October 5, 2020
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Levvel Research’s 2020 Travel & Expense Insight Report is nearly guaranteed to be a standout amongst previous years’ versions. Because of COVID-19, 2020 has been a year unlike any other, and corporate travel and expense management has been drastically affected by the global pandemic. Airport volume and hotel occupancy are at an all-time low; conferences and events have been cancelled with little to no attempts to reschedule.
Today’s business environment is best summarized as “uncertain”. But the global economy continues to push forward with new adjustments: many offices have moved to fully remote, conferences have shifted from in-person to virtual, and dogs and children are now commonplace interruptions during business meetings. These modifications are what makes this year’s study so compelling, as the Levvel Research team analyzes how the pandemic has affected corporate expense management this year and what shifts will affect travel and expense management (TEM) for years to come.
Here are some of the things Levvel Research is most excited to see in the 2020 Travel & Expense Insight Report:
Travel and expense management has long been one of the first processes companies choose to automate, but does this remain true amidst the pandemic? Last year’s data showed booking was increasingly automated prior to expense. Levvel Research’s data indicates that this will most likely reverse this year, as organizations’ priorities have drastically changed. Implementing a tool that relies on employee travel is not an asset in a time when these opportunities are at a historic low.
There are a few industries where this trend may continue, as travel is essential to some companies’ core business function, but the majority of companies will not prioritize booking tools. Automating expense reporting, on the other hand, may make more sense than ever before. Because of remote work, companies are operating out of many different locations, making communication and visibility even tougher. These are two strengths an expense management tool provides. Additionally, as highlighted in the 2020 Procurement Insight Report, almost half of organizations say that the effects of the pandemic have made business process automation more appealing, which may translate to an increase in adoption of expense management software.
For those organizations that already use an expense management solution, Levvel Research was interested to see if the pandemic has changed the frequency, purpose, or value of the software. From a frequency of usage standpoint, less travel may mean less expense reports. However, with many employees working remotely, turning their homes into part-time, small-scale offices requires different equipment and services. This may mean that travel and expense management tools are doubling as elementary procurement tools, as they have the functionality to approve requests.
Expense management software is not nearly as equipped for handling purchasing as an eProcurement tool, but the data suggests that many companies are in discussions with TEM software providers. These providers have the functionality to tackle some of procurement’s more basic tasks and go beyond mere expense management to something of a “purchase order lite” system. Without adding the cost of additional implementation and licensing, TEM offers some of the visibility and centralization Eprocurement brings. The focus on visibility and centralization also places more importance on duty-of-care functionality, which addresses the legal and moral obligation organizations have to ensure their employees’ safety. For companies that have maintained work-related travel or are looking to start traveling again soon, knowing employees’ location, health, and safety is a must. The focus on these concerns will be a permanent effect of COVID-19.
The end of the pandemic has felt like a moving target. The timeline has shifted from June, to the end of summer, to the end of 2021. Some companies are simply telling employees they will be working remotely “for the foreseeable future.” The eventual travel and return-to-work dates that companies are forecasting will be some of the most compelling pieces of data from the upcoming report. It will be interesting to see whether companies take the strategy of phased returns (with employees assigned to certain weekdays) or prioritize senior level employees. Some organizations may wait until a vaccine is found before employees are allowed back to the physical office location. All of these factors will determine when events like conferences and on-site consulting engagements will restart, and more consistent and traditional use of expense management solutions resume.
As Levvel Research’s 2020 publications have highlighted, back office automation has been greatly affected by the pandemic. However, TEM has been the most significantly impacted, and the alterations in business travel and expenses may be permanent. Levvel Research is committed to tracking these trends and others that are sure to follow in the future. To see what findings and takeaways analysts observed before the pandemic hit, please download the 2019 version of the report, and pre-register for our 2020 TEM report here!
Major Bottoms Jr.
Senior Research Consultant
Major Bottoms Jr. is a Senior Research Consultant for Levvel Research based in Charlotte, NC. He plays a key role in the analysis and presentation of data for Levvel’s research reports, webinars, and consulting engagements. Major’s expertise lies in the Procure-to-Pay, Source-to-Settle, and travel and expense management processes and software, as well as technologies and strategies across DevOps, digital payments, design systems, and application development. Prior to joining Levvel, Major held various roles in the mortgage finance field at Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Major graduated with a degree in Finance from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.
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