During this time of travel restrictions, there’s never been a better opportunity to completely reimagine your institution’s travel and expense policies.
Higher education institutions can take advantage of the “travel pause” to update their policies and invest in modern travel and expense management software, without the pressures of “this is how we’ve always done it” or it worked in the past. The future is guaranteed to look very different and when travel does pick up again, institutions will be ready, with more control over spend and happier travelers.
Based on a discussion with SAP Concur customers, the following best practices were discovered to help institutions update their travel and expense policies to promote increased visibility, efficiency, and accountability.
Best Practice #1: Create a Travel Working Group
Different opinions are crucial to building new policies and procedures that work for everyone. Discuss concerns around returning to travel, such as safety protocols and campus policies and examine which travel policies and processes have worked in the past and which were difficult or time-consuming to manage. Involving a full range of stakeholders in charting the new course will also help to gain buy-in from senior management. As new travel policies take shape, the travel working group can become on-campus advocates, helping to drive adoption of new processes.
Best Practice #2: Consider Mandating Travel Management Companies (TMC) use
Travel management companies proved essential in helping travelers return from abroad during the early days of COVID-19. Their continuing assistance with unused ticket credits has also been a huge help. Institutions that don’t currently mandate TMC use can reap multiple benefits from doing so, such as greater transparency into travelers’ itineraries and support, help with negotiating supplier discounts, additional supplier benefits for employees, and more visibility into expenses and compliance. If you have several TMCs, it may be a good time to consider consolidating them, because fewer TMCs help travelers know where to go when they need assistance and make it easier for finance to see all campus travel data, with consistent policies applied across campus.
Best Practice #3: Develop new guidelines around travel approval
New travel safety concerns and budgetary constraints call for new rules. Institutions may want to require pre-trip approval, considering not only standard concerns such as budget, trip purpose, and travel providers used, but also COVID-19 risks such as policies around returning to campus after a trip. This could mean restricting or prohibiting travel to high-risk areas, adding extra protection and safety to campus.
Best Practice #4: Look for ways to improve back-office efficiencies
Staffing cuts and hiring freezes place new demands on remaining employees and working remotely makes manual accounting processes impracticable. SAP Concur solutions can help you find new ways to remove data silos and reduce inefficient manual processes. Organizations can set controls, such as flagging potentially noncompliant spend before reimbursement or creating thresholds to require preapprovals.
Besides helping the back office, automating the travel and expense process makes life easier for employees. The easier it is to book travel, capture data from receipts and invoices that can flow into reports, and track mileage, the more likely task are performed promptly and accurately. SAP Concur improves timeliness and compliance, which in turns improves an institution’s ability to control spend.