Budget cuts and challenging economic conditions have required higher education institutions to tighten their belts even further by closely examining budgets and scrupulously tracking spending. Universities are under immense pressure to demonstrate the true value of travel and expense budgets, while at the same time finding innovative ways to control those costs. With so many different people and groups within an institution incurring business expenses, keeping up with specific policies, spending limits and complex allocations can be overwhelming. Unlike other businesses, many institutional expenses are funded through grants or special budgets, which must be accurately allocated and meticulously tracked. Serving the needs of institution administrators, full-time faculty, athletic coaches and authorized guest travelers, higher education truly has unique travel and expense needs.
How Should Institutions Address Unique Travel and Expense Needs?
What is the best way for higher education institutions to address their unique travel and expense needs? One solution is to tap internal IT resources to develop an in-house designed and built technology solution, which will also require ongoing support and updates over time. Another and more practical solution is to adopt a commercially available Expense Management solution that is offered through Software as a Service (“SaaS”). SaaS solutions eliminate the need for expensive software development and/ or licensing costs. They are typically available for a reasonable monthly subscription, which allows for a rapid Return on Investment and payback often in less than six months.
Relieving Expense Management Pain Points through Automation
Expense Management solutions provide higher education institutions with the tools necessary to streamline the processes involved in managing their business and travel expenses. These tools help control costs, increase employee satisfaction and greatly improve bottom line performance, while also providing flexible, intuitive and instant access into critical business and travel expense metrics. Access to metrics allows institutions visibility into their employee’s business expenses so they can take proactive steps to reduce overall spend through improved communication, internal policies, and external government and grant sponsors’ compliance.
Expense Management software works to automate the expense approval and reimbursement cycles, while ensuring travel and expense compliance is strictly adhered to for both internal policies and external government regulations. Research shows that employee business and travel expenses are one of the largest controllable costs for higher education institutions. This affords the greatest opportunity for cost savings through improved visibility over spend and consistently enforced travel policies. PayStream Advisors 2012 Travel and Expense Management survey of over 300 AP professionals reveals a number of benefits to travel and expense automation (see Figure 1. of the article).
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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.