Emerging technologies will relieve the payments and expense pain points experienced by travellers and managers alike, says BCD’s penultimate ‘Inform’ report

Emerging technologies will relieve the pain points experienced by travellers and managers alike when it comes to expenses, claims BCD Travel in its fifth and penultimate Inform paper on emerging technology. The paper, ‘Payment and Expense, Emerging Technology and Travel Management’ examines how new innovations will change payment and expense.

As BCD Travel highlights, every business trip triggers a universally disliked task from which few travellers – from senior executive to new hire – are exempt: filing an expense report. But, emerging payment and expense technology could one day actually completely relieve travellers of the need to claim expenses, according to the company.

The insight paper says new technology can ease the burden placed on travellers with emerging technologies also helping management maintain control over payment. In the perfect world travellers are ultimately looking for a completely invisible process, with no need even to make payments or expense claims.

BCD Travel believes that this is truly achievable. “Payment and expense could prove to be the area of travel management where emerging technologies make life better for everyone involved in corporate travel,” it says.

The report takes a closer look at how emerging technologies like machine learning, chatbots et al can radically simplify payment and expense management, not just for travellers, but for their employers, too. The data visibility enhancements made possible by these technologies will improve control while freeing up management time, it claims.

“Anyone who has travelled for business has experienced the inconvenience of filing an expense report,” says Mike Eggleton, senior manager analytics and research at BCD Travel. “In the near future, technologies using machine learning will dramatically simplify expense reports – and reduce the dread we have for them today.”

The paper includes some examples of just where emerging technologies and best practices can be incorporated into programmes to ease pressure on travellers and travel managers alike. These include machine learning providing an analysis of invoices and automatically feeding information into the correct fields of an expense claim and Blockchain allowing a supplier to issue a fully itemised transaction records directly into the client company’s accounting system.

Similarly, the Internet of Things can automate the hotel experience by sending a receipt directly to a traveller’s expensing system, while booking and payment can be made ‘fun’ by allowing travellers to book a flight by selecting an aeroplane that’s flying across a virtual map via virtual or augmented reality.

The travel management company concludes that while lots of great ideas are emerging in payment and expense, “many aren’t fully formed yet” and there are significant technical, legal and other challenges to overcome. While, “time is on the side of travel managers”, and they can afford to take time when considering what enhancements emerging technology can offer, they can’t delay. “Now is the time to start investigating what new payment options are available and what’s in the pipeline,” it says.

Emerging technology is great at capturing the imagination, but it notes “novelty alone is not enough”. When considering new payment and expense options, business should evaluate how they will genuinely help meet strategic company goals. “Prioritise the innovations that save time, money or both,” it recommends.

Payment and Expense is the fifth report in a six-part Inform research series on emerging technology and travel management. Previous reports have covered the impact of new and emerging technologies on sourcing, policy, communications, and duty of care. The final report will explore how emerging technologies will improve business travel performance.

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