* Reduction in the cost of processing an expense report.
* Better compliance with company travel policy.
* Reductions or reallocations of manpower. At Vodafone AirTouch Plc, an international wireless network provider with U.S. headquarters in Folsom, California, an Extensity Inc. T&E system will cut the number of people processing expense reports from six to three when it’s rolled out this month.
* Better capture and reporting of data. “We can pick up vendor names, so we can see if a traveler used a corporate-sponsored hotel where they can get better rates,” says Kelly Webb, project manager for shared services at Vodafone AirTouch. “And it allows us to go back to the vendor and say, ‘We’ve been using you this much over the period of a year, so we would like to see a better rate.’”
* More timely filing and processing of expense reports. This is especially important for time-sensitive collection of reimbursements. And it’s a lollipop for travelers, too. At Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, California, it once took employees 45 minutes to complete an expense report and two to four weeks to be reimbursed under a manual system. With its state-of-the-art T&E system, it takes 8 minutes to complete a report and 48 to 72 hours to be reimbursed.
* Reduced need to cut expense checks. Payments can be made directly to a credit-card company, funneled into an employee’s bank account, or incorporated into a regular paycheck.
Evidently, more and more companies are getting the message. According to a report prepared by Brian McDonough for IDC, a technology market-research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts, the market for travel expense management (TEM) applications had license and maintenance revenues of $72.9 million in 1998, and should grow at a compound annual rate of 35.6 percent from 1998 to 2003.
According to IDC, the top five players in the TEM market, ranked by revenues, are Concur Technologies Inc., InterPro Expense Systems Inc., Captura, Extensity, and Necho Systems Corp. Not on IDC’s list is IBM Corp., which offers a large- company T&E application through its IBM Global Services consulting organization. IBM’s application isn’t considered an off-the- shelf solution, given the amount of consulting customization needed to install it, explains Timothy Tow, a senior analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Group Inc., an IT consultancy.
Web-enablement also allows T&E software to be rented from an application service provider (ASP). That’s an increasingly attractive alternative for companies fed up with the high cost of information technology. “People are tired of upgrade costs, tired of the complexity, tired of the downtime involved with bringing new software into place,” says Tow.
The ASP, or hosted, model has been a mainstay of payroll systems for years, and T&E software makers are gambling that it will become de rigueur in their industry, too. Among the converts to the hosted T&E model are automakers General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. (both Captura systems users).