potential cost savings opportunities
Business travel reporting allows organizations to identify areas where cost savings are possible. This might include evaluating travel options, negotiating with suppliers, and optimizing expense management.
Travel policy compliance
There's little point in a company setting up a travel policy if people don't adhere to it. Being able to report on whether your teams are constantly booking flights or hotels out of policy (e.g. over spending) means that you can address those issues if and when they happen. This system will also allow you to spot reasons for booking out of policy, for example, consistent last-minute bookings.
Keeping track of expenses
Over-expenditure can be the silent leech on company finances, so expense tracking is essential. Having employee travel data in one place is a huge advantage, allowing managers to consistently ensure compliance and closely monitor travel spend in real-time.
Common challenges of effective business travel reporting
Business travel reporting isn’t without its challenges, which vary between unmanaged and managed business travel scenarios. Let’s explore.
Unmanaged business travel
Unmanaged business travel, also known as ‘self-booking’ or ‘open booking’ travel programs, leaves employees to book their own travel, choosing airlines, hotels, and extras including car rentals and flight times. In this scenario, most employees will use websites designed for leisure travel, or by contacting personal travel agents. This is a process that usually involves the employee paying for these services themselves, and then submitting a receipt for reimbursement.
Here are some drawbacks:
- Fragmented data: if employees are booking on different platforms, data becomes fragmented and difficult to track. This can be a nightmare for finance teams trying to stay on top of each and every receipt. Effective reporting hinges on gathering scattered data for an accurate ‘bigger picture,’ the foundation for effective accounting.
- Unmanaged business travel often relies on manual processes: this increases the risk of human error and consumes precious employee time, which could be better spent on other tasks. Mistakes can be costly, and many cannot be reversed.
- Missing data: lost receipts, incomplete information, and inconsistent reporting practices can complicate business travel expense reporting. Overcoming these data gaps is essential for comprehensive reporting.
- Employee duty of care: unmanaged travel systems can make it difficult to track an employee down, especially when there are last-minute modifications. This presents a problem for the company as they’re bound to their employee duty of care, meaning they have a responsibility to look after an employee at all times, particularly in case of emergency.
- Not getting the best deals, or having control on spend: booking through third-party platforms will mean the company doesn’t get access to corporate rates, nor rack up any travel points for using certain membership programs at scale. At the same time, leaving employees to book on their own means a company has less control over their spend and policy compliance until it’s too late.
On the hunt for the best travel expense software around?
Managed business travel
Managed business travel means that a company takes care of travel for their employees. They might use a traditional travel agency or an online travel management software (like TravelPerk). With travel software, employees are empowered to book their own trips, but all through the same platform, resulting in a much more controlled process as companies integrate their travel policies directly into the platform. Employees can maintain their independence while companies can effectively oversee their business travel.
Here are some common challenges:
- Data overload: managed business travel often involves collecting a vast amount of data, which means that companies can struggle to determine which KPIs are most important to their business. Without focus and direction, data reporting isn’t much help.
- Knowledge sharing: implementing a new tool or system for business travel reporting is effective only if employees adopt and understand it. Effective training and knowledge sharing are the pillars of a successful transition.
Best practices for effective business travel reporting
Now we’ve identified the most common pitfalls of business travel reporting, we’re going to run through the best ways to address them, using advice from those out there managing travel right now.
There are certain steps you can take to ensure effective business travel reporting on each and every trip. To make life easier for you, here are our top tips for consistently staying on top of employee travel.
Set clear, concise policies and promote awareness
Organizations should establish clear corporate travel policies and ensure that employees are aware of them. This fosters compliance by making employees conscious of what can and cannot be expensed and booked.
Whether it’s expensing car rental, following reimbursement processes, or choosing more eco-friendly options to reduce the company's carbon footprint, there should be comprehensive policies in place for all eventualities.
“I’d recommend starting with a clear and concise travel expense policy that could include different “zones” with expense limits. An easy to follow process of uploading expenses and paying them out in a timely manner, if it’s a bigger company maybe investing in an expense management tool like Expensify to get accurate reporting and automatic reimbursement.
Other than that, be sure when building a policy that it’s in line with company culture and creating the desired behaviors!”Sebastian Ibarra, People Operations Manager at Kodify Media Group
Leverage technology to automate the process
Automated management tools are a game-changer in business travel reporting: they significantly speed up the process and minimize inaccuracies and delays. Utilize modern business travel solutions and expense management software with mobile apps to streamline the process—this way, employees can collect receipts to make reporting even easier and keep things on the go.
Consolidating all travel data in one place, using tools like TravelPerk, simplifies travel management and significantly improves data analysis. The single platform means no information gets lost, and it’s easy to see how individual employees are sticking to their travel budgets with real-time updates.
In addition, the third-party integrations offered by TravelPerk mean that you can easily connect this data with popular expense management solutions like Divvy and Expensify.
“We’ve recently started using Pleo with TravelPerk and it has made reporting/reimbursing travel costs so much easier! We used to have to e-mail our receipts to the accounting department (very old-school, time-consuming and prone to delay), but now it’s all done in the app. You just snap a photo of our receipt, upload it to the app, your manager approves and you can be reimbursed straight away.
This makes our reporting process a dream, and saves hours of time.”Anja Sejfic, HR Business Partner at Rinkel
Train your employees and gather feedback
Effective training and feedback mechanisms are essential for minimizing mistakes and maximizing compliance. Encourage employees to provide insights into what works and what doesn't, and be proactive about addressing their concerns. This has a couple of benefits: not only does it boost engagement and employee recognition, but it also ensures a smooth process.
“I've read the book No Rules Rule, and I try to go with this principle I learned there: it's more important to build a great culture and trust, having an environment in which people know what to do and don't do than endless policies.
Some employees will sometimes take a chance and try to overspend on a trip or do something they shouldn't do. If you try to always go against this, you'll end up building longer and longer policies that no one reads anyway, constantly adding to all the things people can't do.
So, it's simpler to write a short, clear policy with a very efficient process, and then train on culture and build trust for the company. I'm a Chief People Officer, I have four country HR heads reporting to me, and that's the advice I give them when they building their policies.”Cécile POMPEÏ, Chief People Officer at Sistema Biobolsa
Run regular audits and update your policies where necessary
Business travel reporting should allow organizations to analyze trends and identify opportunities for savings. Based on the insights you gather, companies should be prepared to update travel policies to stay competitive and cost-effective. Certain metrics and KPIs, including booking tool adoption, negotiated savings, and carbon emissions, can help you evaluate your travel program performance—data you can use to keep optimizing your travel policy as and when.
Start today to stay on top of your company’s business travel
Optimizing each company's journey can eventually make a huge difference. With TravelPerk, an industry leader in business travel, you can access the airlines and hotels you’re used to, with the bonus of collecting all your travel data in one place.
The all-in-one booking platform allows employees to make their bookings based on their preferences, while your company can add in any necessary travel policies or restrictions in a few clicks.
With the additional option of third-party integrations, you can link up your existing travel tech stack to ensure a seamless transition. Finance teams can enjoy a full overview of company travel spend, and managers can keep a close eye on employee comings and goings.
With its world-class inventory, TravelPerk also builds significant cost-saving opportunities—many more than your average travel agency. With a phone number linking you to 24/7 customer service, you’re only a call away from expert assistance.
What are you waiting for? Free up those hours spent on pesky admin and streamline your company travel process today by signing up for a free demo.